Our Distinctiveness and the Declaration

Under the heading “Our Distinctiveness” the Rev. W. Hofman, in Concordia of Aug. BO, 1951, writes an article in which he expresses some very true and worthwhile thoughts. All the more deplorable it is, that, when the reader approaches the end of his article, he discovers to his amazement that it is, evidently, chiefly written to launch an attack upon the Declaration of Principles.

It is not my purpose to write a lengthy criticism of this article. Only I briefly wish to point out the faulty logic that is naturally implied in what I consider the chief proposition which the writer attempts to prove: Adoption of the declaration would mean the loss of our distinctiveness as Protestant Reformed Churches.

I can briefly cast the chief contents of the brother’s article in the form of a syllogism as follows:

  1. The distinctiveness of the Protestant Reformed Churches is that they stand on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity without any addition or particularisation.
  2. The Declaration of Principles is an addition to or particularisation of our Confessions.
  3. Ergo: if we adopt the declaration we lose our distinctiveness as Protestant Reformed Churches.

The trouble with this reasoning is that the minor premise (the second proposition) must be proved and cannot be proved, for the simple reason that it is not true.

Over against the above syllogism I offer the following:

  1. The Protestant Reformed Churches stand on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity pure and simple.
  2. The Declaration of Principles simply sets forth the clear teaching of the Confession with regard to some important points of doctrine.
  3. Ergo: in the declaration we maintain our distinctive position as Protestant Reformed Churches and declare it publicly over against others.

If the Rev. Hofman is able to contradict the minor premise in this syllogism, I will grant him the validity of his argumentation. As it stands, however, he is simply begging the question.

In 1924 we never questioned the authority of the synod of the Christian Reformed Churches to interpret the Confessions. If the Three Points had been nothing more than interpretations of the Confessions we would gladly have subscribed to them. But we claimed and clearly proved that they were corruptions of the Confessions. That was our sole objection.

And if the Rev. Hofman can do the same thing with the Declaration of Principles the synod of our churches must never adopt it.

But this chief issue he does not even touch.

He is begging the question.