In response to the Rev. Veldman’s comments in the October 1 issue we received the following letter from Pierre Courthial, Academic Director of the Faculty of Reformed Theology at Aix-en-Provence, France. The letter was written in French; and I must thank my sister, Mrs. Chas. Kregel, for the following translation:
“Dear sirs and brother, “I thank you for having addressed me in the October first issue of The Standard Bearer, the contents of which are very interesting to me.
“Permit me only to be surprised that the Rev. H. Veldman has written: ‘One also wonders what kind of aReformed congress this brother from France envisions. He speaks of “too narrow points of view, too much drowned in local controversies,” which would be enlarged. He also speaks of a “Reformed evangelization being extended in the entire world.” One wonders what his opinion may be of the fathers of Dordt and of the Canons of Dordrecht etc . . .’
“In reality, in my letter to the editor of The Outlook—and The Outlook has clearly published it—I wrote (but the Rev. H. Veldman did not quote this passage): ‘Along the lines of the wish of Calvin . . . my dream, in 1975, . . . is that there be convened as soon as possible a Reformed ecumenical congress with pious and wise men, ONE in the recognition of the great ecumenical creeds of the first centuries and of the confessions of the Reformed faith, including the Canons of Dordrecht . . .’ (Note: the last words, “including . . . Dordrecht,” were doubly underscored in the letter. HCH)
“To my eyes, ‘the issues which confronted our fathers at the great synod of Dordrecht were “not secondary matters’!
“To my eyes, ‘it is “not” a secondary matter to teach (or not) that God saves whom He wills’ etc . . .
“I would not wish that the readers of The Standard Bearer imagine that my dream is not a ‘truly Reformed’ dream!
“My article intended solely to affirm that we have ‘to search for the path of unity, toward the unity of the truly Reformed churches of the entire world.’
“I am sincerely yours.
The Rev. Veldman may comment further on this matter if he wishes, of course. We thank Prof. Courthial for his response to the comments which appeared in our October 1 issue. Since I was involved in the original discussion of Editor Vander Ploeg’s “Dream” in The Outlook, I wish to add the following editorial comments:
1. Perhaps our French Reformed brother is not aware of the entire discussion of this matter in The Outlook, seeing that the latter magazine published only part of the exchange of views between The Outlook and The Standard Bearer on this matter. I am therefore asking our Business Manager to send him the back issues containing the entire discussion.
2. The underlying questions are, of course: a) Who are “truly Reformed”? b) Who is to decide who are “truly Reformed”? After all, just because someone claims to be Reformed and to adhere to the Reformed creeds does not guarantee that it is true. I, for one, deny that the brethren of The Outlook and of the Christian Reformed Church (to which they are loyal) are trulyReformed if they adhere to the Three Points of 1924 and to all that their denomination stands for today.
3. For a genuinely fruitful ecumenical congress there must be openness and a willingness to discuss openly. This is also in the spirit of John Calvin, let us remember. But M. Courthial must remember that the brethren of The Outlook were not even willing to have a committee meeting with us for the purpose ofarranging a conference without adding all kinds of conditions. And, by the way, it is not true, as the church news editor of Reformatorisch Dagblad suggested some time ago, that we demand, as a precondition of any conference agreement on the matter of the Three Points of Common Grace of 1924. We do demand as a pre-condition a willingness to have open and free and frank discussion of that subject, and that, too, on the basis of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions. And why? Because we believe that these issues go to the heart of our Reformed Confessions.
In Response To “Open Your Eyes”
Not very often does an editor receive correspondence on his editorials unless he happens to kindle some disagreement. Two such responses follow.
The first letter is as follows:
Dear Editor-in-Chief of the Standard Bearer:
Will you allow me to give my opinion about your article in the November 1 issue of the Standard Bearer? If so, I appreciate your kindness. I like to object to the advice given to our churches, namely, that we should have our eyes open when the blessing is laid upon the congregation. I do not like the expression “habit” which means “to do something without premeditation.” In the second place, by having our eyes open we exclude our children and small people because some big people stand in front of them and they cannot see the minister. It also prevents the minister, if he closes his eyes, from stammering as ours also did about ten weeks ago. Maybe he was distracted by something he saw.
Allow me further to explain my view. When Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph, he bowed himself with his face to the ground and no doubt the boys also were kneeled down with their faces to the ground, in a state of obeisance. Even if they had their eyes open they were not distracted by anything around them because they had their faces bowed to the ground. We don’t have this mode of worship any more so the best way to show reverence is to close our eyes and bow our heads. When the minister pronounces the introduction to the salutation, we have our eyes open and while the pastor raises his hands to pronounce the blessing, the parent puts his or her hands on the eyes of the little ones to close them and by so doing teaches them to behave reverently. The older ones close their eyes and so, being distracted by nothing, we altogether receive the blessing of the Lord which is something invisible and cannot be seen by the natural eye even if we see the raised hands of the minister.
