It is our desire to be helpful.
That does not mean that this was not our desire in the past. The rubric IN HIS FEAR surely must be written in His fear. And that means that it is written to be helpful, to give help and direction, comfort and warning along the way of our earthly pilgrimage through this vale of tears and wilderness of sin and corruption.
It does mean that we have a special help in mind at this time.
It means that we have a specific group of readers in mind.
There are those who always maintained that they loved the truth as it has been taught and maintained in our churches from 1924 onward to this very day. Even through all the painful days of the conflict that raged in 1953 and the years that followed, they maintained this to be their position. And they also maintained that they took the stand that they did and took sides as they did in order to defend that truth. But today they see very clearly that they will soon stand before the choice of joining the churches which cast us out because of that truth in 1924 or . . . . ( ?)
Indeed what shall we put in there to fill out the sentence? There is the alternative of coming back to us and maintaining that truth with us. Therein we would not boast but surely would rejoice. The letter sent out by our churches and drawn up by our last synod makes that abundantly clear. Some would desire to struggle on with what is left â€• and at the moment what will be left is very indefinite â€• and would consider it a matter of calling before God to do so. Still others cannot for conscience before God â€• we want to believe that and do not want to accuse them of pride â€• go back and declare by that act that our history since 1924 was one continuous sin of separatism and schism over minor, unessential things. Some of these would welcome a third choice: A denomination not too far removed from the Protestant Reformed Churches and one that does not demand signing of the three points of “Common Grace.” At any rate from east and west dissatisfaction is being voiced. Awareness of being misled is not silenced but openly confessed. Acknowledgment of being deceived is widespread. Deep concern as to the future fills many hearts and minds today as never before. Confidence in leadership is shaken. And that prospect of being forced into a return to the denomination that cast us out is becoming more real than ever before as the time of synodical meetings draws nigh. To many the very thought of such a return is repulsive. They declare it openly. Indeed in 1953 and shortly thereafter even their leaders’ said that very same thing. Those who labored so fervently on the Committee of Contact said that in no uncertain terms in 1953, even though now they maintain a document that swallows many of the errors of that theory of “Common Grace.” But we do not believe that ALL who say they will never go back are talking out of both sides of their mouths. We believe and want to believe that many, who “rebuked” us personally in the years shortly after 1953 for writing that the gate was open for such a return, did not, at the time they sought to “rebuke,” want to go back and do not want to go back today. It is with these in mind that we wish to say a few things at this time to try to be helpful. Therefore we ask the question: And What About The Children?
We mean, of course, if these nevertheless yield to pressure and find it too hard to confess that they have been deceived and to reject wholeheartedly the conditional theology that led to all this sad chapter in their ecclesiastical lives, what are they going to do about their children? The three points might be withdrawn as that which must be signed and be declared binding upon them for membership in these churches that cast us out because we would not sign them and refused to be bound by them. But the children of these who return, will they be freed from the lie of these three points and from the practices which are based upon them? Will their children be taught that God’s grace is sovereign and particular? Will their children be taught the antithesis? Will they be impressed with the truth of the infallibility of the Scriptures? Will they be warned against godless unions and the evil of the remarriage of divorced persons? The churches that cast us out in 1924 have made history and still are making history. We can, therefore, understand the reluctance of those who love the Protestant Reformed truth to go back now to these churches after all this history has been made.
Indeed, we are not at all against friendlier relations with those who cast us out. And that we state that they have made history is not the expression of a bitter or conceited heart. We did not leave that denomination in hatred and by schism. We did not leave. We were put out; office bearers were “deposed” by the Classis. Even then, it was at that time our desire to stay in the mother church. It was our desire to be helpful then and to seek to keep her pure in doctrine and in walk. And today we have that same desire; but because of the historyâ€•which to no little degree is the result of that theory of “Common Grace” â€•we understand that the breach between us doctrinally is wider than ever and feel it our God-given duty to remind those, who fear being “forced” back, that this is the case. We remind them for their own sakes, and we remind them for the sake of their covenant youth who will grow up in a sphere which once these parents were convinced was not the right place for them and for their children. It is to try to be helpful to those who declare that they still love the Protestant Reformed truth that we write these lines and not because we would irritate those who believe it their God-given duty to remain in these churches that cast us out. If we do irritate, it is not because we sought it but because that greater breach actually does exist today.
