The following is a clipping from “The Church Herald” of Jan. 10, 1947. It may serve to illustrate how history is perverted when a writer draws upon the sources of hearsay and his own imagination, rather than take the trouble of investigating the facts in the case before he writes:
We like to sing, “Faith of our Fathers Living Still” and praise their loyalty and devotion. Perhaps it is due to our charity that we say but little of the sins and blunders of our fathers. Scripture speaks not only of the fine qualities of the fathers but also of their sins. The phrase “our fathers trusted in thee” appears in the Bible—the phrases, “our fathers have sinned”, “the iniquity of their fathers”, “our fathers have trespassed”, “walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers”, “be not like your fathers” are also found in Scripture. Since the Bible speaks of the sins of the fathers it cannot be wrong for us to at least mention their mistakes as well as their sins and even try to undo them if possible.
It is not my purpose to be critical, really, my purpose is to commend. Something happened in a city in Michigan not long ago which suggested to me that sons can undo the blunders and sins of their fathers. About twenty-five years ago there was much agitation in a certain congregation in a Michigan city. A minister was troubling his congregation by preaching about a theological subject—not a great theological subject but the kind that excites one generation and leaves another one cold. The minister put much stress upon three points, what they were I do not know and most likely but few members of the congregation now know. Because of the preaching and the criticism it evoked there were many discussions in the homes of the congregation; some families became divided, some members siding with the minister and others opposing him. Bitter words were spoken, feelings were aroused, quarrels took place and the love of many grew cold.
It was said that the teaching of the minister was at odds with what the denomination taught and since he stuck to his three points he was deposed—rightfully or wrongfully I will not judge. I am inclined to think that the royal law of love was not fully kept.
The bulk of the congregation remained loyal to the minister and left the denomination and only a small group remained in the large church building which had housed the congregation. Of course this trouble was featured in the daily newspaper and received much publicity which did not bring honor to the cause of Christ. The seceding members built a new church building a half block away from two other church buildings where the gospel was preached and a new parsonage was also erected. For twenty- five years this congregation remained independent; the minister preached his doctrines, stressed the three points and the people listened faithfully and attended the services most loyally.
However, a new generation grew up. The older men in the congregation mellowed—age does something to people. One member who confessed that in his youth he had been rather fiery, said “I am beginning to see that the most important matter into belong to Christ.” Some of the leaders in the secession movement died. The subject which agitated them twenty-five years ago now fails to stir them.
The minister was aging and the time came for him to retire. The congregation gave him a substantial sum of money and he retired. Since the congregation was independent there was no minister available who could succeed him. Hence suggestions were made to return to the denomination from which they had seceded and this was finally done. The sons undid the blunder of the fathers.
Upon hearing of the return of this congregation to the denomination from which they came I could not help but ask a few questions. What good came from this church quarrel which divided a congregation and created much bitter feeling for a time?
What advantage came from this split to the cause of Protestantism? Was the kingdom benefited? Wounds were made which took time to heal, money was spent unnecessarily for a new church building and parsonage—the old building was large enough to house the whole congregation. That money could have been used in a more constructive way. Could not this division have been avoided? Often behind some church quarrels is a personality problem. Recently a friend told me that a schism took place in his denomination because two bishops could not get along with each other. Sometimes individuals put their own desires and ambitions before the welfare of the kingdom of God.
The above article is written by the Rev. C. P. Dame, pastor of the Second Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan, under the title: “Undoing the Blunders of the Fathers”. Our readers understand that he refers to what used to be the “Protesting First Christian Reformed Church” of Kalamazoo, Mich., of which the Rev. H. Danhof was pastor, and which recently returned to the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches, and now bears, somewhat ironically, the name of Grace Christian Reformed Church.
There is hardly a sentence in the above representation of the history of that congregation that is true. Note the following:
The Rev. Dame writes: “About twenty-five years ago there was much agitation in a certain congregation in a Michigan city.” The fact is that, at the time to which the writer refers, there was no agitation in that congregation at all. There was, on the contrary, peace and harmony, and the congregation was flourishing, being built up in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the preaching of the Rev. H. Danhof. Had the Rev. Dame written according to simple facts, he would have said: “About twenty-five years ago, outsiders tried to stir up trouble for a certain congregation in a Michigan city, and succeeded only too well.” That is the naked truth.
