A reader of our Standard Bearer recently gave to me a couple of copies of the Dutch paper De Spiegel. Evidently this paper has become very interested in ecumenical developments in the Netherlands, especially in the Reformed Churches. One issue contained an interview with a retired minister from the Gereformeerde Kerken by the name of Ds. Sillevis Smitt. He commented at length on the state of affairs in his own denomination and about his feelings towards ecumenicity in general and union with Rome in particular. The following are some excerpts taken from this interview in which Ds. Smitt expresses his views on these questions.
After stating that he does not like the word “Christian” at all, he goes on to say:
That is such an odd word. A heathen invented it. Christian. . . . .For my part people need not become Christians. They must become children of God. Man must be a child of God. And then: the tree is known by its fruits.
But yes, I do not want either now to run down Christendom entirely, because the abolition of slavery, to mention but one example, after all also took place under the influence of Christendom.
Turning to other subjects he goes on:
If the churches are really serious about the gospel, then they will change very quickly. In their organization, their presentation, their entire manner of gathering together.
If they remain as they are, they will not be in a position to catch the people outside of the church; and the number of people outside of the church that is receptive for the Bible is growing steadily larger.
The solution? To be a different quality of Christian. And this shall have to reveal itself by removing the prejudice and the disgrace of ecclesiastical separation. For what now is the reason why the Hervormden and the Gereformeerden are not together? You have a sort of strange, crazy inconsistency: the baptism is indeed acknowledged, but you may not sit at communion with one another. It is not only prejudice and a disgrace, but it has also become a kind of madness that we are still separate.
Concerning his own denomination he has some biting criticism to make.
I have never kept it secret that I am Reformed. But to be Reformed is least of all a recommendation. It is an obstacle.
And it is also terribly difficult if people who have come to the faith, to a new life, to say to them: Now you must go to that Reformed Church. Because as a rule they don’t feel at home there.
You may calmly write that I applauded when a short time ago I read that the Reformed were together, and openly allowed it to be put in the newspaper that they had heard that the judgment about the Reformed by those outside the church is belittling. Do you remember that yet? Now at that time I applauded and said: That is the truth. That is the way you must see yourself. Then there is a chance that improvement will come.
Turning to the Bible he said:
The Bible, of course, is much read in Reformed circles. But whether it is well read, that is another question. . . . You can see and know all kinds of texts of the Bible. I would say: The Pharisees and Sadducees are an eternal warning for us that you must be careful for this.
I feel it to be a great temptation that I know so much about the Bible. Because to know so much of the Bible could indeed upon occasion be for me a great obstacle to knowing the Bible and certainly to obeying that Bible, and humbly living by it.
It is fortunate that great changes are taking place in the churches, but I surely want to say to you that if the pope and the synods do not take care that we come together, then the children must simply see to it, then they must simply mutually marry. I would wave the flag at every Hervormde-Gereformeerde marriage.
The Catholics are in our land closer to us than in other lands. But I am a little afraid to say that because then it is as though we are putting a feather in our hat and we as Reformed have done that so often that I have a horror of it. This is much more a merit of the Catholics than of us. With the Catholics there is so much care of the sick, so much mercy, so much piety, so much inclination to sacrifice. It is highly necessary that from that direction also a help be given and a correction be brought about from which we protestants may profit.
Several things are apparent from these quotations. In the first place, this minister of the Gereformeerde Kerken is not at all reluctant to throw overboard the entire Reformed heritage for which his fathers fought so valiantly. In fact, he is in a hurry to discard this heritage because he is of the opinion that it forms an insurmountable barrier to union with Rome—a union which must be realized.
In the second place, he finds all kinds of fault with his own denomination not only, but also with the distinctive truths of the Church, with the name “Christian,” and with the Scriptures themselves.
In the third place, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the real heart of the ecumenical movement (in the Netherlands surely, but in this country as well) is the effort to bring Protestantism and Roman Catholicism together. All other manifestations of the ecumenical movement and all Church mergers have as their goal union with the Church of the pope. This is the real goal.
