In two recent issues of De Wachter (March 23 and March 30) Editor Haverkamp informs his readers of and expresses criticism of a new Christian Reformed organization, called the Association of Christian Reformed Laymen. Evidently Rev. Haverkamp considers this a rather significant development, at least significant enough to write two disapproving editorials. I also consider it significant, though undoubtedly for different reasons than does Haverkamp.
Before commenting on this organization and its purpose, I will briefly present the facts about it as I have them second-hand from De Wachter. I have every reason to believe that Haverkamp’s presentation is accurate because he gained his information from a letter circulated by this new Association to Christian Reformed consistories. These facts are:
1) That the basis of this organization is “the Bible as the infallible and all-sufficient Word of God, as represented by our Reformed Creeds.”
2) That membership is open to all “Laymen” who express agreement with the basis and purpose of the organization.
3) That the purpose of this organization is: “to defend the Reformed faith from all, trends of thought and action hostile thereto, to unite the effort of all likeminded Christians in a more positive, militant and timely defense of the Reformed faith, to promote interest in and subscription to the Reformed faith as delineated in and by the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church and to collect and expend monies and act to accomplish the same.” The methods to be employed in reaching this goal will be determined according, to the demand of circumstances.
4) At present the membership of this society is chiefly from the Grand Rapids area, but it hopes soon to have members in every part of the denomination.
5) As to the reason why this society was established Haverkamp quotes, a paragraph from their letter. Editor Haverkamp translates this paragraph into Dutch, and I will re-translate it into English; however, I have no way of knowing how close my English re-translation comes to the original English. Here it follows: “The ACRL has come into existence because in our opinion disturbing voices arising out of Calvin College appear rather to undermine than to build up the church. It is our intention, as organization, to give support to those, among our leaders who fight for the cause of historic Calvinism. Our viewpoint with respect to various matters which draw attention in the Christian Reformed communion will from time to time be publicized. It is our purpose, in the spirit of brotherly love, to stimulate (arouse) fidelity to the infallible Word of God.”
6) Finally, we are informed that the letter was signed by the president, but that De Wachter Editor has no further knowledge of the board personnel.
The Rev. Haverkamp frowns on the methods of this organization and advises his readers to take a disapproving attitude toward it, to refuse to have anything to do with it. Haverkamp’s reasons,—if I may briefly sum them up,—seem to be as follows:
1) It is contrary to good ecclesiastical order. Those who have objections should not make propaganda and employ pressure tactics, but walk the orderly way of ecclesiastical protest, which is their right and their duty as church members.
2) This organization has spread abroad in the churches a very serious accusation that there are (unnamed) voices arising from Calvin College which undermine the church, and that too, without proof.
3) It fails to state what it means by “historic Calvinism.”
4) By its promise of. support to these unnamed leaders who fight for the cause of historic Calvinism it sets itself up as a church within the church, passing judgment as to who is sound in doctrine.
Evaluation and Comment
I can well understand Editor Haverkamp’s displeasure and concern about this movement. To an extent, I can also agree with his criticism. In the first place, a movement of this kind, if it is at all vocal, can indeed disturb the peace of the Christian Reformed Church. And peace,—taken in the sense of the ecclesiasticalstatus quo,—is highly esteemed in the Christian Reformed Church, even to the extent that it must be preserved, at all costs. True, Haverkamp does not mention this; but he is concerned enough about the new society and the possible mischief it could work to devote two editorials to a warning against it. In the second place, Haverkamp’s criticism in respect to the orderly way is well-made, provided it is true that this organization is opposed to that orderly way. This, however, has not been proven. Why would it not be possible for an organization of this kind to encourage its members and its leaders to walk the orderly way of protest and appeal? There is nothing in the information furnished by Haverkamp which indicates that this is not their intention. If, however, an organization of this kind has nothing more in view than to make propaganda, exert pressure by stirring up “public opinion,” and create partyism in the church, then it is both disorderly and futile. It is the former for the reasons which Haverkamp sets forth. And it is the latter because nothing concrete can ever be accomplished in any church as far as the removal of real or imaginary evils is concerned, except by way of orderly, official action. In the third place, in as far as I am able to judge from available information, the Rev. Haverkamp is a bit hasty in his judgment. I would guess that what the society states in its quoted paragraph above is not stated loosely and without reason, and that these reasons will be specified in future propaganda. And I repeat: there is nothing wrong about propaganda on public issues in the church, provided that the men who are responsible for such propaganda are willing to implement their complaints by formal and orderly protest as well. I have little sympathy for a policy of vociferous complaints in the press and from the platform that is accompanied by a policy of steadfast refusal to stand for one’s convictions and fight to the end before the assemblies of the church.
