In Torch and Trumpet, April 1965, pp. 9-11, Prof. R.B. Kuiper pens some rather frank and disquieting reflections under the title, “An Aroused Laity.” I will begin my comments on his reflections in this issue, before the subject becomes too old.
The professor begins by stating that a spirit of distrust has invaded the Christian Reformed Church, a distrust on the part of the laity, “the pew,” toward “the pulpit,” the clergy. He even contends that there is “a considerable segment of our ‘laity,'” that entertains such distrust. And although he does not produce his reasons, he maintains that he says “not without reason” that there is such a considerable segment.
Prof. Kuiper then goes on to mention several of the things that are bothering the laity. They are as follows:
1. Some leaders are in sympathy with the position of the Gereformeerde Kerken (of the Netherlands) that from the point of view of principle it is permissible for a Reformed Church to unite with the World Council of Churches.
2. Suspicion that some leaders do not subscribe to the proposition that the Bible is inerrant and infallible in all that it tells us.
3. Suspicion that some leaders do violence to the special love of God for his elect and the saving grace bestowed by God on the elect alone when they present what Kuiper calls the “truths” of God’s love for all men and the offer of salvation to all men.
4. Suspicion of Barthianism with respect to election and reprobation on the part of those who teach that Christ died redemptively for everybody and that it is the prime duty of the preacher of the gospel to so inform everybody. (A clear reference, of course, to Prof. Dekker, Dr. James Daane, Dr. Harry Boer, and others.)
5. Suspicion that some teachers leave room for theistic evolution.
6. Suspicion that some ministers consider the theology of Kuyper, Bavinck, Warfield, and Vos (and even Berkhof) out of date.
7. Suspicion of socialistic tendencies on the part of preachers and teachers who advocate a welfare state.
8. Suspicion that some leaders do not maintain the antithesis of regenerate and unregenerate, believers and unbelievers.
My first comment on this part of R.B. Kuiper’s article, which I have summarized above, is: I hope so! I sincerely hope that the Christian Reformed “laity” is aroused. Personally, I am inclined to doubt whether this aroused segment is so “considerable.” I am afraid that there are many in the Christian Reformed Church who neither know nor care what is going on in this respect; and they certainly do not learn much from the two denominational weeklies. But even if this segment is not so very considerable, I still say: I hope so! Still more: I hope that this being aroused includes the clergy as well,—the whole of the membership of the church. And why do I hope so? Because if the constituency of the Christian Reformed Church cannot and does not become aroused now, the cause of the Reformed truth among them will soon be completely and irrevocably lost.
My second comment is that there is indeed reason to be aroused. Of the eight items mentioned by Kuiper, at least six concern doctrinal matters basically, and that too, fundamentals of the Reformed faith. Number 6 concerns the theology of Kuyper, Bavinck, etc., and, as phrased by Kuiper, is not necessarily reason for concern. It probably would be more pertinent to ask whether there are leaders who consider the Three Forms of Unity out of date. And Number 7 concerns political principles, though it is important enough in itself. But all the others concern in, one degree or another the very fundamentals of the Re formed faith. If these things be true, there is indeed reason, abundant reason, to be aroused. I find it rather striking, too, that on virtually all of these items the Standard Bearer has commented in recent times, and connected them, let me add, with the Christian Reformed Church’s “common grace sickness.”
My third comment is that I nevertheless regret R.B. Kuiper’s method. Perhaps it is an editorial device; I do not know. But I do not like the method of suspicion-raising which Kuiper employs. Moreover, I almost get the impression that he is hiding behind the “laity” and expressing his own ideas under the guise of expressing the laity’s ideas. I would like to know what Prof. Kuiper himself thinks, and whether he is able and willing to prove these suspicions with respect to his fellow ministers and teachers. Kuiper does not like the clergy-laity distinction, even as I do not. But then he ought to write as one who is part of that “laity” and not editorially divorce himself from them.
My fourth comment is in the form of a question: precisely how aroused are these Christian Reformed laymen? Are they sufficiently aroused to do more than talk and write and be suspicious? If not, all their being aroused will leave them extremely frustrated: they will accomplish nothing. If, however, they are truly aroused, let them do something. Let them exercise their God-given right and duty to speak out ecclesiastically, their right of reformation!
(to be continued)