While on this side of the Atlantic the religious press has thus far been strangely silent about the significant and far-reaching decision of the Gereformeerde Kerken (by the Synod of Dordrecht-Lunteren) in the Kuitert matter, the same has certainly not been true in the Netherlands. In De Reformatie (Dec. 16, 1972) in the Press Review department, the Rev. F. de Vries writes about some of the Dutch reactions to that decision under the heading, “The Pacification of Lunteren?”
What is reported in this article is rather enlightening; and therefore we will pass on to our readers some of this information in condensed form
First of all, the Rev. de Vries disagrees with an evaluation by a certain G. Alb. van Dongen inHervormd Nederland. The latter had termed the decision a pacification between Kuitert and theVerontrusten (Concerned). He had even characterized the decision as a time bomb under Kuitert. He predicted that at future synods there will be more protests against Kuitert by the Verontrusten, and that these will lead to the exploding of that time bomb de Vries believes nothing of this. He points out that the Synod has relegated the questions involved in Kuitert’s views to the realm of theological science, has declared them to be matters on which there can be no ecclesiastical declaration, that in effect the churches have been silenced by Synod’s decision. Hence, de Vries is of the opinion not that there is a time bomb under Kuitert, but that there is a time bomb under theGereformeerde Kerken, and that, in fact, this time bomb has already begun to explode, marking the destruction of the Reformed, Scriptural character of those churches. There was no pacification at Lunteren, but a capitulation of the entire synod to the new theology.
We, of course, agree, as the reader will remember from our earlier editorial.
Of greater significance, however, are the attitudes assumed by various leaders in the Gereformeerde Kerken themselves. The article referred to calls attention to some of these. Mention is made of the Rev. P. van Til, one of the Verontrusten. He had fought long at synod for the maintenance of the historicity of the fall. But he was satisfied with synod’s decision—in fact, he voted for it; and he was of the opinion that the threatening danger of a schism in the GKN was removed, presumably not at the expense of the truth but on the basis that the conflicting parties actually had “found one another?’ in synod’s decision. Also Prof. Dr. Herman Ridderbos justifies the synod’s decision. He characterizes the decision as “an honorable conclusion that in this tension-full relation between truth and unity she (synod) could make no further progress.” He considers it advisable that at least on an ecclesiastical level the discussions on this matter be ended for the time being. Apparently he is content to leave these matters to theology and the theologians, but to let the church keep silence. In other words, the theologians (including Kuitert) may go their merry way; these are not matters which concern the church and her Reformed confession.
Most surprising of all to the Rev. de Vries (but not to us who are acquainted with the history in Australia and New Zealand) is the attitude of Prof. Dr. Klaas Runia, who declares in Centraal Weekblad that he is “very happy with this clear, evangelical declaration.” How such an evaluation is possible in the light of the fact that Runia himself recognizes that one of the questions at stake was that of the historicity of the fall, and in light of the fact that the synod exactly did not maintain that historicity of the fall, is a question which the Rev. de Vries raises, but does not answer. To me, the answer is obvious: Runia does not consider the historicity of the fall to be an essential element of that which is “evangelical,” i.e., of the gospel. This is the only conclusion one can reach.
For the Rev. de Vries also refers to Dr. Kuitert’s evaluation of Synod’s decision. He quotes from an interview with Kuitert, which appeared in VU-magazine (Free University magazine). In this interview Kuitert expresses himself in his usual forthright and bold manner. He very definitely does not feel chastened by Synod’s decision whatsoever. Nor does he feel limited by it. In response to one question, he points out that it was without any doubt the express purpose of the Synod to “create room,” that is, room for his views as well as for the views of his opponents. He very boldly points out that anyone who denies this speaks contrary to better knowledge. And he furnishes grounds for what he says. He points out that before the decision was adopted, there had been another proposal, a concept-declaration “which was full of things of which a child could understand that for him and for many others at synod they would continue the old course,” and would be unacceptable to him. He goes on to point out, too, that it was not his idea to bind everyone else to his views, but that he only wanted synod to create room for everyone to think about these matters as he pleased. And that, according to Kuitert, is what synod did. For at the synod that unacceptable concept-declaration was withdrawn, with the express statement that they did not want that. Moreover, Kuitert points out that the synod purposely used ambiguous language in order to create room for various views. Kuitert even points out that Synod refused to use the word gebeurtenis (event) with respect to the fall. Further, Kuitert points out that he plainly declared to the Synod at least ten times that Adam and Eve never existed as historical persons, and then confronted them with the question whether he might be in or might not be in the Gereformeerde Kerken.
It is evident, therefore, that Kuitert conceded nothing, that he retracted nothing—in fact, that he very boldly and forthrightly maintained, even on the floor of synod, all that he taught concerning Adam and Eve and concerning the fall. But synod did not penalize him. In fact, Synod rejected a proposal which would have shut out Kuitert’s views; and it deliberately took a decision which created room for Kuitert’s views alongside the views of others. The new theology won the day at the Dutch synod. It now has an open field. There is, in principle, complete liberty of doctrine in the GKN.
De Reformatie is correct on this score: a time bomb under the Reformed and Scriptural character of the GKN has already begun to explode!