In the old country, prior to the pronouncement of the blessing, the minister would say, “Receive the blessing of the Lord.” This enabled us, through the closing of our eyes and the bowing of our heads, to receive that blessing.
The argument that the Epistle was read in the congregation while the reader had his eyes opened does not hold water because he was not looking at the congregation and most likely not raising his hands.
When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper and the sacrament of Baptism the minister reads the prayer which is included in the Form. And, of course, he has his eyes open. Does that mean now that he is not praying? Of course not! Neither does it mean that the mere fact that the congregation has its eyes closed when the blessing is pronounced indicates that this must be a prayer. Likewise, what the minister says may well be an authoritative pronouncement even though his eyes are closed.
I hope we maintain our old mode of worship for I think the old is better than the new.
Respectfully yours, with Christian greetings,
1. If you consult my editorial, it is quite obvious that I did not use the word habit in the sense N.D. suggests. This, of course, is not the only connotation of the word.
2. It takes a good deal of imagination to get this picture of Jacob and Joseph and his sons from the Genesis record.
3. I do not believe it is good pedagogy to teach even little children incorrect practices. Instead, teach them to pay attention in the proper way.
4. You would be surprised how many people, children and grownups, think of the salutation and benediction as prayers, rather than as addresses by the minister, as ambassador of Christ, to the congregation.
5. It simply is not reasonable in such an address-listening situation to close the eyes, no more than in the address-listening situation which exists during the preaching of the Word.
The second letter is as follows:
Would like to react to your recent editorial, “Open Your Eyes” as follows:
Take Your Shoes Off!
The recent editorial asking us to “open our eyes” led to the contemplation of worshipful attitudes mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. Examples are numerous for the people of God always assumed a posture which indicated their reverence in the presence of their God. Moses was told to take his shoes off when he approached the burning bush, (Ex. 3:5); Joshua was given the same command when in the presence of God (Joshua 5:15); many, many other occasions the people struck attitudes of worshipful reverence, the most prevalent was to bow with faces to the ground. InII Chron. 20:18 we learn that Jehoshaphat and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did so. In Neh. 8:6 we read: “. . . and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces toward the ground.” Turning to the N.T. we find in I Cor. 14:25 that Paul describes a new convert “and god so falling down on his face he will worship . . .” In Rev. 7:11 it is said that angels “fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.” And a final example, in Rev. 11: 10 we read, “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces and worshipped God.” The reason we bow our heads with eyes closed while receiving the Benediction of the Triune God, it seems to us, is not in the attitude of prayer, but that of worship. We have strayed “far right” from Moses’ and Joshua’s attitude of worship, even past the “near right” of the angels’ falling on their faces, to the present attitude of bowing our heads with eyes closed. So let us not go to the “far left” and open our eyes while standing so near to the presence of God while the minister of God pronounces the benediction of God upon the people of God. We are not recommending returning to the attitude of humble prostration of falling on our faces, but let us keep the present worshipful attitude of bowing our heads with eyes closed. If we have to give that up then we would recommend starting all over again and remove our shoes in our worship of God. Thanking you in advance for receiving the contribution,
1. Brother Faber should not entitle his contribution “Take Your Shoes Off!” if he, as he says, does not mean it.
2. Anyone who takes the trouble to analyze the passages cited carefully will discover that none of them deals with a situation parallel to the one under discussion. It is true, of course, that they refer to a worshipful attitude which is portrayed physically. But they do not speak of the situation under discussion; nor do these passages speak of all possible attitudes of worship.
3. I submit that there is no principal difference between the minister’s pronouncing the benediction and his proclaiming the Word of God—both of which he does as ambassador of Christ. In one case you are no nearer to the presence of God than in the other—and no farther from it. In both cases we hear the Word of our God mediately, not immediately and directly—that is, through the agency of the minister. In both cases our attitude should be that of worshippers—as it should be for the full hour-and-a-half service. But our worshipful attitude in these cases should be that of reverent and believing attention.
4. I wish brother Faber would be less quick with innuendoes such as “far right” and “far, left.” I find no objective grounds for such characterizations, and they do not contribute to the serious discussion of a serious subject.
5. Finally, I have at least succeeded in kindling some thinking, apparently, about our worship practices. That is all to the good!