One thing that we consider so very striking, as more calmly now we can look back over the last, six or seven years, is that the cry of “solely a church political issue” is so completely forgotten, and the doctrinal issueâ€•which we always maintained was the real issue, even in this rubricâ€•is now so prominent in all the discussion on the floor of Classis and in magazine. The camouflage is now removed, and now some dare to speak openly, and to write, that doctrinally their position is changed from what it was prior to 1953. Others perhaps in sincerityâ€• we will not judgeâ€•actually believed that it was simply a church political issue. But what is so striking today is that these leaders in the schism and defenders of the heretical statements speak only of the doctrinal issue, and as far as it is concerned are willing to compromise with the three points of “common grace.” Indeed some of them see the folly and warn the synod not to adopt the report of the committee, for then it would be a fourth form. But the committee did not see this. These same leaders who fought so vigorously against the Declaration of Principles which is thoroughly Reformedâ€• even according to their judgment and statements upon the matter â€•now are ready to rush and to advise their people to rush into adopting a fourth form that is ready to swallow some of the error which led to our separate existence as Protestant Reformed Churches.
But let those things be. There are more serious questions to ask now. Those covenant children â€• your children and your grandchildrenâ€•are they going to embrace the truth in such a merger or are they going to go the way of least resistance and go along with the crowd to defend and serve the purpose of a doctrine, which we were all convinced at one time, might not be defended and maintained? You may argue for yourselfâ€•and we have heard much of that in this and in similar circumstancesâ€• that you know the truth. You will not sign that which is not the truth of God’s Word. You know all the aspects of the truth and no one shall ever take it away from you. You will miss the positive preaching. You will be inwardly grieved to hear something else than the truth. The questioning of the infallibility of God’s Word, the catering to the philosophies of the world, the failure to discipline union members and “remarried” divorced persons all will bring grief to your soul. But no man shall take from you that wonderful truth of the Word of God that you confessed with us in the years prior to 1953. As we said, we heard that more than once in the past and found that it did not take too long before little by little a subtle change did take place; and although the knowledge of what was learned in the past remained, the practices of another doctrine are condoned, defended and the error of the lie does not sting as it did in the past.
Our question still remains: And what of the children? They stand as firm as you? And do they not see you return as a sign that all is well and that they ought indeed to support wholeheartedly and believe without reservations all that they are taught? Do we have a right before themâ€•to say nothing of a right before Godâ€•to bring them into a sphere where they are constantly in a state of confusion and where they must be disloyal to those to whom they must come for instruction and guidance?
And if, as one of the members of that committee of contact so vehemently insisted, it is only a church political issue that separates us, would it not in the fear of the Lord be the proper thing to seek affiliation once again with us? If the truth is in our churches â€• and it was “only a political issue” â€•the church political way will be right. And if the truth is with us a return to the right way from an evil way is assured. But if the truth is not there you cannot, expect the right church political way either. Now that the whole history takes on a new perspective and the conviction is growing by hard facts that this was the direction in which the leaders were already going in 1953, can we not sit down calmly in His fear and discuss this church political issue and the doctrinal difference that led to the schism of 1953?
Is that not our duty before God? And what about the children? Do we not have an obligation as far as they are concerned to provide the very best and not the next best? It is not simply a matter of looking out now for a new church roof. It still is a matter of the truth, of the glory of God and of our covenant obligation in regard to our children. Ask your leaders to examine our Declaration of Principles as carefully and honestly as they did the three points. Make a careful study yourself of this and of the various church political steps that you claim were evil on our part. Feel free to discuss the matter with us. And for your children’s sake and for the sake of your calling over against them (grandchildren too before whom you set an example) look farther into the future than the next year or two. After all this history since 1924, is this the time to take your children and grandchildren back? It is back, is it not, and not forward?