The church is the Christian Reformed Church of America. The editor is the Reverend H.J. Kuiper. And the medium through which he voices his alarm is the April edition of Torch and Trumpet. In the department,Timely Topics, the Rev. H.J. Kuiper writes under the title, What Is Happening to the Christian Reformed Church?
In our opinion this is a courageous, forthright attempt to bring to the attention, especially of the members of his church, what he conceives to be dangerous tendencies which have far-reaching implications. What makes his lament the more pathetic is the fact that the writer is now aware that his church has lost real leadership in the right direction. This last factor is not only his observation, but one which has been expressed to us privately by several others of the members of his church. One of these poured out his heart to me a short while ago when.1 was drawn into conversation with him about the problems confronting his church. He, too; had publicly criticized his church in one of the church papers. When we commented on his boldness, he replied, “But it’s all for naught. The church is so far gone that it’s hopeless to think there will be any amendment.” That is, indeed, a sad situation, and one that can only sadden also our hearts. For the Christian Reformed Church is also our mother, and still the object of our affection even though she would not allow us to live in her house. We can only hope and pray that these voices of complaint and protest will continue until there is repentance and amendment and a return to the old paths.
We would like to quote every word written by the Rev. H.J. Kuiper because they are weighted with meaning, but our allotted space will not allow this. We shall, however, give our readers sufficient quotation to give them the sense of Kuiper’s article. We will quote the introduction in its entirety because it is important.
“To say that we have hesitated to write this article would be an understatement. There is so much good in the Church we love that an inward struggle preceded the resolution to publish the thoughts that are here expressed since they reveal the conviction that serious faults and dangerous trends are coming to the surface in the Church which has the love of our heart. We can give no other reason for following this course than that we cannot remain silent and feel persuaded that we have acted conscientiously. Let us add that the misgivings and anxious questions which we voice are agitating the minds and hearts of many of our people.
“Something unusual is happening in the Christian Reformed Church. Doctrines and policies that have always been accepted by all of us are now being questioned or even contradicted. There appears to be a tendency among us not only to set aside important traditions which so far have been regarded as essential to our orthodoxy but also a certain hankering for ‘advanced’ conceptions and a growing impulse to follow the methods of denominations round about us—methods which were generally regarded as basically unsound.
“We can no longer hide the fact that the leadership of the Christian Reformed Church is divided. There is a widening and deepening rift between our ministers, professors, teachers, and well-informed laymen. We are not so narrow as to believe that there is no room for differences of opinion in our Church even on relatively important issues. But the differences we have in mind are rooted in attitudes that have far-reaching implications.”
There are especially four areas in which Kuiper believes his church is going astray, and these he briefly touches upon in succession. The first that Kuiper mentions is also one the editor-in-chief of The Standard Bearer has been giving considerable attention to in recent issues of this periodical. It deals with the matter of Theistic Evolution. Writes Rev. Kuiper:
“First of all, we point to the sympathy for theistic evolution—a theory which implies that the doctrine of creation can be harmonized with that of a gradual development, under divine guidance, of lower into higher forms of life, from plants to animals and from animals to man. There are men of prominence in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands and in our own Church who advocate this theory and do not hesitate to assert that some day it may be demonstrated that man has descended from ape-like ancestors. And that in the face of the biblical teaching that the first man was a direct divine creation, a perfect .human being made in the image of God, in righteousness, holiness, and knowledge of the truth!
“To our amazement, the Ecumenical Synod of Potchefstroom, which met last summer, adopted a report on Creation and Evolution, signed by five Dutch professors (A. Lever, Polman, Jonker, Oostendorp, and Gispen), which leaves room for the theory of theistic evolution. It made light of the objections which our Synod of 1953 raised against certain statements in an earlier report on the subject and declares: ‘Seen in this light the Reformed Ecumenical Synod wisely did not pronounce an opinion on the idea of the so-called theistic evolution.’ It also stated blandly that ‘the church should leave it to a Christian science (Christelijke wetenschap) to come to a well considered and fundamentally sound view in connection with this theory.’ The Ecumenical Synod, adopting the report of the Dutch committee, did not even make the statement that even if it could be proved that many species of plants and animals were evolutions from lower forms of life, this should not be posited of man! It had nothing to say in explanation or defense of the teaching of Genesis 1but simply left the decision to the sacred cow of an infallible science!
“As far as we can judge, the Christian Reformed delegates all voted in favor of this report; at least nothing is said in the Acts about any one registering his objections against the conclusions. And that is the same Synod which adopted such an eminently sound report on the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures!
