In Waarheid + Eenheid, December 20, 1975, there appears a brief report and commentary which, in my opinion, is symptomatic of the weakness of the movement of the Verontrusten (Concerned) in the Netherlands. The article reads as follows (I translate):
“Alas, Dr. C. van der Zanden, of Middelburg, believed that he could no more baptize children. . . . He saw that his conception did not agree with the Reformed confession. The matter was decided in a good four weeks. Too bad, because now our churches will miss a Scriptural preacher, who departs from the Reformed Confession in regard to a little section. There are still many around who deviate with respect to many more and much more weighty sections. And who might do that already for years. An honorable Christian such as Rev. van der Zanden resigns. I have not yet heard of consistories and Classes which deal so swiftly with the greater dissenters. Nor have I heard that these themselves request honorable dismissal. Too bad, and astounding. ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel,’ said Rev. van der Zanden only a few months ago to a church full of young people in a Youth for Christ gathering. God bless you, brother!”
In the same youth section of the same issue, by the way, there appears an article encouraging participation in Youth for Christ which quotes its principles, principles which are plainly far short of being Reformed, but only Fundamentalists.
But to return to the matter first mentioned, this I call symptomatic of the weakness of the movement of the Verontrusten in the Netherlands. It may indeed be true that in the Netherlands they measure with two measures, so that the so-called big heretics, such as Kuitert, Wiersinga, C.S. go free, while a man like Rev. van der Zanden cannot be tolerated because of his denial of infant baptism. It may also be true that the churches acted with dispatch in the above mentioned case, while such cases as those of Kuitert and Wiersinga have been delayed for years. One can even understand, and even sympathize with the feeling of injustice which comes to the fore in the above report. But to refer to the matter of infant baptism as a little section of the Reformed Confession is nevertheless symptomatic of a grave weakness and of a serious lack of understanding and appreciation of the Reformed Confession. For along with infant baptism goes that most important truth of our Reformed heritage, namely, the truth of God’s eternal covenant of grace. And so to belittle this truth as to classify it as a little sub-section of the Reformed confession is to betray a lack of appreciation for that which constitutes the very genius of the Reformed faith.
When it comes to choosing sides between the Concerned and the Liberals in the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands, I cannot hesitate: my sympathies are without question with the Concerned and against the Liberals.
But how can a Reformed man bemoan the loss to his churches of a minister who denies infant baptism—and, with it, the truth of God’s covenant? Is this not symptomatic? I fear it. I fear that it is symptomatic of a very serious weakness in the movement of the Concerned. I fear that this is symptomatic of the fact that while the movement of the Concerned is indeed conservative, as over against the blatant liberalism of such men as Kuitert and others, nevertheless it is not conservative in the sense of being strongly and distinctively Reformed, but sometimes manifests itself as being conservative in the sense of being “evangelical” and “fundamentalist.” How otherwise is it to be explained that such a movement as “Youth for Christ” can also be justified and promoted inWaarheid + Eenheid? Surely, there is nothing distinctively Reformed about such a movement! How a Reformed man can get it in his head to promote such things and to present such a movement as a viable option for Reformed young people is a conundrum to me.
But what is worse, if my diagnosis of this symptom is correct, there is very little hope from the quarter of the Concerned as far as a truly Reformed movement of reformation in the GKN is concerned. I can foresee continued fragmentation of the same kind that has already become manifest to a considerable degree in the GKN, but little if any possibility of a genuinely Reformed movement of reformation through separation.
And there is a lesson and a warning here. It is indeed possible to delay too long in the work of reformation. One can bemoan the presence of false doctrines and false teachers in the church. One can bemoan apostasy in doctrine and life. One can protest such evils officially and unofficially. One can profess that the calling to fight and to work for the enlightenment of others and for reformation from within is his duty. One can continue to live in the vain hope that somehow and from some quarter a change for the better is going to come. But there comes a time when one must also act, and act decisively. And there also comes a time when it is too late to act and when the opportunity for and the hope of a genuine and pure and sound movement of reformation become a thing of the past. Be warned!