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Verhey Case Appealed (Again) 


Some people, it seems, are gluttons for punishment. These continue to battle even long after it becomes clearly evident that the battle is lost. One admires their courage and determination — yet feels certain sympathy that these cannot recognize the “handwriting on the wall.” Such is the situation with Dutton Christian Reformed Consistory in its new appeal to the C.R.C. Synod of 1980. That consistory has repeatedly objected to the position of Dr. A. Verhey who was approved for the ministry and ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. Their objections were directed against Verhey’s method of interpretation of the Bible as revealed especially in two claims of his: that the serpent of Gen. 3 did not actually speak, and a questioning of the literal character of the earthquake which accompanied Christ’s resurrection. Now again Dutton approaches Synod to appeal its decision of last year. The appeal is summarized in the Outlook of March 14, 1980:

The consistory, having considered the synod’s decisions on the appeal is convinced that that appeal has been illegally, incompletely and inadequately dealt with and, considering that the matter is of sufficient importance to the welfare of our churches, appeals to the Synod of 1980 to rectify and complete the unfinished resolution of this matter (Art. 84, pp. 91-97). 

Grounds: 

1. Article 30 of the Church Order states that “Assemblies and church members may appeal to the assembly next in order if they believe that injustice has been done or that a decision conflicts with the Word of God or the Church Order.” Since the matter was acknowledged as properly before Synod of 1979, we believe that “the assembly next in order” to which appeal must be made to rectify deficiencies in the 1979 decisions is the Synod of 1980. 

2. The first decision which the Synod took on the matter was irrelevant to our appeal and was taken in violation of the Synod’s own rule:

“2. A main motion is not acceptable under the following conditions: 

“If it is verbally or substantially the same as a motion already rejected by the Synod. . . .” 

Notice that Recommendation D,2 (p. 95 Acts) which carried was “substantially” and for the most part also “verbally ” “the same as” D,l, which had “already been rejected by the Synod.” 

3. The Synod in its Recommendation 3 (p.96) acknowledged that Dr. Verhey’s method as he applies it is objectionable, but limited its criticism to merely, “some aspects” of his method. But Dr. Verhey’s own defense of his views states clearly that what is at issue is not merely “some aspects of his method,” or, as the committee said, some “detail which is questioned.” He wrote (Acts 1979, p. 656) 

“Incidentally, I do not “except” the resurrection from this kind of investigation. Indeed, if this kind of investigation demonstrated that Jesus had not been raised, I would become a Jew. The gospels stake their case on history, after all. But such an investigation, while it cannot ‘prove’ God took Jesus from the dead, clearly demonstrates it is not historically unreasonable to accept such a Claim.”

Notice that in the application of this method even the resurrection is made historically debatable. 

4. The 1979 Synod’s treatment of the matter ignored the material which we cited from Dr. Verhey’s thesis (pp. 742,743) presumably because, as Dr. Verhey suggested, it was irrelevant. That material from the thesis clearly demonstrates that Dr. Verhey in applying his method contradicts Article VII of the Belgic Confession on THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURE TO BE THE ONLY RULE OF FAITH, the “sola scriptura” teaching which he in the thesis repeatedly criticizes. His thesis also abundantly demonstrates that the application of Dr. Verhey’s view to moral matters makes every application of the Bible to man’s moral decisions subject to the veto of man’s own experience. 

5. The 1979 Synod later in its sessions reaffirmed decisions taken by -previous synods regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. In so doing it stated again “that it is inconsonant with the creeds to declare that there is an area of Scripture in which it is allowable to posit the possibilities of actual historical inaccuracies (cf. Belgic Confession, ‘believing without any doubt all things contained therein’)”. . . . 

It also again “warns against the use of any method of biblical interpretation which excludes or calls into question either the event character or revelational meaning of biblical history”. . . . Yet this same synod in the case we appealed to it took no effective action to maintain these decisions. 

