Assen 1926—Groningen 1964
In Church and Nation, a Canadian Christian Reformed publication which, by the way, appears lately in a much improved form over what it used to be, appears an article by Van Dooren, minister of the Canadian Reformed Church, Burlington, Ontario (the Canadian Reformed Church is Liberated) in which he mentions especially four items:
1. First, “Assen 1926. (I translate from the Dutch, H.H.) It is not simply a question of technically being grieved. The Rev. Delleman is not the only one; but speaks for very many. Assen 1926 must be put aside, for that is the laughing stock for the Reformed (Hervormden), and how many inside of the Synodical-Reformed churches still believe it?
“2. Secondly, the casting out of those that were aggrieved in 1944. Now, after twenty years, it is questioned whether those disciplinary actions were correct . . .; but the motive is, not a holy unrest or an evil conscience, but as your report has it, a willingness to meet the aggrieved half-way, i.e. the aggrieved within the non-liberated churches, who continue to hammer on this anvil without ever taking any action.”
The third item deals with the question of joining the World Council of Churches, which is, of course, also an important question but which, for the moment, we pass. And the last item concerns membership in the worldly unions, which is also important, but which does not directly concern us: for our churches have already taken a stand against such membership. Besides, the existing Christian Labor Unions we cannot approve because they, like the worldly unions, also support “strikes.”
As to 2, I can be brief. In the first place, as I have written before, I cannot understand how the Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands can “set aside” the doctrinal decision taken in 1944 with regard to de covenant. First of all, that decision was certainly correct, Reformed and Biblical, even though the Liberated, who prefer the Heynsian conception of the covenant, which is Arminian, must have nothing of it. And if, as Van Dooreh writes, there are very many in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands that are aggrieved because of the Synodical decision of 1944, they better be converted and change their mind or join the Liberated.
In the second place, I cannot understand what the Synod means by “setting aside” any, legally adopted decision. Certainly, it cannot and does not mean that the decision was retracted. It still stands, therefore. But what then? Does it mean that the officebearers, ministers, elders, deacons, and professors, as well as members, may simply ignore this decision of 1944, that they may contradict it in speech and writing? In other words, does it mean that, although the decision still stands, it is not valid for anyone? It seems to me that this must be the meaning. But, in that case the decision may just as well be retracted. All this, the reader will understand, does not mean that I agree with the decisions of 1944 from a church political viewpoint, for I do not.
The first point mentioned above is, to me, of more interest and importance, for it concerns the question whether “Assen 1926” should also be set aside or retracted. At that Synod the Gereformeerde Kerken condemned the view of Geelkerken (who, in the meantime, died if my information is correct) concerning the first three chapters of Genesis. He presented the view that those chapters must not be understood in the literal sense of the word. The days in Genesis I cannot be understood, as days of twenty-four hours, the trees in paradise, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, were not literal bees, and the serpent did not speak when he tempted Eve, etc. By this time, not only the first three chapters of Genesis are involved but even the first eleven chapters are brought in question.
At the last Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was also discussed as far as the first three chapters of Genesis were concerned. In theRijnlandse Kerkbode of April 17, 1964, I found an editorial in which the writer discusses this question and also presents the rather long decision which was adopted by Synod.
He writes that already the Synod of 1961 had been discussing the matter. The deputies appointed in the case had, in their report, advised Synod to retract the binding force of the decisions of Assen 1926. This, however, was not adopted, and further discussion of the matter was postponed. Thus the matter was further discussed at the last Synod. The result was once more that agreement could not be reached.
The final result was that a motion by Prof. Nauta was adopted. This was a very lengthy motion to the effect that the Synod expressed:
1. That the doctrinal decisions of Assen 1926 cannot any longer fully be maintained.
2. That it is not desirable at this time to take measures which should lead to making the decision and the doctrinal expressions of the Synod of Assen 1926 completely binding.
3. That, in view of the present conceptions about the first three chapters of the book of Genesis, there is need of greater clarity in regard to the question whether and how far that doctrinal decision (of, Assen 1926, H.H. ) must be put aside and must be replaced by other decisions.
