The next item with respect to which we wish to examine “Our Song of Hope” is that of the doctrine of the irresistible, or effectual, calling and, along with it, conversion; in other words, the doctrines covered in the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine of our Canons of Dordrecht.
About this, however, there is not much to write, for the simple reason that these distinctives of the Reformed faith are totally absent from “Our Song.” Even in Appendix B, which supposedly furnishes an index of references to our Reformed Confessions, there are very few references to Canons III, IV; and when one consults these references, he discovers in several instances that there is only the vaguest reference in “Our Song” to the truths taught in our Canons. In fact, some of the references are downright far-fetched. Furthermore, at no point is there any reference to Articles 10-15 of Canons III, IV, which constitute the heart of this chapter. These are the articles which set forth in clear and unambiguous terms the doctrine of efficacious grace, which teach that faith and repentance are conferred by God, so that obedience to the call of the gospel “is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will. . . . but it must be wholly ascribed to God.” These are ‘the articles which emphasize the truth that God powerfully illuminates the minds of the elect by His Holy Spirit; which speak of regeneration as “a new creation, a resurrection from the dead, a making alive, which God works in us without our aid”; which speak of faith as the gift of God “not on account of its being offered by God to man, . . . but because it is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him.” But all of this is missing in “Our Song.” It speaks only in vague terms of the Spirit speaking. “The Spirit speaks through the Scriptures.” (Stanza 6) “The Spirit speaks through the Church. . . .” “He calls the world to bear witness to Christ. . . .” (Stanza 7) “God’s Spirit speaks in the world according to God’s ultimate word in Christ.” (Stanza 8) Stanza 16 is about the only point in “Our Song” which in any way speaks directly of the call to repentance; and it refers only to the outward call of the gospel: “The Spirit sends His church to call sinners to repentance, to proclaim the good news that Jesus is personal Savior and Lord. He sends it out in ministry to preach good news to the poor, righteousness to the nations, and peace among mankind.”
On this score, therefore, one can only pass the verdict: tried, and found wanting. On this score, “Our Song” can never serve as an adequate expression of faith for a Reformed Christian.
The same is true with respect to the fifth of the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism.” It is totally missing in “Our Song.” I will not belabor this point, but only give one ridiculous illustration. Lines 6-8 of Stanza 5 read: “In this age, His Holy Spirit is with us, calling nations to follow God’s path, uniting people through Christ in love.” I ask you: do you find in these words the slightest hint of the truth of the sure preservation and perseverance of the saints? I fail to find it. But if you turn to Appendix B, what confessional reference do you find with Stanza 5, lines 6-8? Nothing less than Canons V, 1-15. That’s the entire Fifth Head of Doctrine! Frankly, I cannot understand how anyone got it in his head to accompany these lines with such a reference; I fail utterly to see any connection. One gets the impression that they were just trying to make “Our Song” look good by supplying some confessional references.
But in addition to this, one simply looks in vain in “Our Song” for anything which approaches the truth of the sure perseverance of the saints.
My conclusion, therefore, with respect to the five distinctively Reformed doctrines known as the “Five Points of Calvinism” is that “Our Song of Hope” can in no wise qualify as a Reformed confession of faith. On the contrary, in many respects “Our Song” militates against these distinctively Reformed doctrines.
As I have stated earlier, if one were to offer a detailed critique of “Our Song,” it would require a book longer than Dr. Heideman’s commentary promoting the proposed and provisional new confession of the RCA. I have purposely confined myself in this critique to a very limited area of specifically Reformed truths, partly because these truths are crucial to any would-be Reformed creed, partly to get some kind of “line” in my critique, and partly because without a specific approach one simply would not know where to begin or end with his criticism of “Our Song of Hope.” For, frankly, I can find nothing good and favorable to say about the entire document.
Yet I cannot refrain from calling attention to a few of the outstanding errors in “Our Song” other than those already mentioned. I will only mention these, without going into detail. The reader should also keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.
1. The doctrine of Holy Scripture (Stanza 6) is phrased in purposely vague terminology, with no reference, of course, to infallibility or inerrancy. The commentary on this stanza explains that the question of canonicity is viewed as more important than the question of inspiration. I dare say that if a distinctively Reformed doctrine of Scripture were inserted in “Our Song,” a majority at an RCA General Synod could not be mustered for it.
2. Stanza 8 seems to speak of some kind of unarticulated Word of God which is still present in heathendom. It reminds me of the “unarticulated word of promise” to heathen nations of which they wrote in the Netherlands several years ago. Again, the commentary confirms my suspicions. There we read, p. 41:
“Moreover, we believe that God works in every time and place, even when our feeble bodies and minds have not gone to those places. We believe that the message of the Scriptures has been working like yeast in the world for centuries, so that we cannot any longer trace its complete historical journey through Asia, Africa and the West. We believe that even when society and government, art and technology forget their own relation to Christ, somehow the Spirit of God remains faithful among those areas of life, just as He remained faithful to Israel in Egypt and in Babylon. We are impressed by the fact that when missionaries have gone to new lands, the people there seemed to have had premonitions of their coming and that within their cultures there often seemed to be a preparation for the coming of the Gospel. However, this is not to say that all that goes on in strange lands and places is to be accepted as truth from God. Human sin and perversity is everywhere; those areas, like our own, must ultimately be measured and judged by Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Scriptures, the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
3. The stance on marriage, family planning (a wicked euphemism), and abortion is corrupt, Stanza 13. “Our Song” seems to “reaffirm the life-long character of marriage.” But the commentary contradicts this when it also states that “a variety of marriage systems have been and still are acceptable to God,” and that “the words of Genesis about one man and one w Oman” only provide “the best regulation. . . .” Further, “Our Song” proudly speaks of family planning, not recognizing the fact that while it is possible to preventthe birth of children, it is not possible to control and to plan the birth of children. Finally, “Our Song” deliberately refuses to take a stand on abortion because “it is not yet clear” what stance one should take on the question of abortion. (Commentary, pp. 54, 55)
4. “Our Song” is replete with the social gospel. There are probably more direct references to aspects of the social gospel than to any single item. I will not go into detail on this, for that would involve me in another lengthy chapter of critique. In Stanzas like 10, 11, 12, and 16 this emphasis is so obvious anyone can detect it.
In conclusion, then, let me remind you again that no Reformed man could ever accept this proposed creed as the expression of his own faith. If the RCA finally adopts “Our Song,” this can only mean that it has publicly and officially abandoned even the semblance of a Reformed stance. No one could ever recognize a church as being Reformed which raises this creed as its standard, its flag. And the very fact that this creed could even be provisionally adopted is proof positive that the RCA is far, far down the road of apostasy. Evidently men who are even evangelical are in the minority; and men who are at all genuinely Reformed in the RCA are rare items indeed! Still more, if they are truly Reformed, they do not belong in the fellowship of RCA.