“Will our Synod approve the conclusions of the Ecumenical Synod on Creation and Evolution? We trust it will not only withhold approval but register a resounding protest against it.”
The second matter concerning which Rev. Kuiper calls to the attention of his readers has to do with the denial of the infallibility of the Scriptures. Sometime ago we reflected on another article of the same author on this subject where he took to task a Calvin seminarian who boldly criticized the doctrine of infallibility in the Seminary paper Stromata. Now Rev. Kuiper tells us that “We learned later that the President of the Seminary had authorized its publication. This makes the situation far more serious than it first appeared to be.” Rev. Kuiper does not believe this was done by the student or the President intentionally and wittingly. Nevertheless he points out that they have violated the Formula of Subscription and the vows made in public profession of faith where they have publicly taught or allowed to be taught doctrine contrary to the Confessions. And he concludes this section with:
“Something strange is happening to the Christian Reformed Church when one of its basic teachings can be publicly questioned and denied. The Board of Trustees of Calvin College and Seminary considered this matter at its February meeting. We shall wait for the official statements by the secretary of the Board in our church papers. But we do wish to say at the present time that the churches have a right to know exactly what action the Board has taken with reference to the Stromata articles concerned; also where the President, who approved the publication of the Hoogland article, stands on the important issue involved in the matter. The Seminary is the school of the entire church and every member has the right to know its stand and the stand of every teacher and every prospective minister on important fundamental issues.”
Rev. Kuiper then calls attention to other tendencies in the wrong direction evidenced in his church. He has in mind those who are undermining denominational loyalty by openly challenging the right of his church to separate from the Reformed Church under the guidance of Dr. Van Raalte. Even the stand of the church which conceives of membership in the Masonic Order and in the church as incompatible is being questioned. Apparently there are those who in their evangelistic and mission zeal want to take these lodge members first into the church and then instruct them in regard to their error. Writes Kuiper: “That strange and, to us, inexplicable stand rests on a peculiar approach to the question what must be required of those who wish to join a Christian Reformed Church. Nothing more can be demanded, we are told, than a confession of personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—no knowledge of distinctive teachings of the Reformed faith and no declaration of agreement with our doctrinal standards.” With this Kuiper does not at all agree. He sees, and correctly so, that eventually the church will be Reformed only in name, and doctrinal distinctiveness will be lost.
Finally, Rev. Kuiper once more calls attention to the Nigerian problem. We have revealed to our readers on another occasion Kuiper’s views on this subject and therefore will not do it again. There are some in his church that want to collaborate with other denominations, some of Arminian and Modernistic background, in the establishment of a Seminary in Africa. This Kuiper and others in his church strenuously oppose. Kuiper now tells us “It is not at all accidental that there are among some of those- who are in favor of the T.C.N.N. not a little sympathy for the World Council of Churches and for closer contact with that Council on the part of the Christian Reformed Church.” This, in our judgment, is a clear mark of deterioration.
Though we highly commend Rev. Kuiper for his bold exposure of the faults of his church as he sees them, we feel that he could easily write another article and point out more that is wrong in his church. Sometimes one standing on the outside looking in can see more than the one standing in the middle of things. Rev. Kuiper will not listen to us when we tell him that basically all the departures he mentions stem from that departure from the truth which his church made in 1924 when that church decided to build a bridge between the world and to use that bridge. Kuiper certainly knows enough of church history to know that when a church once departs from the straight line of the truth it never comes back to that line. He ought, therefore, to ask himself concerning all the departures he mentions, Where exactly did we make our initial departure? Our answer, as was said, is, at the synod of Kalamazoo in 1924 and in Chicago in 1926. Since that time, Rev. Kuiper, your church has been going in the wrong direction. Look back and see for yourself if this is not true. For over thirty years The Standard Bearer has been telling you this, but you won’t believe what we tell you. And we are sorry to say this, but unless your church repents of the error you adopted then you must expect only further deterioration.
Rev. Kuiper closes his article by stipulating two reasons for his great concern. “The first is the rather nonchalant attitude of some that the Christian Reformed Church is immune to heresy.” “The second . . . is that one of the worst obstacles to theological and ecclesiastical progress is the propagation of unsound doctrine.”
Kuiper, in his concluding remarks, makes this significant statement: “No church may be satisfied with its past attainments. There are doctrines that need further clarification.” I would say “Amen” to this. But then let’s start at the beginning and take all of the doctrines, including the common grace doctrine you have added to your Confessions.