If this sort of thing is prevalent in the Gereformeerde Kerken, it is more true in the Hervormde Kerk. There the talk has not only been about the desirability of union with Rome, but something is being done about it. In another issue of De Spiegel an interview with a Ds. Taverne was carried. He is apparently a deposed minister of the Hervormde Kerk—deposed (if his explanation is correct) for criticizing his church. He became aware of a meeting which was to be held in the Grote Kerk of the Hague between members of his denomination and Roman Catholics. He evidently intended to distribute some pamphlets at that meeting. But when he discovered that this meeting was a joint celebration of the mass. . . .But let him tell his own story and give his justification for his actions.
At first I thought that in the Grote Kerk of The Hague a Eucharistic congress was going to be held, such as the papists hold more often. It was the intention that my people were to distribute two thousand pamphlets among those present. But when they had brought away a program, I saw that this Reformed Church was going to be misused for a Romish mass. That went beyond all limits. I decided immediately as a protestant to protest once soundly against this. As a Hervormd minister—I do not acknowledge my deposition—I felt myself called and justified in Hervormd territory to let my testimony be heard.
I walked calmly to the front before the beginning of the service, looked for the so-called altar, but could not find it. I saw two candles on the communion table—externals about which the Bible has nothing, and I thought: “It is best if I begin with them.” I smashed them to the ground. One fell in pieces. The janitor tried to stop me. He wanted to come to the defense of the Romish, who, however, had absolutely no rights in that church. I was a Hervormd minister in a Hervormd church and thus I had rights. Hence, I climbed upon the platform, and while my followers guarded the steps to prevent my being deprived of the opportunity to speak, I read about the answer to the 80th question of the Heidelberg Catechism, in which it is said that the mass is an accursed idolatry. I looked the people straight in the eye and repeated the words “accursed idolatry” a couple of times. When I spied one of the ministers of the mass in full garb, I pointed to him and called: “There stands the accursed idolatry.”
As explanation for all this he said:
I hope I have given the chair of the pope a jerk. His fall must become a reality as soon as possible. I expect that it will take place toward the year 2000.
The ecumenical movement is deceit and foolishness. Its representatives are going about speaking with the pope. You don’t have dealings, do you, with antichrist? The pope wants to dominate the church. He feels himself to be more than others, but that is entirely an usurpation of power. He is not more than an overseer of the Romish Church. And what is the Romish Church? At best nothing more than the Christian congregation of the city of Rome. The Waldensian Church there may also call itself the Romish Church. I am overseer of the Reformed church in Hoogeveen. Is the pope therefore more than I? Absolutely not. He may have no power over me. And it is certain that ecumenism will end up in Rome. It must either go along with Rome, or it must tag along behind Rome, and then we nevertheless are under the yoke of the pope. And that cannot be. First they must be rid of Mary and of the pope, and then we can talk once yet about ecumenicity.
While we certainly do not agree with the method of criticism which this minister used, the point is that ecumenicity has gone to the extreme in the Netherlands where the mass is celebrated together between Reformed and Roman Catholic. One wonders how far behind the Reformed Church in this country is.
—Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, well-known proponent of the power of positive thinking and minister in the Marble Collegiate Church of the Reformed Church in America could carry his ecumenical vision to such an extreme that he preached in the same day a funeral sermon for Dr. Daniel A. Poling and Rabbi William E. Rosenblum. The latter is spiritual head of the Temple Israel congregation (Reform) and a believer in Judaism who flatly denies the divinity of Jesus Christ.
—A laymen’s group has withdrawn from the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand after that denomination, in her General Assembly, upheld Dr. Geerling even though he denied the resurrection of Christ and the immortality of the human soul. The laymen’s group hopes to lead all conservative people out of the denomination and preserve a Church in which the Westminister Creeds are retained.
—Dr. L.S.B. Leakey, world-renowned anthropologist and evolutionist still believes the missing link between apes and men will be found. He even predicts that it will be found in Egypt’s Fayum Valley and that it will be about 35,000,000 years old. Of more interest is his assertion that anyone who maintains that evolution contradicts the Bible simply does not know his Bible. He sees the evolutionistic development of the planet from gas to solid matter and from inorganic matter to life as being just exactly what Genesis describes. Perhaps Dr. Leakey ought to consult his Bible again. Yet this is precisely the assertion of many church members even in Reformed churches.