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[Note: For the questions with which we are busy in this article, we refer the reader to the March 1 issue.] 

We began last time to answer the following question:. “According to one of your contributors . . . all our present troubles in the Christian Reformed Church are because of our views on common grace. But there are so many churches which never heard of common grace, and they are going the same way as our churches. How do we have to see this?” In answering this question, we reached the point of a more specific question, namely: why has the decline been so terrifyingly rapid, both here and in the Netherlands? At the conclusion of my previous article, I promised some thoughts on this question. 

That the decline has, indeed, been rapid is, I believe, a fact. If some of our fathers who died only, say, twenty years ago would be able to view the scene today, they would undoubtedly be dismayed at what they see and hear. And if our fathers who passed on some fifty years ago could be brought back to today’s ecclesiastical scene, their dismay would turn to dumbfoundedness, I am sure. Why this decline? And why is it so rapid—more rapid than in other churches? Some years ago a minister in the Reformed Church in America remarked to me that in recent years the Christian Reformed Church has been going downhill faster than the RCA; and I agreed. I believe the same may be said of the Gereformeerde Kerken in comparison with the Hervormde Kerk in the Netherlands. In fact, I have seen observations by Dutch writers to the same effect. Are there reasons for this? I would suggest the following. 

In the first place, there are historical reasons. For one thing, I have in mind the fact that many of the larger denominations in this country and in Canada began to decline, and in large measure finished their decline, already in the last century and in the beginning of this century. They fought the battle which has sometimes been generally described as the modernist-fundamentalist battle. The Christian Reformed Church did; not face and fight that battle. But when they began to come out of their isolationist shell, they had in a sense some “catching up” to do. Not only so, but they emerged upon an ecclesiastical scene where there had already been considerable decline and apostasy among the major denominations. And there is always an influence of the false arid of the apostatizing church upon the faithful church, drawing the latter away from the pure line of the truth. That, I think, is one factor. A second factor concerns the history of the Christian Reformed Church itself. I refer to the fact that today a new, post-1924, generation has arisen. That is simply a fact. Both in our denomination and in the Christian Reformed Church the generation which gave leadership in 1924 is well-nigh gone. A new generation has arisen. And this automatically means change and development, whether for good or for ill. I myself belong to the second generation, and I was brought up and educated wholly under the influence of Protestant Reformed theology and preaching. The same is true in the Christian Reformed Church: there is at present in seminary and in pulpit, as well as in pew, a generation which has been brought up wholly under a theology colored by the theory of common grace and all that it implies. This is simply a fact. And it means development: this generation is simply farther along in the course of development—whatever the course may be—than the previous, one. The “old guard” who were in many instances responsible directly for the adoption of the Three Points are largely gone. They brought forth and trained a new generation; and that new generation was steeped in common grace theology. To an observer of these ‘things it was a striking and a rather sad fact that in their declining years many of this “old guard” who had themselves been responsible for the liberalizing trend in their earlier years became the conservatives who bemoaned the liberal trends in their own denomination when they saw the new generation taking over; Once upon a time, I recall, Dr. James Daane hailed and welcomed this very development and spoke of the “winds of change” blowing through the denomination. Now, put this second factor in connection with the first; and I believe this partially accounts for the rapidity of the decline. 

