In connection with the current discussion about the views of Dr. Kuitert and other theologians in the Netherlands, now and then someone will talk about the influence of contemporary German theology and theologians upon these theologians of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. This is, of course, a legitimate aspect of the discussion. And it is always proper to trace such connections and similarities, and to judge and condemn a certain theology or theological position on the ground of its likeness to and connection with a theology which is commonly recognized as being bad. In other words, if one can make Kuitert out to be a bed-fellow of Barth, this is not exactly a recommendation for Kuitert.
One must, however, be careful about this. Such theological classifications must not be made on the basis of some totally incidental emphasis or some merely apparent and wholly imaginary likeness. Such a procedure can result in some very strange bed-fellows. For example, once upon a time someone attempted to put Herman Hoeksema and Karl Barth in the same theological bed, quite mistakenly: they certainly belong in altogether separate chambers in any theological dormitory.
But what about Kuitert and German neo-modernist (I do not like the term “neo-orthodox”) theology?
It is not my purpose to enter into detail about this question. This would take us too far afield in our discussion.
However, while I was looking for something else in Volume 38 of the Standard Bearer, my eye fell on an editorial about Barth’s view of election and reprobation which was written in connection with Barth’s visit to this country and his appearance at the University of Chicago. At that time there was a panel discussion at Rockefeller Chapel in which Barth participated; and in the course of this discussion, the subject of Holy Scripture also came under consideration. As I read what Barth was reported to have said at that time, I was immediately struck by the similarity—to my mind, not an incidental, but a basic similarity—between the views of Barth and Kuitert.
Here is the paragraph in which Barth’s statement appears (Vol. 38, p. 388):
“In a panel discussion at the Rockefeller chapel as it was reported in one of the Chicago papers, the question was asked Barth how he would justify his ‘appeal to Scripture as the objective Word of God with his admission that Scripture is sullied by errors, theological as well as historical.’ Barth answered: ‘The Bible has proven and will continue to prove itself as the true and fitting instrument to point men to God. The Bible, being a human instrument, is bound by the temporal use of nature, history and ideas. Just so far, the Bible is not sinless, like Jesus Christ himself, and not infallible like God. No wonder that even from the viewpoint of world views and concepts of other ages the question may arise whether or not we have problems of certain tensions, contradictions, and, if you prefer the term, errors.'”