De Reformatie Ceases Publication
The last issue of De Reformatie appeared on December 30, 2014 after ninety-plus years of publication (1920-2014).1 Some of the readers of the Standard Bearer know what De Reformatie was. But I suspect that many of the younger readers do not know. De Reformatie (The Reformation) was the Dutch church paper edited for many years by Dr. Klaas Schilder, a Reformed pastor and theologian who, after being ousted from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) in 1944, helped form a new denomination that still exists today, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (“Liberated”). On the cover of the December 30, 2014 issue appears a painting of Schilder and the title “Afscheid van ‘het blad van Klaas Schilder’” (Farewell to ‘the paper of Klaas Schilder’). The last issue was devoted to the history and significance of the magazine.
But absent from the issue, not surprisingly, was any mention of the significant dialogue between Schilder and Hoeksema, the Liberated and the Protestant Reformed, in the early 1950s. At the time, there was talk about these two denominations forming closer ties. But with the appearance of the Declaration of Principles of the Protestant Reformed Churches in 1950-51, their stark differences on the doctrine of the covenant became clear. Schilder sharply criticized the Declaration on the pages of De Reformatie, rejecting the doctrine of the unconditional covenant that the Declaration maintained. Finally, on November 17, 1951, Schilder published an article entitled “De Kous is Af” (“The Stocking is Finished”) in which he declared that the relationship between the two denominations was over. The knitting of the stocking could not continue.
After Schilder’s sudden death in 1952, De Reformatie remained an important paper in the Dutch Reformed church world, and often the editors of the Standard Bearer commented on articles that appeared. But now, what was once the most widely read church paper in the Netherlands no longer exists.
The last editor-in-chief did not seem unhappy about it. He wrote (I translate), “…De Reformatie came into existence to give a contrary sound to prevalent opinions that were driven to extremes. But the risk of becoming narrow thereby exists as large as life. Over the course of time positions are cherished more than unity is served. Therefore, my ideal is that you discuss your views as Christians of Reformed confession in one paper and if possible talk them out. Then you write with each other, in a guided confrontation if necessary, but not over each other, while the readers discover how questions and developments can be approached and judged in different ways. This I would like to say in this last intro-column of De Reformatie. And I hope to contribute something of that in the new paper OnderWeg (On the Way).”2
The cessation of De Reformatie symbolizes what has been happening for some time already in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (“Liberated”). They have departed from the truth, no longer valuing the old paths, but cherishing “unity” at the expense of truth.
Farewell, paper of Klaas Schilder.
The Banner’s Mandate Reevaluated by the CRC
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, the Christian Reformed Church’s official magazine, The Banner, has seen better days. The CRC Synod of 2014 instructed its Board of Trustees (BOT) to review the 1998 mandate of The Banner and report to Synod 2015 with any proposed changes. The mandate says the purpose of The Banner is to “stimulate critical thinking about issues related to the Christian faith and the culture of which we are a part.” The BOT appointed a committee to study the matter. That committee brought recommendations to Synod 2015 which met in June at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA.3
Why, you ask, is the mandate of The Banner being reviewed? The answer, as you may recall, is that two articles written in the summer of 2013 ignited a firestorm of protest among the readers of The Banner. The first article was entitled “Tomorrow’s Theology” by Edwin Walhout.4 That article blatantly promoted the theory of evolution, calling it “an established fact.” Then it went on openly to deny fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, such as six-day creationism, the historicity of the fall, original sin, and even the nature of the cross of Christ. The second article was entitled “Sex, Intimacy, and the Single Person” by Harry Van Belle.5 That article shamelessly endorsed sex before marriage. It claimed that the question of the legitimacy of premarital sex may have been relevant two or three generations ago, but not today. After all, young people today generally practice safe sex that guards against disease and pregnancy. And young people today generally do not get married until their 30s. Thus, although he frowns on purely recreational sex (e.g. a “one-night stand”), he approves of a mature and committed couple living together and engaging in sexual behavior. A cry of protest arose in the CRC.
The BOT’s committee met last fall. They discussed the mandate. They all agreed that “the current Banner mandate…is fundamentally sufficient and that issues that arose last year, causing significant concerns, were not the result of a faulty policy or mandate but, rather, came about by an error in judgment on the part of the editor.”6 However, they recommended adding the following (italicized) words: “stimulate critical thinking…in a way that encourages biblical thinking about these issues, in line with our confessional heritage; and offer tools to help readers find fresh awareness to seek, learn, worship, and serve as Reformed Christians in contemporary society.”
An “error in judgment,” indeed! We all make mistakes. But would we view it as an “error in judgment” if the editors of the Standard Bearer published articles blatantly endorsing evolutionism and premarital sex? No, we would say that they and the denomination in which they serve have evidently been walking for a long time on the path of apostasy. This was no minor slip-up. The fact that such an “error of judgment” could be made in the official paper of the denomination is a window into the deep level of apostasy in the CRC. Those in the CRC who were rightly infuriated by the two articles must hear the call, “Come out from among them” ().
As for the editor, Bob De Moor, many called for his removal, including 24 Christian Reformed church councils and 2 classes.7 But when he apologized for the way he presented those articles, neither the BOT nor Synod 2014, would remove him.8 Last fall, he decided to retire from editorship. But, he says, his retirement has nothing to do with the controversy over the two articles. Rather, he has decided to return to full-time ministry.