In the second place, I believe that there is a doctrinal reason. My questioner wrote early in his letter: “Since our church has begun to debate the infallibility of the Word of God, it has gone down very fast.” I agree. And Again, the same is true in the Netherlands; only there the departure from the truth of inspiration and infallibility is farther advanced, and the results are even more devastating, although the Christian Reformed Church is catching up probably faster than most realize or want to admit. But I have two observations in this connection. The first is that the leaven of this wrong view of Scripture has long been present in both the Christian Reformed Church and the Gereformeerde Kerken. And the proponents of this wrong view have long been working. If you will trace history, you will discover that this whole debate about Scripture has been going on in the GKN ever since the rise of “de jongeren.” In the 1920s there was already pressure exerted for a broadening out of the confession concerning Scripture. Think, too, of the Geelkerken Case in 1926 and of the fact that Dr. Geelkerken’s defenders were always to be found in the GKN. The same is true of this country. Dr. Ralph Janssen was deposed in 1922 because of his errant views of Scripture and his higher criticism. But do not forget that for the most part his followers remained in the church—and were active. In fact, it was some of those followers who took vengeance upon Danhof and Hoeksema in 1924. Today a man like Dr. Harry Boer (in the Reformed Journal) is engaged in a posthumous “eerherstelling (restoration to honor)” of Dr. Janssen, even as the GKN did with Geelkerken. Why? Because essentially the views of Dr. Janssen have won the day in the Christian Reformed Church in Report 36/44. And because in the Netherlands the views of the “jongeren” have essentially won the field. But this brings me to a second observation. Have you eves noticed how closely associated in history the Janssen Case and the Common Grace Case were? And have you ever noticed that it was the samejongeren who took the bit of Kuyper’s common grace in their teeth who also were the early proponents in the Netherlands of broader views of Scripture? Personally, I am more and more of the conviction that the relation between these two is more than coincidental, and that the relation between the Janssen Case and Common Grace Case is more than historical. It is, I believe, intrinsically doctrinal. And at least part of the connection is this, that common grace leads to an esteem of the world’s science and learning and the world’s methods and the world’s literary criticism which, when applied to the doctrine of Scripture, ends in higher criticism and the denial of infallibility. That is putting it very briefly and simply; perhaps I will write about that in greater detail later. But do not forget: Dr. Janssen was a common grace man. He made a point of it. And he accused his critics, some of whom later played a leading part in 1924, that they were heretical because they denied common grace. The record will prove this. 

In the third place,—and here I touch on a crucial aspect in the life of the church—there is, I believe, a spiritual, ethical reason. I almost hesitate to speak of this because people are often touchy about this. But speak of it I must and shall. And when I do so, please remember that I am speaking not of individual members but of churches, of official actions, and of ecclesiastical trends. Besides, I do not write in an accusatory, holier-than-thou tone. I want to say this explicitly because I have too often heard the taunt that “you PRs think you’re so much better.” No, what we are, we are only by the grace of God. We have nothing to boast in ourselves. If we are faithful to the Reformed truth, it is only because God has kept us faithful. Let there be no misunderstanding about that! But I want to emphasize that the matter of truth versus error in the church of Jesus Christ is never a minor matter, never a mere academic matter. At stake in the deepest sense is never our view or our opinion and our church, but at stake is God’s truth of God’s Holy Word in God’s church. You see, the matter is a deeply spiritual one. For this same reason, no church can ever tamper with the truth with impunity. To do so can only have dire results. Moreover, the closer any church stands to the truth of Scripture and the clearer the light which that church has, the more wrong it is and the more spiritually devastating when such a church deviates from the truth. And, as a rule, the more rapidly the devastating results become manifest. Add to that the fact that the common grace controversy is indeed concerned with the very heart of the truth—sovereign, particular grace, and, in fact, one’s fundamental view of God and of man—and I say that it was predictable that the common grace deviation from the Reformed truth could only have dire consequences. And if you add to that fact that the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 cast out men who were according to the official testimony of the Synod “fundamentally Reformed,” then you have exactly such a sorely wrong spiritual, ethical situation with respect to God’s truth in a church of which my questioner correctly writes that it did “bask in the sunshine of God’s favor” and received “much light” from God’s Word,—such a situation which was ripe for rapid decline. The fruits we are witnessing today! 