6. The Synod’s treatment of our appeal fails to take the requested action, to prevent the objectionable method of interpreting and using the Bible from being preached and taught in our churches. Furthermore, the Synod’s decision provided for no follow-up on its advice. In merely urging Dr. Verhey to reexamine his method under the guidance of the Neland Consistory and in consultation with Reformed theologians, and advising him to speak cautiously in presenting diverging interpretations and demonstrate their harmony with our creeds . . . it was taking no effective action. In fact, its decision is being interpreted as tolerating his views. As the Press reported “Synod Allows Minister His Debatable Views” (Headline, G.R. Press June 21, 1979). 

In view of the increasing prevalence of views such as these among us, we appeal to the Synod of 1980 “to declare that this method of interpreting and using the Bible is not to be tolerated in the Christian Reformed Churches and to take whatever measures may be needed to prevent its being preached and taught by Dr. Verhey as a minister in our churches.”

It appears that Dutton has some strong grounds for its case. One would hope and pray too that they could convince the C.R.C. Synod of the seriousness of this whole situation. Yet one cannot but wonder how far a consistory can go before it faces the question: submit or depart. I had rather thought that Dutton had reached that point after the Synod of 1979. But what will happen now after the Synod of 1980? One would think that, before God, that consistory cannot submit to any kind of decision which allows Verhey to remain, with his present convictions, within the C.R.C. Is that consistory ready to face the consequences of faithfulness? 

The Joy of Singing 

In the Biblical Educator, January 1980, there appears a brief article on “Singing” by James B. Jordan. There are a few very thought-provoking paragraphs. What do you think?

Singing is one of the most important things the Christian School teaches. Singing is an emotional enhancement of speech, and it was given to humanity by God to enable us to praise Him. The humanistic schools have replaced music and singing, which are God-centered, with competitive sports, which are man-centered: the goal being to glorify the individual or to glorify the school. . . 

The result of a self-conscious music programme will be churches filled with people who have been trained to glorify God with their voices. The prospect is exciting. Also, years of singing good hymns and psalms till do much to instill a sense of good taste, and prevent the children from being caught up in whatever the current humanistic musical fad is. The reason Christian kids so often go for “rock” music is that their musical taste is completely unformed. The violence in today’s music is but the reverse side of the sentimental, goopy, syrupy, popular music of a previous generation. “Champagne music” leads to “marijuana music.” Too many gospel songs are nothing but sentimental goop, and children brought up on these are starved for music with some real meat in it. They find such “strong” music in “rock.” It would be better if they had been brought up on strong Christian music, such as the psalms.

Do you think, perhaps, that our emphasis is somewhat misplaced sometimes? 

Ecumenism to the “nth” degree 

An article quoted in the Christian News, February 4, 1980, suggests the lengths to which some go to unite mankind — and all religions. One might be shocked by the suggestions — but they are hardly unexpected, given the religious climate of our day. And the suggestions point once more to the end of the age.

All world religions achieve at least a glimpse of transcendent reality, declares British religious philosopher John Hick, who says that calling any faith the one true religion is a form of bigotry. 

Historical and cultural differences have shaped such images of deity as the God of Israel, Allah or the non-personal Void of the Eastern traditions, Mr. Hick says. 

“God as experienced by this or that individual or group is real, not illusory,” he maintains, “and yet the experience of God is partial and is adapted to our human spiritual capacities.” 

If this thesis is accepted, Mr. Hick adds, “then the very plurality and variety of the human experience of God provides a wider basis for theology than can the experience of any one religious tradition taken by itself.” 

Mr. Hick’s propositions “toward a philosophy or religious pluralism” came during a two-day conference on “New Directions in Philosophy of Religion.” It also marks an inaugural of sorts for Mr. Hick, who is joining the host school’s faculty as Danforth professor of religion. He teaches the rest of the year at the University of Birmingham in England. . . .

The evil and wrongness of the proposition are obvious. Yet we shall be hearing more and more of this sort of thing. It will increasingly become part of the cry for removal of all “religious discrimination.” Be not deceived by such cries.