Christ or Conditions. 

That essentially is the doctrinal issue that brought about a “split” in the Protestant Reformed Churches. 

Thus we wrote more than a year ago. 

By those who prefer conditions we were criticized for taking this stand. But the farther we proceed in this struggle to maintain the truth over against those that introduced a false note into the preaching in the Protestant Reformed Churches, the clearer it becomes that the more conditions are preached, the more Christ and His cross are relegated to the background in the preaching. 

The reality of this fact that it is Christ or conditions was brought to our attention very forcefully over five years ago. To be exact it was in the late afternoon of Sunday, October 30, 1949 after preaching for the second time that day in Chatham, Ontario for those who became Protestant Reformed in name but at heart intended to remain Liberated. 

We went home after church with the leading figure in that movement, as was the custom of 511 who went to preach there. 

Because we preached a Protestant Reformed sermon on Ephesians 2:10 in which Christ came to His own and was presented unconditionally, we were told that it was a “vreeselijke preek,” a terrible sermon. 

That could, of course, be the case and for those who care not for the truth of Scripture it must have been a “vreeselijke preek.” But when we began to discuss the statements to which objections were made, it became so very clear that for the Liberated it is conditions rather than Christ. 

The remarks made in answer to our defense of the truth of the text are indeed interesting and revealing. 

In our sermon that afternoon on the text of Ephesians 2:10we pointed out the unconditionality of our salvation as presented in the text. The text reads thus: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We pointed out that according to Scripture creating is that act of God whereby He called into being the things that are not as though they were, He called into being things that before the calling were not. So He created Adam; and this Adam did not help God along with his creation, did not ask God to be created and surely filled no condition to being created in such glory. And such a word, a word that leaves man entirely out of the picture until God acts, is used in the text. We are created in Christ unto good works. Thus before we perform one good work, God works. He brings into being those who spiritually are not and who fill no condition for their becoming His workmanship and for performing good works: The word “created” leaves nothing at all for man’s fulfilling of conditions but lays all the emphasis upon God in Christ. 

Along these lines we presented the truth and sought to be loyal to the churches which had sent us out to do missionary work amongst these Liberated. One of the members of the Mission Committee, located at present very close to the undersigned, had given him advice simply to take along sermons that would “edify.” It becomes plain now why he gave that advice. He wanted then already to sell the Protestant Reformed Churches down the river to the Liberated. But we felt it our duty to point out the differences between us and them in order tom instruct them and in order to find out how strong and great these differences actually were. 

The first remark made after calling the sermon a terrible sermon was that although Adam was not there before his creation and therefore could not and did not fill any condition unto it, he was created in a conditional relation. He was created to fill the condition of the “covenant of works.” The reader will recall that according to this so-called “covenant of works” God gave to Adam a promise, a condition and a penalty. The promise was eternal life. The condition was that obedience which consisted in refraining from eating from the forbidden tree. The penalty was death if he would disobey and eat that fruit. 

This custodian of the Liberated heresy in Chatham—he was well named—then tried to defend that theory of the “covenant of works.” We asked him to show us in the Scriptures where that theory was taught. He opened his “Staten Bijbel” and wanted us to read a page that was inserted in that Bible between the Old and the New Testaments where a short treatise was given, I believe, on the relation between the Old and New Testaments, in which that “covenant of works” is mentioned and defended. We asked him to give us something out of Scripture itself. 

Instead he began to argue, for he had not a text to quote. 

Indeed, at first he quoted the verse: “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” We admitted there was a condition to death. We admitted that mention was made there of a penalty. But we insisted that he give us proof that God promised eternal life to Adam if he continued to be obedient. 

All he had left was an argument. 

He philosophized that this was implied, that if Adam remained obedient he would receive eternal life. 

We took the time to show him that a continuation of Adam’s earthly life which he could receive in the way of obedience was not the same as the eternal life which we now obtain through Christ. Adam would have continued, if it so pleased God, to continue to live in paradise as a friend servant of God. But through Christ we now receive eternal life as children in the new Jerusalem. We pointed out the higher glory which is eternal life in comparison with the glory of paradise. 

Then we got a glimpse into the mind of conditional theology. 

His next statement revealed that their love of conditions is so great that Christ and His cross and the glory in Him falls entirely away. 

He said, in all earnestness, that he would be satisfied if Adam had not sinned, if he had fulfilled the condition and we with Adam were now in paradise; and then, as far as he was concerned, Christ would not have needed to come. 

If you please!