All this stands in connection, in the fourth place, with the fact that God always deals judicially with His church in the midst of the world, and always judges a righteous judgment. After all, the deepest reason why one cannot tamper with the truth with impunity is that God, the Righteous and Holy One, cannot be mocked! Let me put it this way: only as we walk in the way of His truth and in the way of the love of His truth and faithfulness thereto does God also lead us more and more into the riches of His truth. And, conversely, when we turn from the truth to error, then God gives us over to our own willfulness and foolishness, so that we depart farther and farther. And, unless He give us repentance, this is dreadful! I say it with fear and trembling! Let us never forget that in the church it is GOD—not merely men—with Whom we have to do! And God deals thus with men, but He also deals thus with churches. He always judges a righteous judgment! You can observe this again and again, for example, in the history of the church in the old dispensation. One example: when the Old Testament church sinfully clamored for a king, He “gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath.” But have you ever wondered why the Gereformeerde Kerken in recent years seem to be smitten more and more with a spirit of blindness, so that they blunder from one bad situation into the next? Have you ever connected that with the judgment of God? Have you ever wondered why the Christian Reformed Church, ever since 1924, has been virtually paralyzed every time they faced a crucial ecclesiastical situation or any kind of doctrinal crisis? Have you ever wondered why it has become virtually impossible even to have a doctrinal controversy, much less bring one to trial for heresy? No, do not forget that the Reformed church is ever reforming, and that this “ever reforming” means ever repenting, and that it is only in the way of repentance that individuals and churches can and may expect to bask in the sunshine of God’s favor! In the way of sin and apostasy from the truth no individual or church can experience the favor of the living God! 

Finally—for I have already used up more than my space for this issue—I want to emphasize that all this must be seen in the light of the fact that we are living in the last times. Why is the decline in the church so rapid? Because the end of all things is at hand! And the closer we approach to the end, the more rapidly all things move and develop. This is true in the history of the world in general; it is also true in the sphere of the church. We are hastening toward the end! And we may expect that the lines between church and world, and especially between the true church and the false church will become ever more clearly drawn! We mustexpect that! This, I think, basically explains the almost dizzying pace at which things develop today on the ecclesiastical scene. And the pace is indeed so rapid that one can hardly keep up with it! 

Let us take heed! Sometimes today I hear it said that there must be a general banding together of so-called conservatives, or orthodox, with an ignoring or sweeping under the rug of their so-called minor differences. I do not believe this, tempting as it may sometimes be for a small denomination. What I believe is this: it is time for all truly Reformed people of God, those who want to adhere strictly and one hundred per cent to the Reformed faith, to band together under the banner of truth. Perhaps the time is at hand when they can no longer ignore this imperative, but will be providentially thrown together! 

[To my questioner: I promise to answer your second question next time, the Lord willirig.]

[Note: For the questions with which we are busy in this article, we refer the reader to the March 1 issue.] 

We began last time to answer the following question:. “According to one of your contributors . . . all our present troubles in the Christian Reformed Church are because of our views on common grace. But there are so many churches which never heard of common grace, and they are going the same way as our churches. How do we have to see this?” In answering this question, we reached the point of a more specific question, namely: why has the decline been so terrifyingly rapid, both here and in the Netherlands? At the conclusion of my previous article, I promised some thoughts on this question. 

That the decline has, indeed, been rapid is, I believe, a fact. If some of our fathers who died only, say, twenty years ago would be able to view the scene today, they would undoubtedly be dismayed at what they see and hear. And if our fathers who passed on some fifty years ago could be brought back to today’s ecclesiastical scene, their dismay would turn to dumbfoundedness, I am sure. Why this decline? And why is it so rapid—more rapid than in other churches? Some years ago a minister in the Reformed Church in America remarked to me that in recent years the Christian Reformed Church has been going downhill faster than the RCA; and I agreed. I believe the same may be said of the Gereformeerde Kerken in comparison with the Hervormde Kerk in the Netherlands. In fact, I have seen observations by Dutch writers to the same effect. Are there reasons for this? I would suggest the following. 

