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Blatant Situation Ethics 

The lead article in a recent issue of the Dutch political paper, Tot Vrijheid Geroepen was entitled “Notes On A Quasi-Debate,” and it is a report on one of the most recent and perhaps the most shocking (if it is possible to be shocked any longer) pronouncements of Dr. Harry M. Kuitert, professor of ethics and dogmatics at the Free University of Amsterdam. The article is written by a Dr. A. Zeegers. It reads, in part, as follows (I translate):

On Sunday evening June 27, the NCRV produced on television an interview between Prof. Kuitert and Mr. Godfried Bomans which many will recall. What was it really about? About the views of Prof. Kuitert? One can better say—and the professor will apparently agree with this—that it was not about his views but about the correct understanding of God’s Word. For that is decisive, and our views are—to use a fashionable word—relevant only in so far as they are based upon that Word and flow forth from it. 

Permit us to say first that, at least in our judgment, the choice of Godfried Bomans as ‘debater’ was definitely unhappy. We will gladly acknowledge that we have, truly enjoyed that which Mr. Bomans has offered both via TV and via radio and via the written word. Engraved in our memory are the TV productions which he brought to us from the ‘holy places’ in Jerusalem and Rome. Superior work, which for our part could well be repeated. But for this interview they were at the wrong address with him. How can the Roman Catholic Bomans speak with fruit and with knowledge of matters about the tensions which the views of Prof. Kuitert have called forth in the Gereformeerde Kerken, about the legitimacy of these views? How can he put them to the test of Scripture and the confessions? Was that not an impossible task? 

The question arises why they did not let the interview with Prof. Kuitert be conducted by a reformational theologian. We mention only a few: Dr. W. Aalders, Dr. Arntzen, Dr. Graafland, or someone from the circle of the professors, which makes us think of Van Ittekzon, Jonker, Lekkerkerker, Van Niftrik, Herman Ridderbos, Troost, Veenhof, or Velema? Their questions would have been less facetious, but would have touched on the heart of the matter and would have put Prof. Kuitert repeatedly before the question in how far he can base his views on Scripture and the confessions.

The writer goes on to describe how the interviewer, Mr. Bomans, proceeded. He began by drawing a caricature of Dutch Calvinism by picturing them as the black-stocking people who are chronic sufferers from the fear of hell and damnation and who find everything wrong. The writer points out that this was precisely the method followed by the free-thinking liberals of the previous century; and that this caricature formed a beautiful background of narrowness and lack of understanding against which Prof. Kuitert’s enlightened thought-structures might come out the more clearly. Then the interviewer Bomans quoted from a lampoon against Kuitert in which the Professor was likened to the Nazi’s, but failed to bring out the fact that numerous theologians have in a manner that bespeaks good will raised serious objections against the professor’s views—objections which he has never troubled to answer. 

Dr. Zeegers then points out that Kuitert presented his views very bluntly and frankly, which leads some to praise him for his honorableness instead of blaming him for his unfaithfulness to Scripture and the confessions, to which he bound himself when he signed the Formula of Subscription for ministers of the Word, a formula now admittedly functions as a piece of waste paper. And then he continues as follows:

Reformed people have always understood the Bible incorrectly; all sorts of things which we consistently considered to be no cunningly devised fables now appear to be indeed just that, at least according to Prof. Kuitert. Not only were various historical figures relegated to the realm of fables, but also the bodily resurrection was denied. But there is even more. Prof. Kuitert is so kind as to dress up his freethinking thought-structures a bit, out of pastoral considerations. But only a little, because he sees it as his task to furnish guidance for faith in as prickly a manner as possible. 

As an example of the sexual ethics for which he stands—which, as is known, also includes abortion—we might hear that pre-marital sexual intercourse is no longer considered wrong by him. Hence, one can go his own way in this respect with appeal to the professor of ethics at the Free University. Another prickly observation (by Kuitert): the power of the establishment must be broken, if necessary by a strong arm in the literal sense of the word,—hence, by revolution. In this vision it fits completely that Prof. Kuitert also accepts little or nothing from synods. 

One can put it this way: Prof. Kuitert holds to a theology and ethics of his own workmanship, in which he makes not even an attempt to base these upon Scripture and/or confession. A pseudo-religion adapted to human taste, which has nothing to do any longer with the Reformed confession. He knows but one principle, that of freedom, but then not in the evangelical sense, but in the humanistic sense: the autonomy of man, who will settle matters for himself, and who guards against believing things not worthy of being believed. Science has taught him not to do this; and he is too articulate to do it.

The writer expresses himself as being happy in a sense about this TV production. And here is his explanation:

…It (the telecast) has in great measure contributed to the exposing and thereby to the trying of the spirits. 

