All our readers, no doubt, will by this time have wondered about my editorial in the Feb. 15 issue of our paper. The explanation is that, instead of the protest I meant to publish, something else appeared and the protest was left out. Hence I now publish the entire editorial as I meant to write it.
You ask who is to blame for this ridiculous error. Let us say: the undersigned, although he still cannot understand how it could possibly have taken place.
Just remember, dear reader, that nihil humanumn~ alianum est mihi. And I say peccavi. Perhaps you cannot figure this out either. Then you better ask someone that knows Latin.
I cannot refrain from acquainting our readers with a protest that was sent by those that call themselves the consistory of the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Church. I publish this protest because its contents are quite Protestant Reformed as far as it goes. Perhaps, this is the reason for the postscript at the end of this document.
The protest is meant for the schismatic Synod. I understand that it has already been before their classis in January, that, however, the discussion about it was not finished and that, therefore, it will be brought up again at a special meeting of classis in February.
I will first publish the entire protest and, at the end, make, a few remarks.
Here, then, follows the protest: To the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches
convening in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 8, 1960
Rev. James Howerzyl â€• Clerk
We are pleased that the Synod of 1959 complied with the request of this consistory that the Protestant Reformed Contact Committee report and its conclusions be forwarded to the individual consistories for further study and consideration.
In compliance with Art. 123, Acts of Synod 1959, this consistory offers the following evaluation, comment and recommendation.
Our first observation is, that according to Art. 70 Acts of Synod 1957, dealing with the Testimony to the Christian Reformed Church in Proposition 3, sets forth the committee’s mandate as consisting of “freely discussing the differences and similarities â€•and to report back to their respective churches.”
The committee, we believe, went beyond this mandate. The mandate was to discuss differences and similarities. It seems that the Committee felt its mandate was to settle the differences and to arbitrate the areas of agreement.
We are aware of the fact that the committee states in its introduction that they alone (N.L. the committee) are responsible for the material contained in the documents given to the Christian Reformed committee, but fact is nevertheless that what we have here are not opinions and expressions from mere individuals but from an officially appointed committee of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches and, therefore, when the committee states with regard to Point I, “We do not stumble over the expression that there is a certain grace or favor of God shown to the creatures in general” â€•, and “we do not deny the offer of the gospel” â€• and when they speak of a non-redemptive favor or grace and of an un-differentiated mankind â€•then what other conclusion must be drawn from these statements but that this is what is commonly believed in the Protestant Reformed Churches. This, however, is not the truth â€• not only that it is not commonly believed, but it is contrary to all that has ever been written, preached or taught in the entire history of our churches.
Secondly, when the committee report proposes a certain grace or favor to all creatures in general (non-redemptive) we oppose this on the same grounds we always have, namely, we find no Scriptural or confessional ground for it; it is not in harmony with God’s wrath over sin; it is a grace with which the wicked go to eternal damnation, and the general tenor of Scripture is diametrically opposed to such a conception. To use as proof a footnote in Rev. Hoeksema’s “History of the Protestant Reformed Churches” is unwarranted as the entire content of the book is a clear testimony to the contrary.
In each of these texts we have the assurance that God is good and that His goodness comes to manifestation in all of His works. This fact has never been denied by us.
However, God is also righteous in the manifestation of His goodness and “unless complete satisfaction is made for the sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God there is no escape from the punishment (both temporal and eternal) of the righteous and just God. The only way of being again received into His favor is by the satisfaction of Jesus Christ our Mediator.” Lord’s Day 4 and 5.
The Scriptures do not speak of any favor or grace in any other way than referred to above. The proof-texts cited in the committee report do not either.
The texts referred to, if taken in their proper context, teach that God gives good gifts to all His creatures but they do not teach that these gifts are given as a manifest token of His grace or favor. Grace is not in things as such. Psalm 145:20 and numerous other passages of Holy Scripture teach what God’s attitude toward the wicked is.
Without giving any interpretation or exegesis the committee report simply refers to three texts from which we are convinced no one can prove what the committee seeks to prove.
How can the texts in question or any other text prove that the good gifts of rain, sunshine etc. must be conceived of as God’s gracious inclination to reprobate in the face of the clear and constant testimony of the Scriptures that God hates the wicked, that He sets them in slippery places to destroy them, that His curse is upon them and that “He hides from them the mystery of the kingdom of God so that seeing they may see and not perceive and hearing they may hear and not understand, lest at any time they should be converted and their sins be forgiven them”?
Thirdly, the consistory does not agree to a “general well-meant offer of the gospel.”
The report speaks of ‘”A call of the gospel that comes to a sinful mankind which historically is not yet differentiated as elect and reprobate.”
This philosophy, we believe, is refuted in the early beginnings of history when God approaches mankind as the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; which seeds were at that time yet to be born. God continues this approach throughout the Scriptures. We fail to find the so-called “undifferentiated” approach.