In the first place, there are historical reasons. For one thing, I have in mind the fact that many of the larger denominations in this country and in Canada began to decline, and in large measure finished their decline, already in the last century and in the beginning of this century. They fought the battle which has sometimes been generally described as the modernist-fundamentalist battle. The Christian Reformed Church did; not face and fight that battle. But when they began to come out of their isolationist shell, they had in a sense some “catching up” to do. Not only so, but they emerged upon an ecclesiastical scene where there had already been considerable decline and apostasy among the major denominations. And there is always an influence of the false arid of the apostatizing church upon the faithful church, drawing the latter away from the pure line of the truth. That, I think, is one factor. A second factor concerns the history of the Christian Reformed Church itself. I refer to the fact that today a new, post-1924, generation has arisen. That is simply a fact. Both in our denomination and in the Christian Reformed Church the generation which gave leadership in 1924 is well-nigh gone. A new generation has arisen. And this automatically means change and development, whether for good or for ill. I myself belong to the second generation, and I was brought up and educated wholly under the influence of Protestant Reformed theology and preaching. The same is true in the Christian Reformed Church: there is at present in seminary and in pulpit, as well as in pew, a generation which has been brought up wholly under a theology colored by the theory of common grace and all that it implies. This is simply a fact. And it means development: this generation is simply farther along in the course of development—whatever the course may be—than the previous, one. The “old guard” who were in many instances responsible directly for the adoption of the Three Points are largely gone. They brought forth and trained a new generation; and that new generation was steeped in common grace theology. To an observer of these ‘things it was a striking and a rather sad fact that in their declining years many of this “old guard” who had themselves been responsible for the liberalizing trend in their earlier years became the conservatives who bemoaned the liberal trends in their own denomination when they saw the new generation taking over; Once upon a time, I recall, Dr. James Daane hailed and welcomed this very development and spoke of the “winds of change” blowing through the denomination. Now, put this second factor in connection with the first; and I believe this partially accounts for the rapidity of the decline. 

In the second place, I believe that there is a doctrinal reason. My questioner wrote early in his letter: “Since our church has begun to debate the infallibility of the Word of God, it has gone down very fast.” I agree. And Again, the same is true in the Netherlands; only there the departure from the truth of inspiration and infallibility is farther advanced, and the results are even more devastating, although the Christian Reformed Church is catching up probably faster than most realize or want to admit. But I have two observations in this connection. The first is that the leaven of this wrong view of Scripture has long been present in both the Christian Reformed Church and the Gereformeerde Kerken. And the proponents of this wrong view have long been working. If you will trace history, you will discover that this whole debate about Scripture has been going on in the GKN ever since the rise of “de jongeren.” In the 1920s there was already pressure exerted for a broadening out of the confession concerning Scripture. Think, too, of the Geelkerken Case in 1926 and of the fact that Dr. Geelkerken’s defenders were always to be found in the GKN. The same is true of this country. Dr. Ralph Janssen was deposed in 1922 because of his errant views of Scripture and his higher criticism. But do not forget that for the most part his followers remained in the church—and were active. In fact, it was some of those followers who took vengeance upon Danhof and Hoeksema in 1924. Today a man like Dr. Harry Boer (in the Reformed Journal) is engaged in a posthumous “eerherstelling (restoration to honor)” of Dr. Janssen, even as the GKN did with Geelkerken. Why? Because essentially the views of Dr. Janssen have won the day in the Christian Reformed Church in Report 36/44. And because in the Netherlands the views of the “jongeren” have essentially won the field. But this brings me to a second observation. Have you eves noticed how closely associated in history the Janssen Case and the Common Grace Case were? And have you ever noticed that it was the samejongeren who took the bit of Kuyper’s common grace in their teeth who also were the early proponents in the Netherlands of broader views of Scripture? Personally, I am more and more of the conviction that the relation between these two is more than coincidental, and that the relation between the Janssen Case and Common Grace Case is more than historical. It is, I believe, intrinsically doctrinal. And at least part of the connection is this, that common grace leads to an esteem of the world’s science and learning and the world’s methods and the world’s literary criticism which, when applied to the doctrine of Scripture, ends in higher criticism and the denial of infallibility. That is putting it very briefly and simply; perhaps I will write about that in greater detail later. But do not forget: Dr. Janssen was a common grace man. He made a point of it. And he accused his critics, some of whom later played a leading part in 1924, that they were heretical because they denied common grace. The record will prove this. 