When a Minister of the Word in the Gereformeerde Kerken may teach these things, then those churches have thereby completely given up their basis of existence, or, if you will, their identity. We do not see why, if this may be taught within the Gereformeerde Kerken, they do not simply immediately in this time of mergers consummate a fusion with the Hervormde Kerk, at least if the Gereformeerde Bond and the Confessionele Vereniging (two conservative groups in the Hervormde Kerk, HCH) do not make objection against this.

After this pointed comment, the author goes on to point out that at the Free University, where Kuitert teaches, the work of Abraham Kuyper has been completely denied. And he points out, foe, that the question concerning the training of ministers comes to stand out as a great life-problem through such plain expressions of Kuitert, whether or not he is protected by Prof. Berkouwer. 

So there you have it! 

The Standard Bearer has from time to time called attention to the astounding and bold heretical statements of Kuitert and others (for Kuitert is not alone!) in the Netherlands. We have also emphasized that the very fact that theGereformeerde Kerken have been unable and unwilling and afraid to institute any disciplinaryproceedings against these bold heretics—and they are heretics indeed, whether or not theGereformeerde Kerken have officially called them such—this very fact is a sad commentary on the decadence of the GKN.

But this is as extreme as any pronouncement of any adherent of situation ethics. The professor of ethics blithely stamps his okay on fornication and revolution!

One would be inclined to expect that no one who claims to have any Reformed sensitivities left would hesitate to condemn Kuitert and his kind roundly as fraudulent heretics who have not the barest claim to the name “Reformed” and who should be cashiered and exorcised out of their office and out of the church without ado.

Not Faddist But False Teacher

Yet Editor De Koster, of the Banner, calls Kuitert a brother, and twice in recent issues of that Christian Reformed weekly has suggested only that Kuitert is going to extremes and that he is guilty of “theological faddism.”

Now a fad is “a custom, amusement, or the like, followed for a time with exaggerated zeal; a craze” (Webster). And faddism is, of course, the tendency or inclination to engage in fads.

There are several things which need saying about this evaluation by Editor De Koster.

In the first place, of course, it is a rather insulting characterization of the work of one whom one calls a brother. If Kuitert at all cares—and I’m not sure he does,—then I am sure that he does not consider himself to be nor want to be classified as a theological faddist. To this very day Kuitert insists that he is teaching people how to understand the Word of God aright. This is the whole burden of his booklet, “Do You Understand What You Read?” This, I recall, was his plea when he spoke in the Calvin College Fine Arts Center for the Christian Reformed ministers. In fact, one of the first things he said in his first lecture was that he begged to be accepted as believing the Bible.

In the second place, it is a very serious mistake to underestimate a foe; and this is precisely what De Koster does when he calls Kuitert’s work theological faddism. After all, a fad in the very nature of the case cannot be very serious. It is a passing thing, a temporary craze. If you wait a little while and ignore it, it will pass away into oblivion. One must not get very excited nor show much concern about fads. But if you call something a fad which is more serious than a fad, then you will be badly fooled, deceiving yourself into a lethargy and self complacency which will spell defeat and destruction. This is precisely the danger of Editor De Koster’s fad idea. Consider:

1) That Kuitert does not stand by any means alone, either in the Free University or in theGereformeerde Kerken. He has thousands of adherents and supporters, both among the people and among the clergy and theologians. He can even claim Prof. Berkouwer as a supporter. Certain it is, whatever the proximate reasons may have been, that the churches were not able to condemn him officially at the Synod of Sneek, in spite of numerous protests.

2) That Kuitert’s theology can hardly be classified as of the passing nature of a fad. It has been around now for several years. Instead of dropping in its influence, as one might expect of a fad, it has increased.

3) That Kuitert indeed has a theology. This man does not simply throw out wild ideas, even though he may be rather sensationalistic in some of his pronouncements for the sake of getting attention and abrasively setting people athinking. No, indeed, there is an entire theology behind Kuitert’s practical pronouncements. Did not he himself suggest in his lecture referred to above that all of dogmatics had to be revamped? Going back to his De Mensvormigheid Gods there is a theology at stake that is as different from Reformed theology as night from day.

In the third place, Editor De Koster’s characterization is beside the point. It is not church style. Before the church, the question is not faddism—yes or no. Before the church, the question is one of true or false doctrine, and that, too, according to the Church Order and the Formula of Subscription and in the light of Scripture and the Confessions. This is the question for Kuitert as professor of theology and as minister. This is the question for the Gereformeerde Kerken. This is the question for the Christian Reformed Church, in which there are also adherents (how many?) of Kuitert. This is the question for all God’s people. It is a question which concerns their faith. It is a question that concerns the very gospel.

And it is the ONLY question for the church and for believers who must try the spirits, I John 4:1-3.

And the plain answer to that question is unequivocally: Kuitert is a false prophet!