When we speak of the offer of the Gospel our attention is called to what is offered rather than to the seriousness and the well-meaningness of the offer, for if it is true that God offers something then it is certainly serious and well meant.
However, the question is what is meant by the offer of the Gospel. We may say without fear of contradiction that the Gospel is centrally Christ in His redemptive and saving power. If that is the content of the Gospel offered, to all that hear that Gospel, how do we escape the error of universal atonement? For if Christ is offered to all, then there must be salvation for all. We consider this to be in conflict with the word of Christ Himself when He said, “I pray not for the world, but them which Thou hast given me; for they are Thine.”John 17:9.
If Christ does not pray for all, how can it be said that He is offered to all. Christ came to save those whom the Father had given Him. That must be proclaimed to all to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel of salvation. But that in itself already excludes those whom the Father has not given Him, therefore He does not pray for them. But Christ must be set before their eyes, as the only way of salvation, in order that through their rejection of the Saviour they may become ripe for destruction. That is according to the Scriptures and confessions.
Concerning the committee’s report in regard to the second and third of the three points of 1924, the consistory expresses that the reformulations proposed are merely a sub subterfuge, in that they by-pass the true thrust of the points in question.
In Point II, the restraint of sin being ascribed to the general operation of the Holy Spirit on the unregenerate is by-passed, and a restraint of sin ascribed to the providence of God and purposing the defense and preservation of the church is proposed. In Point III the committee report proposes a civic good which, however, in the last analysis, is sinful in the sight of God, whereas it is not done from the root of faith. We do admit that the natural man at times does that which is outwardly according to the law of God, but to speak of a sinful good is a contradiction in terms, and whereas it is not done from the root of faith, neither to the glory of God, we would rather say with Romans 14:23, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” and Romans 3:12, “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
We would sum up our observations by stating that the committee, in proposing certain reformulations, went beyond their mandate, and in so doing drew conclusions and made impressions that cannot be substantiated.
It is our avowed purpose and, we pray it may be Synod’s also, to re-affirm our historic stand in regard to God’s Sovereignty, man’s total inability and the antithesis. Compromise in matters of God’s truth will serve no good purpose for His church.
We feel that as Protestant Reformed Churches we can maintain a stronger antithetical position in this world by holding to the truth as it has been taught in our churches. It is not reformulations but re-affirmations that will yield good fruit for both the Protestant Reformed and the Christian Reformed churches.
May the good relations between the denominations continue and by mutual respect and goodwill, the cause of Christ be furthered.
We recommend that Synod do not approve the Committee’s conclusions and further that the Synod, in answer to the official letter from the Christian Reformed Church, forward to them a testimony of the historic position of the Protestant Reformed Churches in regard to the Three Points of 1924, which the Christian Reformed Church has not in any degree revised or retracted.
Wishing you the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all your deliberations, we are your brethren in Christ.
Consistory of the First Orthodox
Protestant Reformed Church
(w.s.) H. De Wolf, Pres.
(w.s.) J. Bouwman, Clerk
Done in Consistory
November 23, 1959. December 28, 1959.
P. S. Rev. H. De Wolf’s signature is not to be interpreted as indicating his agreement with the contents of this letter.
1. The reader will agree with me that the above is a thoroughly Protestant Reformed document. When you read this, you cannot help but wonder why, in 1953, the schismatics left the Protestant Reformed Churches. And when a split has once become a fact, history teaches us very plainly that it is well-nigh impossible to heal the breach. Of course, we are very willing to receive them back again but only on the basis of confession of their sin. It is impossible for us simply to re-unite as churches for we may not recognize them as such. Hence, we must ask them to confess their sin and thus return to us.
2. You may have noticed that I wrote above this document that it is Protestant Reformed “as far as it goes.” This means, of course, that it does not go quite far enough. I have in mind now especially the conditional Theology of De Wolf c.s. Do they still agree with this? It seems almost impossible in view of the fact that they deny the “Three Points” and the well-meant offer of grace and salvation. With this a conditional promise certainly does not agree. Yet, on the other hand, they still maintain De Wolf and that seems to mean that they also agree with his heretical preaching as it was concentrated in the two well-known statements that were condemned by Classis East. Those statements, as you will remember were: 1. “God promises to everyone of you eternal life, if you believe”; and 2. “Faith is a prerequisite to enter the kingdom of heaven.” No Protestant Reformed person can possibly agree with this conditional theology. And so, the question: do the authors of the document still maintain this?
3. The statement that the De Wolf’s signature does not mean that he agrees is as ambiguous as many of his statements I have heard of him in the past. One can make most anything of it. And, therefore, I prefer to make nothing of it. The only thing I will say is that, personally, I would not sign any document if my signature had to be ambiguous, negative, and without any meaning.