In the third place,—and here I touch on a crucial aspect in the life of the church—there is, I believe, a spiritual, ethical reason. I almost hesitate to speak of this because people are often touchy about this. But speak of it I must and shall. And when I do so, please remember that I am speaking not of individual members but of churches, of official actions, and of ecclesiastical trends. Besides, I do not write in an accusatory, holier-than-thou tone. I want to say this explicitly because I have too often heard the taunt that “you PRs think you’re so much better.” No, what we are, we are only by the grace of God. We have nothing to boast in ourselves. If we are faithful to the Reformed truth, it is only because God has kept us faithful. Let there be no misunderstanding about that! But I want to emphasize that the matter of truth versus error in the church of Jesus Christ is never a minor matter, never a mere academic matter. At stake in the deepest sense is never our view or our opinion and our church, but at stake is God’s truth of God’s Holy Word in God’s church. You see, the matter is a deeply spiritual one. For this same reason, no church can ever tamper with the truth with impunity. To do so can only have dire results. Moreover, the closer any church stands to the truth of Scripture and the clearer the light which that church has, the more wrong it is and the more spiritually devastating when such a church deviates from the truth. And, as a rule, the more rapidly the devastating results become manifest. Add to that the fact that the common grace controversy is indeed concerned with the very heart of the truth—sovereign, particular grace, and, in fact, one’s fundamental view of God and of man—and I say that it was predictable that the common grace deviation from the Reformed truth could only have dire consequences. And if you add to that fact that the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 cast out men who were according to the official testimony of the Synod “fundamentally Reformed,” then you have exactly such a sorely wrong spiritual, ethical situation with respect to God’s truth in a church of which my questioner correctly writes that it did “bask in the sunshine of God’s favor” and received “much light” from God’s Word,—such a situation which was ripe for rapid decline. The fruits we are witnessing today! 

All this stands in connection, in the fourth place, with the fact that God always deals judicially with His church in the midst of the world, and always judges a righteous judgment. After all, the deepest reason why one cannot tamper with the truth with impunity is that God, the Righteous and Holy One, cannot be mocked! Let me put it this way: only as we walk in the way of His truth and in the way of the love of His truth and faithfulness thereto does God also lead us more and more into the riches of His truth. And, conversely, when we turn from the truth to error, then God gives us over to our own willfulness and foolishness, so that we depart farther and farther. And, unless He give us repentance, this is dreadful! I say it with fear and trembling! Let us never forget that in the church it is GOD—not merely men—with Whom we have to do! And God deals thus with men, but He also deals thus with churches. He always judges a righteous judgment! You can observe this again and again, for example, in the history of the church in the old dispensation. One example: when the Old Testament church sinfully clamored for a king, He “gave them a king in his anger, and took him away in his wrath.” But have you ever wondered why the Gereformeerde Kerken in recent years seem to be smitten more and more with a spirit of blindness, so that they blunder from one bad situation into the next? Have you ever connected that with the judgment of God? Have you ever wondered why the Christian Reformed Church, ever since 1924, has been virtually paralyzed every time they faced a crucial ecclesiastical situation or any kind of doctrinal crisis? Have you ever wondered why it has become virtually impossible even to have a doctrinal controversy, much less bring one to trial for heresy? No, do not forget that the Reformed church is ever reforming, and that this “ever reforming” means ever repenting, and that it is only in the way of repentance that individuals and churches can and may expect to bask in the sunshine of God’s favor! In the way of sin and apostasy from the truth no individual or church can experience the favor of the living God! 

Finally—for I have already used up more than my space for this issue—I want to emphasize that all this must be seen in the light of the fact that we are living in the last times. Why is the decline in the church so rapid? Because the end of all things is at hand! And the closer we approach to the end, the more rapidly all things move and develop. This is true in the history of the world in general; it is also true in the sphere of the church. We are hastening toward the end! And we may expect that the lines between church and world, and especially between the true church and the false church will become ever more clearly drawn! We mustexpect that! This, I think, basically explains the almost dizzying pace at which things develop today on the ecclesiastical scene. And the pace is indeed so rapid that one can hardly keep up with it! 

Let us take heed! Sometimes today I hear it said that there must be a general banding together of so-called conservatives, or orthodox, with an ignoring or sweeping under the rug of their so-called minor differences. I do not believe this, tempting as it may sometimes be for a small denomination. What I believe is this: it is time for all truly Reformed people of God, those who want to adhere strictly and one hundred per cent to the Reformed faith, to band together under the banner of truth. Perhaps the time is at hand when they can no longer ignore this imperative, but will be providentially thrown together! 

[To my questioner: I promise to answer your second question next time, the Lord willirig.]