Meanwhile, in the very fact that an organization like this comes into existence there is food for serious thought on the part of the Christian Reformed leaders and constituency.
In the first place, it seems to me that there is something sad suggested in the formation of an association of laymen. Personally, I do not like the distinction suggested in the terms laymen and clergy. But there is at least the suggestion here that these laymen feel somewhat forsaken and deserted. They seem to feel that they must take the lead; and this can only be because those who ought to take the lead are failing them. Could it be that the official watchmen? the ministers, are keeping silence when they ought to be speaking out clearly and warning the church against impending and present dangers? Is this not the situation with the Dekker Case? There should have been a clear note sounded by the watchman’s trumpet when the Dekker Case began in 1963, but there was none. There should have been a flood of protests, but there were none. Today the Reformed Journalcontinues vigorously to make propaganda for this rank Arminianism. Torch and Trumpet weakly presents “fresh in; sights” from Professor Murray which are not fresh at all, but old and’ stale. But the editorial columns of The Banner and De Wachter are altogether silent on this burning issue and occupied for the most part with comparatively insignificant things. Who in the world thinks of tidying his living room furniture when his house is burning? And who writes about liturgy when the church is threatened with Arminianism? Why,—in the press and at the assemblies and from the platform,—do the watchmen keep such silence that the citizenry are compelled to take the lead? Yet, is this not the suggestion in the formation of a laymen’s association?
In the second place, one must be blind if he cannot see that an organization of this kind indeed has criticism to offer and issues in mind which must be publicized. True, they do not mention the seminary; though well they might do so: for it is from the seminary that one of the most fundamental issues facing the Christian Reformed Church has come. Everyone, whether he agrees or disagrees with Prof. Dekker, must recognize this. And as far as Calvin College is concerned, I would hazard the guess that at least one of the issues about which this new society is concerned is that of evolutionism.
In the third place, it makes a strange impression on me that Editor Haverkamp is so quick to criticize this new organization while there are others who seem to be free to make all the propaganda they please, even to the point of openly criticizing and disagreeing with the first of the Three Points of 1924. I refer to the constant propaganda being made by the Reformed Journal. Has it reached the point that the so-called “liberals” of the Christian Reformed Church are free to make propaganda; but that those who want to oppose these liberal tendencies must refrain from propaganda? I would say that it is high time that someone raises a hue and cry in defense of the Reformed faith, and then follows it up with well-founded protests. The Rev. Haverkamp should encourage these laymen rather than condemn them.
But, in the fourth place, this new organization must make up their minds to stick to their basis and purpose. And that means that above all else they must get rid of the Three Points. For the Three Points are not consistent with their basis, namely, the Reformed Creeds. And though Dr. James. Daane offers the rather meaningless opinion that our Protestant Reformed criticism is “unimaginative,” it does not take any imagination whatsoever to see that the Three Points lie at the basis both historically and doctrinally, of every issue of importance that troubles the Christian Reformed Church. If this new society fails to see this, it is doomed to failure.
In conclusion, I would encourage this Association to be faithful to their basis and purpose, faithful without compromise; I would encourage them to have the courage of their convictions and in that courage to be militant and to be ready to fight for the truth at all costs. I would caution them to expect “trouble,” but not to be deterred by it, nor ever to be moved by any other considerations than the consideration of the truth. And I would assure them that if they really and truly mean to be faithful to our Reformed Creeds and to the infallible Word of God, the Standard Bearer will offer its support.
We will be watching!