4. Therefore, the Synod decides to appoint a committee whose task it shall be to consider the question whether and in how far that doctrinal expression (of, Assen 1926, H.H.) must be set aside or must be replaced by other doctrinal expressions, especially in view of the present conceptions of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis, and especially in connection with what our Confessions have to say about this matter.
5. The committee will have to be ready with their report at least six months before the next synod, and the report must be delivered to all the churches at that time.
6. The Synod, besides, expects that all members of the churches and especially the officebearers shall exercise the proper care in expressing an opinion about the first three chapters of Genesis.
This decision was unanimously adopted.
I expect that this will not be the end. I could almost say that the committee will bring in a majority and minority report.
But we will wait.
HATE SIN OR THE SINNER?
After I spoke on the Dekker controversy in Calvin Seminary it might, perhaps, be deemed superfluous to continue my editorials on the above-mentioned subject.
Yet, seeing that I was discussing certain passages of Scripture to which Dekker refers and that I did not explain them in my lecture, I must needs continue for a little space.
The first group of texts to which Dekker refers and which I have already explained dealt with the difference between “hating sin and hating the sinner.” God, according to Dekker, hates sin, but He loves the sinner.
In the next paragraph Dekker states that “hate in Scripture sometimes means ‘love less’ rather than the very opposite of love.” Under this proposition he refers to the following passages of Scripture: Genesis 29:30-33;Matthew 6:24, and Luke 14:26; and, “perhaps” Romans 9:13.
Let us, first of all, discuss and interpret the last mentioned passage.
Before I do this, however, I must make the following remark. Is it possible that the, love of God is a matter of degree? I do not believe it. God always loves the elect, the righteous; and He hates the wicked every day. Besides, the love of God, as Prof. Dekker himself has so correctly expressed, is one and it is unchangeable. If God loves the wicked a little less than the righteous, is it possible that, while during his lifetime He. loves the reprobate wicked a little less than the righteous, that “less love” ceases when he dies and God casts the wicked into eternal damnation? Or does that “less love” continue even in hell?
But let us look at the text: “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.” I remark:
1. First of all, I may say that Dekker is in good company, for Hodge has the same explanation. Writes he in his commentary on the Romans and, particularly; on vs. 13:
“These words are quoted from Malachi 1:2, 3, where the prophet is reproving the Jews for their ingratitude. As a proof of his peculiar favor, God refers to his preferences for them from the first, ‘was not Esau Jacob’s brother, saith the Lord; yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, etc.’ This passage as well as the one quoted in vs. 12, and just referred to, related to the descendants of. Jacob and Esau, and to the individuals themselves; the favor shown to the posterity of the one, and withheld from the other. As this is the idea meant to be expressed, it is evident that in this case the word hate means to love less, to regard and treat with less favor.”
2. However, the word hate, when it is referred to God as the subject, never means “love less” in Scripture. Meyer rejects this interpretation and explains as follows:
€œEmiseesa (I hated, H.H.), moreover, is not to have privative sense ascribed to it: not to love or to love less . . . . , but it, expresses the opposite of the positive love, namely, positive hatred. See Malachi 1:4. And as that love of Jacob must be conceived of as completely independent of foreseen virtues, so also this hatred of Esau as completely independent of foreseen sins . . . . . Both were founded solely on the free elective determination of God; with whom in the necessary connection of that plan which he had freely adopted for the process of theocratic development, the hatred and rejection of Esau were presupposed through their opposite, namely the free love and election of Jacob . . . . etc.”
3. In the same context Dekker refers to other passages of Scripture. In Genesis 29:30-33 we read: “And he went in also unto Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord bath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.”
On this I would remark, briefly:
a. That the text says absolutely nothing of the love and hatred of God, or of the fact that God’s hatred may mean “love less.”
b. That the text speaks of the carnal and sinful love and hatred of men. And shall we compare the sinful love and hatred of men with the love and hatred of God? God forbid! To be sure, Jacob is said to love Rachel more than Leah and Leah calls this hatred. But this was undoubtedly sinful on the part of Jacob. Carnal love this was. But when God loves, His love is holy; and when He hates, His hate is equally holy. He loves for His own name’s sake; and He hates for His own name’s sake.
4. Hence, the text to which Dekker refers has nothing to do with His love and hatred of Jacob and Esau.