The author continues: “A minister was troubling his congregation by preaching about a theological subject —not a great theological subject but the kind that excites one generation and leaves another cold”. Every word in this sentence is untruth and slander. The minister did not preach about “a theological subject”, but he proclaimed the full counsel of God, and that, too, very ably. He understood the Scriptures, and instructed his people in the riches of the knowledge of Christ. Nor did he trouble his congregation. As has already been said, others, enemies from without, stirred up trouble for it. Neither is it true that “the theological subject” to which the writer is, evidently, particularly referring, was one “that excites one generation and leaves another cold.” It is true, of course, that the truth in Christ, and the fundamental doctrines of Holy Scripture, that have the deepest interest of God’s people, leave apostatizing generations cold. But if the author refers to the generations of the people of God, the history of the Church should have taught him that they are always deeply concerned about the great doctrines of sin and grace, and the sovereignty of God. And these were the doctrines which the minister of that congregation in that Michigan city emphasized.
The author continues: “The minister put much stress upon three points, what they were I do not know and most likely but few members of the congregation now know.” Now, it is certainly strange that the Rev. Dame, who here confesses that he is not acquainted with the “three points” on which he alleges that the minister laid much stress, can nevertheless assure his readers that they were of no account, something that merely excites one generation and leaves another cold. If he is ignorant of the doctrines the Rev. H. Danhof stressed, he certainly is quite incompetent to express judgment upon their value and importance. The Rev. Dame here leaves the impression that he has little use for distinctive doctrine in general. Secondly, the Rev. Dame does not know what he is talking about, as, in fact, he himself virtually confesses, when he writes that “the minister put much stress upon three points.” It is quite evident that the Reverend heard a mere rumor about three points, and concluded that it must be the minister that originated them, and emphasized thorn on every occasion. Fact is, however, that, at the time to, which the writer refers, there were no three points, that the Rev. H. Danhof was not the author of them, still less stressed them; but that the Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924, fabricated them, and that the minister about whom the Rev. Dame is writing refused to subscribe to them.
Consequently, what follows is also a distortion of historical fact. The Rev. Dame writes: “Because of his preaching and the criticism it evoked there were many discussions in the homes of the congregation; some families became divided, some members siding with the minister and others opposing him. Bitter words were spoken, feelings were aroused, quarrels took place and the love of many grew cold. It was said that the teaching of the minister was at odds with what the denomination taught and since he stuck to his three points he was deposed—rightfully or wrongfully I will not judge. I am inclined to think that the royal law of love was not fully kept.” All the facts in the case are here distorted. Fact is that, as was said before, outside enemies stirred up trouble, protested against the teachings of the minister, presented the matter to Classis and Synod; that the Synod could not fine! grounds of condemnation of the minister in the Reformed Standards, as is quite plain from the very language of the Synod as printed in the Acta; that they formulated the “Three Points” without, however, condemning the minister; that, later, the Classis demanded of the minister that he subscribe to the “Three Points,” and that, when the minister refused, he and his consistory were deposed. Thus, in the meantime, was trouble and division caused in the congregation. And thus the larger part of the congregation left the denomination of the Christian Reformed Churches with their deposed Consistory and pastor.
These are the facts in the case.
We do not blame the Rev. Dame for not knowing them. But we consider it quite unethical to write about a case without making an attempt to acquaint oneself with the main facts.
And now the rest.
After having related that the congregation thus separated from the Christian Reformed fellowship reestablished itself, he tells his readers: “For twenty-five years this congregation remained independent; the minister preached his doctrines, stressed the three points (!! H.H.) and the people listened faithfully and attended the services loyally.” Here the Rev. Dame omits a very important part of the history of this congregation, without which he cannot possibly explain its recent return to the fold of the Christian Reformed Churches.
