As we stated in the beginning of the previous editorial, this matter has been pending for a long time. And to understand this most recent decision it is necessary to view it against the background of previous developments.
That background is, first of all, the decision of the Synod of Amsterdam, 1967-’68, by which the binding character of the doctrinal declarations of Assen-1926 concerning the paradise-account was removed. Briefly, the declarations of Assen-1926 (in connection with the case of Dr, Geelkerken) concerned the literal reality and the historicity of the narrative concerning the fall of Adam and Eve. And Assen adopted the formula that the garden, the trees, the serpent, etc., werezintuigelijk-waarneembaar, i.e., sensuously perceptible. It was this decision of Assen which was made non-binding in 1967-’68. True, there had been considerable propaganda made and many views expressed already prior to 1967 which were contrary to the stand of Assen. But by this decision the door was officially opened to views concerning Genesis 1-3 other than the literal interpretation.
At the Synod of Sneek, 1969-’70, there were many protests, more than 200 of them, which had to do with the so-called “new theology.” Some of these were specifically directed against the views of Dr. Harry M. Kuitert. These protests concerned “the honoring of the authority of Holy Scripture, the interpretation of the first chapters of the book of Genesis, so-called horizontalism and the Christian expectation of the future, the being bound to the creeds, the nature of the preaching, and other items.” The Synod of Sneek took what we characterized at the time as a decision worthy of Laodicea (cf. Standard Bearer, Vol. 47, pp. 125-127). It attempted to straddle the issues. It attempted to satisfy the verontrusten (concerned) by publishing a pastoral letter to the churches, though it refused to accede to the requests that the binding character of Assen-1926 be reinstated. And at the same time it upheld Dr. Kuitert though it admitted that he had deviated not only from Assen-1926, but even from Amsterdam, 1967/68, and therefore had deviated from the confessions even in the weak form in which the Gereformeerde Kerken maintained them.
Specifically, the Synod of Sneek decided as follows with respect to Dr. Kuitert (cf. Standard Bearer, Vol. 47, pp. 126, 127):
“1. that the protests filed have a fragmentary character and as such have little cogency (bewijskracht);
“2. that the synod nevertheless must affirm that the denial by Dr. Kuitert of the historicity of the fall as man’s turning away from his God at the beginning of human history is not in harmony with that which the synod of Amsterdam 1967/68 has indicated in its declaration sub 3 (Acts, Art. 209): that meanwhile that which is expressed in the confessions of the church (Lord’s Day 3 and 4 of the Heidelberg Catechism; Art. 14 and 15 of the Netherlands Confession of Faith) about the origin of sin and the results of the fall clearly sets forth the fundamental meaning which Scripture in the Old and New Testament (among other passages, in Romans 5) ascribes to this history, and therefore also as being of essential importance for the preaching of the gospel by the church must be maintained as authoritative;
“3. that meanwhile it has appeared that Dr. Kuitert also at synod does not stand alone in his opinions;
“4. that in this situation, however unsatisfying this may be with respect to the mutual unity, it may nevertheless also be asserted with joy that all the members of the synod hold fast to the confession that God created man good and for the fellowship of love with Himself, but that man in willful disobedience refused and refuses to live in this fellowship, that all of humanity is alienated from God, is fallen into the slavery of sin, and can only be saved by God’s gracious intervention;
“5. that she (synod) therefore judges that the unity of the ecclesiastical confession must not be considered to be at issue in such a manner that at present more specific decisions ought to be taken concerning this;
“6. that she appoints a committee to carry on the discussion (consultation) in this situation, in an earnest seeking after mutual unity, also in those matters in which clear difference of opinion has been manifested.”
Since that decision of the Synod of Sneek there has been considerable consultation between Kuitert and the committee appointed. And as the RES News Exchange reports, the matter was back in the lap of the Synod of Dordrecht in January of 1972. At that time there was progress reported, but a final decision was put off until the fall of 1972. And the Synod decided that the committee should “consider the relationship between Kuitert’s theological ideas and the confession of the church” and should “advise whether Kuitert’s ideas regarding a ‘consistent horizontalization of faith’ and the ‘latent kingdom’ as a fruit of the ‘anonymous word of promise’ do not need correcting and deepening since these ideas do not sufficiently express the incomparably greater worth of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.” About these items we reported in great detail in our graduation address on “New Theology and Old” (cf. Standard Bearer, Vol. 48, pp. 437-442). Anyone who wishes to refresh his memory as to the grave implications of this new theology may consult that article.
Now, apparently, from the above instruction of Synod to its committee two items were distilled—the two mentioned in the RES News Exchange, namely: “(1) the humanity of man as an expression of the full saving acts of God and (2) the realization of the Kingdom of God within earthly reality.”
Against this background the recent decision must be viewed.