Without any pride or self-congratulations, let us learn from these events to be thankful to God for the faithful Reformed witness of the Standard Bearer and for our past and present editors. Let us pray for them too, that they continue to publish articles that stimulate us to grow in the Reformed faith and life, rather than tempt us to depart from it, as those two unbiblical and wicked articles in The Banner did.
Removal of the Gideon Bibles
Since 1908 the Gideons, a Wisconsin-based Christian organization, have distributed nearly 2 billion Bibles to hotels, schools, hospitals, prisons, police stations, fire stations, and military bases. But according to an article by Jay Nordlinger in the November 3, 2014 issue of National Review, “there is a campaign going on to remove them from hotel rooms” (34). Who would do such a thing?! Why would anyone want to remove the Bible? Those kind of questions we are tempted not even to ask anymore. It is hard to be surprised anymore by the assaults of secularism.
But who specifically is behind it? One of the human faces of the devil, known as the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), whose motto is “In Reason We Trust.” They fight on the side of secularism. They are aggressive and militant. They want to destroy Christianity. So they have begun a campaign to get rid of those Gideon Bibles. They sent a letter to the University of Wisconsin, and soon the Bibles were removed from all guest rooms. They then sent a letter to Iowa State University, and on March 1, 2014 the Bibles were removed from their hotel rooms too. They were not about to stop. Last September they pressured Penn State University to remove them. They even got the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) to consider removing the Bibles from their lodges all around the world. But the FFRF is not the only one fighting. They have opponents. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is one of them. They send counter-letters to all the organizations that receive letters from the FFRF. Nevertheless, as Nordlinger points out, their efforts will be futile in the end. “A person can tell which way the wind is blowing. The zeitgeist is fairly plain” (35).
But Nordlinger, evidently a Christian himself, does not think that “Gideon Bibles are the hill to die on” (36). This is not a battle worth fighting, in his estimation. After all, Bibles are still available in hotel libraries. And besides, anyone can download a Bible nowadays right on his phone. Yet, he wonders what will be next, because progressive secularism never rests. Is this merely about people being offended at public expressions of Christianity? If so, says Nordlinger, “couldn’t those who object to the Gideon Bible—you know, suck it up a little?” His answer is precisely true: “No, they can’t, some of them. The impulse to destroy or reshape is too strong” (p. 36). But he does not explain why. The explanation is that the devil is behind it. “Our mortal enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us” (Heidelberg Catechism, LD 52).
So, should we fight in the culture wars and protest the removal of the Gideon Bibles? There are certainly ways we can and should fight, such as casting our ballots on important issues. But more importantly, we should pray for strength to resist the temptation to cave in to secular pressure and for grace to suffer persecution courageously when it comes. We ought also to encourage fellow Christians who are intimidated by groups like the FFRF to stand firm. We must always remember that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the invisible principalities and powers of darkness (). From events like this we see that the world is drawing near to the day of the man of sin “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” ( ).
The Onward March of ISIS
The onward march of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) might also indicate a drawing near of the man of sin who will end all wars and realize a brief, albeit tenuous, world peace (). Since last fall, when I first wrote on the rise of ISIS, that terrorist group has not only maintained its hold on the large area of land in Iraq and Syria that it seized last summer; not only gained pledges of allegiance from other terrorist groups around the world, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria; but just recently it also increased its gains by capturing two significant cities. The US-led air strikes and Iraqi ground troops have done little toward defeating ISIS.
Then, on May 17, 2015, the Iraqi city of Ramadi, a little west of Baghdad, fell to ISIS when the terror group took advantage of a sandstorm to drive out Iraqi forces.9 ISIS thereby gained a significant hoard of weapons stored in the government facilities of that city. Later that same week, on May 21, on the opposite end of the area controlled by ISIS, they captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus.10 These victories came only two months after they were driven out of the Iraqi city of Tikrit. A seeming setback. But not a real one. These two victories prove that ISIS is not losing the overall fight. These were the most significant victories for ISIS since they rose to power in the desert sands last summer.
The red horseman, over whom Christ is sovereign, who holds a great sword, continues to take peace from the earth and to inspire men to kill one another (Rev. 6:4). Let us continue to watch these developments closely. For these events are signs of the coming of our Lord. And He tells us,
Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” ().
1 For the last issue of De Reformatie, see http://www.dereformatie.nl.
2 Bas Luiten, “Met Alle Heiligen,” De Reformatie, December 30, 2014.
3 For the 2015 Agenda of the CRC Synod, see http://www. crcna.org/sites/default/files/2015_agenda.pdf.
5 http://www.thebanner.org/features/2013/06/sex-intimacyand-the-single-person. Prof. Barry Gritters addressed this second article in the SB in a September 1, 2013 article entitled “The Persistent Sanctioning of Sexual Sins by Reformed Churches.”
6 cf. BOT Report, Appendix E, 2015 Agenda of CRC Synod.
7 “Board of Trustees expresses disappointment, keeps DeMoor as editor of the Banner,” http://www.thebanner.org/news/2013/10/board-of-trustees-expresses-disappointment-keeps-de-moor-aseditor-of-the-banner.
8 “Synod 2014 critiques Banner articles, calls for review of mandate,” http://www.thebanner.org/news/2014/06/synod-2014-critiques-banner-articles-calls-for-review-of-mandate.