It is not my desire, nor is it necessary, for our present purpose, to relate this phase of the history of that “congregation in a Michigan city” in detail. Suffice it to say that this church was not, from its beginning, an independent church; that for two years it was connected with several other churches that likewise refused to be put in the strait-jacket of the “Three Points” of 1924; that, when the proper time was come for these churches to organize a classis, the Rev. Danhof and his consistory and congregation, separated themselves from that fellowship, for no reasons that would be considered valid before the tribunal of God, in fact, because of petty and personal jealousy, suspicion, and evil ambition; and that exactly because of this schismatic act, it came to stand alone, and was doomed to die or be swallowed up by some other church,
That, too, is simple history.
And this is the deepest cause of the recent return of that congregation to the denomination of Christian Reformed Churches. Had it not been for that schismatic act of 1926, it would never have returned in the way it did. The Rev. Dame simply draws upon his imagination when he explains that return, in the way in which it took place, from the fact that the fathers, in part died, in part mellowed, while the children were of a different mind from the fathers, and were desirous to undo blunders of the latter.
For, and this is, perhaps, the most serious blunder the Rev. Dame makes in his article: the very subject on which he writes is contrary to fact.
For what was undone by the return of what is now the Grace Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo?
Or, how does the Rev. Dame think that, in the Church of Jesus Christ, “blunders” can be undone? In the language of Christian faith, “blunders” such as were committed in 1924 are sins, Mr. Dame. And, truly, thanks be to God, in the Church of Christ, blunders or sins can be undone. But only in the way of righteousness. God knows of no other way. And the way of righteousness, for the Church, is that of the righteousness of Christ, of redemption and forgiveness. To walk in that way means to repent, and to confess our sins before God and before one another. Another way to undo sins there is not.
Was anything undone when the present Grace Christian Reformed Church returned to the denomination of Christian Reformed Churches?
On the contrary, iniquity was added to iniquity!
Suppose what certainly is not the truth, that this church sinned, when they refused to bend their neck under the yoke of the “Three Points” in 1924, and that the Christian Reformed Churches had been completely in the right, when they cast them out, and, deprived them of their property. In that case, two things would have been necessary to undo things. That congregation, through its consistory, must needs have confessed its sin of schism; and, secondly, in the same way, it must have declared its agreement with the “Three Points” of 1924. Twenty two years ago they were thrown out naked because of their disagreement with those points of doctrine. It stands to reason that only in the way of expressing agreement with the doctrine they rejected in 1924 was a return, to the Christian Reformed Churches possible, supposing the latter were right.
Or suppose what most surely is the truth, that the Christian Reformed Churches arbitrarily adopted three points of doctrine that were not in the Reformed Confessions and, besides, contrary to them; that these Churches committed an act of gross injustice when they cast out officebearers and members from their fellowship, deprived them of their church property, and compelled them to stand alone and to start all over again. Would it, then, before the face of Him that judges righteously, not have been required of the Christian Reformed Churches, in order to undo things, to confess their iniquity before the church that returned to them, to retract the “Three Points” and to compensate as much as possible the offended and maltreated congregation for the harm done to them?
And would not a statement in the Church papers, to that effect, have been proper and in order?
Most certainly that would have been the Scriptural and, therefore, the only way, to undo things.
Was this way followed?
Not at all. Neither side confessed any sin; neither side retracted anything; neither side expressed any agreement with any doctrine. The Christian Reformed Churches simply added another congregation to their number, took over the property that congregation had acquired after that same Christian Reformed Church had deprived them of their former church and parsonage, and published nothing but the barest mention of the merger in their papers. And the present Grace Christian Reformed Church was not required to make a confession, nor to declare agreement with the “Three Points”.
Did they undo things?
Would to God, Mr. Dame, they had! For then the way would have been opened for two dozen more churches to return! If in the proper way, that is, in the way of the righteousness of Christ, in the way of repentance and forgiveness, the Protesting First Christian Reformed Church had returned to its former fellowship, there would have been joy with the angels in heaven. Now, however, the angels must have blushed and hid their faces in shame, because of the politics that were played, and the iniquity that was added to iniquity, when the classis of Kalamazoo covered up the sins of the fathers!
God cannot be mocked!