The purpose of this letter is to apologize. From  November 15, 2020 through January 15, 2021, I wrote  a series of five articles on the seventeenth-century Dutch  Reformed theologian Herman Witsius, reflecting on his  book entitled Conciliatory, or Irenical Animadversions,  on the Controversies Agitated in Britain, under the  Unhappy Names of Antinomianism and Neonomians.  On account of objections raised against these articles,  working with my consistory, and discussions with a  number of my colleagues, I am persuaded that I owe the  readers of the SB an apology.

As I informed my consistory and the readers in my  articles on Witsius, I was persuaded that the statements  I commented on could be explained in such a way as  to harmonize with our Synod’s decisions, that is, when  considered in the light of the error Witsius was opposing  and then his fuller explanation. My consistory pointed  out that a number of Witsius’ statements, as they are  worded, no matter how I read them and was convinced  what Witsius meant by them, stand in contradiction to  decisions of our recent synods (in particular those of  2018) and to our confessions, and thus constitute false  doctrine. As a result, the articles, instead of helping  clarify issues in our present controversy over the place  and function of good works in the life of the child of  God, sowed confusion and, in light of Synod 2018’s decisions,  promoted statements and theology that Synod  judged to be erroneous.

In particular I was pointed to Witsius stating, in the  context of the utility (usefulness) of holiness and good  works, that “Scripture teaches that something must be  done that we may be saved”; also to the statement, “We  must accurately distinguish between a right to life and  the possession of life…. But certainly, our works, or  rather those, which the Spirit of Christ worketh in us  and by us, contribute something to the latter [that is, to  the possession of life and salvation]”; and also to Witsius’  statement, “Hence, I conclude, that sanctification  and its effects, are by no means to be slighted, when we  treat of assuring the souls as to its justification.”

My attempt to explain what Witsius meant by these  phrases in an orthodox fashion did not help clear up  confusion, but contributed to it, as if such wording and  phrases could be still be considered orthodox and language  that I would approve of today. Let me state categorically,  I do not. And I certainly do not maintain that  good works are to serve along with faith as a secondary  instrument to assure one of justification, of one being  counted righteous before God. Faith, based on Christ’s  atoning sacrifice, is the one only instrument.

I do not propose we use Witsius’ language in the  preaching, nor would I suggest we approve of it if it  were used. No more than I would approve in our day  of using the word “conditions” in connection with life  in covenant. Such words and phrases have come to be  loaded with erroneous connotations and ought not have  our approval today. I should have made that clear in my  articles, but did not, leading to unnecessary questions  and confusion. For this I am sorry and apologize.

Whatever Witsius may have meant or intended by  them, they are not phrases or words we should use from  Protestant Reformed pulpits. Nor should they have our  approval if used. As they stand, they would teach that  man’s good works function as an instrument through  which the believer receives or gains some aspect of salvation.  This is error to which I do not subscribe.

I am sorry for the confusion and resulting unrest  these articles have caused. I assure you, as I did my  consistory, that I wholeheartedly agree with and subscribe  to the decisions of our recent synods, repudiating  all that is contrary to them.

Rev. Kenneth Koole