That is where your “different emphasis” and “different approach” gets you, Rev. Blankespoor. These are the men for whom you could preach and never be criticized. These are the men whom you will defend over against the Declaration by giving them the “benefit of the doubt.” 

What did you preach in their midst? 

We showed him the awfulness of his statement by calling his attention to Colossians 1:15b that Christ is the “firstborn of every creature.” He will remember that, if he reads these lines. For when we showed him that in the counsel of God—not in time, of course—Christ is first, even before Adam, even before the creatures created and born before Adam’s creation—he readily admitted that he did not know that this text in Colossians 1was in the Bible. 

And Rev. Blankespoor speaks of the whole Word of God. There are definitely passages that the Liberated do not know are in the Bible and when they have their attention called to them they reject them. 

No, Rev. Blankespoor, we have the whole Word of God. Conditional theology needs to ignore important passages of it. And Colossians 1:15 is an important one and forms the basis for all election, which the Liberated hate. 

The conditional-theology mind is so concerned with man that it finds no need of Christ, if only man can have glory, be it but the glory of Paradise. The glory of God in Christ, or as Paul writes to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:6) “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved,” is of minor significance to the mind of those who want conditions to glory. 

Indeed, with them it is conditions rather than Christ.

Another interesting and revealing matter we found in the March 5, 1955 issue of the Canadian Reformed Magazine, a small paper put out by the Liberated in Canada. 

Rev. L. Selles makes comments on Rev. Hofman’s article in Concordia, concerning the problems those who left us would have to face this year. First he tells them that to return to a combined Classis meeting is from many viewpoints a step backward. Then he goes on to give advice (?) in regard to Rev. Hofman’s “problem” about where to send their students for training to preach in their pulpits. 

Now before we give the suggestion of Rev. Selles let us state that we agree that those who left us surely do have a problem in regard to their theological school. And that problem reveals that they have falsely tried to sell to their people the propaganda of Rev. Blankespoor that it is “solely a church political issue.” That they have the men to teach in such a Seminary is of secondary importance. Their calling in of help from outside for the first step in their new missionary project shows that they could solve that problem. The big problem is actually what is to be taught. For it is not “solely a church political issue.” And they could solve this Problem as to what should be taught if they did not continue to try to tell their people that they are still Protestant Reformed and that they have not changed. As long as they talk like Rev. Blankespoor wrote in opposition to the Declaration “All this does not mean that we would sacrifice any one of the truths we as Prot. Ref. have confessed and preached during the past years,” they will continue to have this problem. In 1951 he may have felt that way, and then the problem of what to teach in such a Seminary was not a problem at all. 

But now since condemning the Declaration and defending Rev. De Wolf’s heresy, what will they teach in their course of Dogmatics? 

Let us put it very pointedly: whose dogmatic works are they going to use as a textbook? Hodges, which the Reformed Churches in America use? Berkhof’s as their students are now being taught in Calvin College? (By saying that it is the best that they can do at the moment Rev. Hofman shows that they do not want that either.) Some work of a Liberated theologian? 

Surely they do not intend to use the Rev. H. Hoeksema’s dogmatics work, do they? With it they cannot agree, for they claim that we departed from the truth. And Rev. Kok is sure to object that you cannot use the works of a man who is “broken in mind and in body.” 

What then? 

By rejecting the works of the Rev. H. Hoeksema, they will show that they have departed from the Protestant Reformed truth. 

But now the suggestion of Rev. Selles. 

He says, wouldn’t Kampen extend the helping hand? He has no doubt that their Theological School is open for such students. After all, he argues, one of the Protestant Reformed students did study there already. He has Carl Reitsma in mind, no doubt.

Then this giveaway sentence “In every instance that (Theological School) is ‘closer’ than Calvin College or Seminary where the remaining students now attend.” 

Not closer by miles or feet, Rev. Selles. 

Doctrinally we will grant you that it is closer. You agree one hundred percent with Rev. De Wolf’s statements and simply underscore our claim and the claim of Classis East in May 1953 that these statements are Liberated. 

But where do you get that “closer” in quotation marks? 

Did Rev. Kok or Rev. De Jong tell you that in the Netherlands, when they sold us down the river to you? Are you quoting them when you say Kampen is “closer” to those that left us for Rev. De Wolf’s statements than the Christian Reformed Churches with their Theory of “Common Grace?” 

We will probably never find out. 

But that, too, would be interesting and revealing, to find out who you quote when you say that Kampen is “closer” to those that left us to embrace your conditional theology.