Bing! Bang! Boom! BOOM!
The heavy artillery has been unlimbered in theGereformeerde Kerken.
I am referring to a brochure recently sent me for review by the publishing firm of Buijten en Schipperheijn. This little booklet is written by an elderly minister in the churches mentioned, Dr. Ph. J. Huijser. This brochure of 141 closely printed pages is entitled “The Corruption-Process in the Gereformeerde Kerken (Het Verwordingsproces in de Gereformeerde Kerken)” and sub-titled (because this is the first of a series) “The Ruling Class (De Regerende Klasse).” It sells for f4.50 (Dutch money). I recommend strongly that anyone interested in following events in the Dutch churches should get this brochure and also the rest of the proposed series. This is the first time that the firm of Buijten en Schipperheijn has sent anything to our magazine for review; and I take this opportunity to thank them for sending this brochure and to assure them that if they will send the forthcoming brochures in this series, the Standard Bearer will gladly review them. I am following the unusual procedure of devoting an editorial to this publication, rather than placing a brief review in our Book Review department, because I deem this brochure to be very significant and informative with a view to the situation in the Dutch churches. I would expect that it will receive not a little attention, both in the Netherlands and here.
A Brief Survey of the Contents
Dr. Huijser introduces his brochure by calling himself “a disillusioned Reformed man.” He recalls an incident from the time of the schism in the 1940’s in which an acquaintance had thus characterized himself. He admits that at that time he attempted to convince this acquaintance that the churches were on the right path and that there was no reason to be disillusioned. But he also admits, to use his own words, that he was “a big ass” to have supported the synod at that time. But, he asks, what naive and trusting person could have sensed what the church-rulers had under their cap for the church-people and what would later come about after that synodical purification-passion? And now, he says, “when we review the history from the time of the schism to the present and then pay special attention to the process of development which has taken place in our churches in recent years and which we characterize as a corruption-process, . . . we can apply that expression to ourselves: I am a disillusioned Reformed man.” The author hastens to assure us that he not disillusioned as preacher, as catechete, or as pastor; nor as a Bible-believing and Christ-believing man. But he is disillusioned by the spiritual and ethical decay in the churches which “can no longer in truth bear the honorable name of De Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland.”
But there is more than disappointment in the author. He is also offended and indignant about the manner in which they have been misled since the so-called mission-synod of Eindhoven, 1948. He believes that there was a break-through all along the line at the Synod, when two of three Forms of Unity were made inoperative for the mission-territory of Java. And then he goes on to mention innumerable items in the Dutch churches which were approved, encouraged and peddled in the churches by the ruling party, but which never were and never will be Reformed. He declares that he is offended and indignant about the errors imported or thought up by the theological professors; about the increasing boldness with which the divine authority of the Scriptures is attacked; about the undermining of the faith of the church; about the sowing of seeds of doubt about the reality of hell and the second death; about the false interpretation of the vow in the Formula of Subscription; about the opening of all ecclesiastical offices to women; about the clamor for a bishop; about the glossing over of public indecency and blasphemy; about the anti-militarism and the so-called Reformed peace council; about the throwing away of money in missions; about the prostrating of church polity in the direction of a concentration of power in the hands of the elite; about the ogling in the direction of Rome and in the direction of a bastardized world-church; about the swearing by a proud, evolutionistic science, which “leaves our earliest forefathers hanging in a tree and swinging from limb to limb;” about the freethinking and sometimes insane talks and left-wing political babble in many pulpits; about the propaganda for neo-Malthusianism and the excusing of sins contrary to nature; about the demagoguery in the ecclesiastical press; about the evil enlightenment and leadership of the church’s youth. This long list he concludes by saying that what especially offends him and fills him with indignation and abhorrence is the hypocrisy and the double morality involved in applying or not applying synodical discipline of doctrine.
The above will give you some idea of the frankness with which Dr. Huijser expresses himself.
But there is more. The author tells us that it is his express purpose in this popularly written brochure to arouse resistance (verzet) in the churches. According to him, (with a reference to the writing of the late Dr. Schilder at the time of the war), it is time “to put on the uniform,” that is, time to abandon a defensive position and to take the offensive. “We live in an apocalyptic time. All the more, therefore, must a well-organized resistance be offered against the apostasy, against the spirit of error and the false prophecy.” (p. 10)
This first brochure, however, does not treat the apostasy and doctrinal departures. Dr. Huijser’s purpose is to deal with the ruling class, the power structure, in the Gereformeerde Kerken which is responsible for the process of corruption in the churches. He expressly states, however, that he does not intend to arouse resistance to the persons who comprise this ruling class. What intrigues him, he says, is their system of thought, of will, of action, the mentality which they reveal, their purposes, their goals, their methods and means. In this connection, he holds that the fundamental position of this ruling class is what he calls “neo-Kuyperianism.” He claims that this ruling class has abandoned and mocks at all the doctrines, the principles, the clear antitheses which Dr. Kuyper left as a spiritual heritage. But they follow Kuyper in one respect: his power-politics. But while Dr. Kuyper had to be satisfied with achieving only partial dominance, according to Huyser, due to the presence of a strong influence of the Afscheiding in his time, the neo-Kuyperians have succeeded in achieving sole dominance in the Gereformeerde Kerken. And it is against this neo-Kuyperianism and its power politics that the brochure is directed in its entirety. Dr. Huijser insists that to understand the corruption-process in the Dutch churches correctly we must have a clear vision of the nature of this neo-Kuyperianism as a power phenomenon. We must not be satisfied to see some symptoms. Nor must resistance be offered, first of all, against the deformation in the churches, but against the unholy power and the impure spirit which are the cause of the deformation.
Such, in brief, is the main thesis of this brochure.
Next follows a long chapter about “the authoritarian method” of these neo-Kuyperians. In this chapter the author offers an expose of the various devious methods which the so-called ruling party follows in order to achieve their purposes, demolish their opponents, and deceive the people in their writings, particularly in the mass of church papers which are published by the thousands every week in the Netherlands. He does this by using the device of a literary flower-market, on which the wares of the various flower-merchants are offered for sale. Very carefully and thoroughly, but also in an emotionally charged and bluntly outspoken manner, Dr. Huyser describes various species of “literary flowers” offered by the neo-Kuyperian merchants. For example, there is the “lovely species” and the “esteeming species” and the “progressive species” and the “calming species” and the “harmonious species” and the “reasonable species” and the “popular species” and the “spiteful species” and the “didactic species” and the “changing species” and the “political species” of literary flowers. These, according the Huijser, are the chief kinds of speaking and writing employed by the neo-Kuyperian rulers; and they are methodically employed to influence the thinking of the churches. But the author does not write in the abstract about methods. He cites instances and names the names of the leading lights in theGereformeerde Kerken. There is none of the representative men of this group who does not come in for his share of sharp criticism and accusations. It must be kept in mind, however, that this brochure is directed to the people, not to these neo-Kuyperian leaders. The author runs rough-shod over the latter, although he is well-aware that they will attempt to “smear” him by every device at their command. About this Dr. Huijser does not care one whit. He aims to arouse the people to active resistance and to acquaint them with the methods of the ruling party.
The final chapter is of the same character as the second. But it is devoted to exposing the party-politics of the neo-Kuyperians. The author sees this ruling party as a power-group which always defends and advances and recommends the men of its own party in the churches. The main burden of this chapter is to show how these neo-Kuyperians through devious methods have succeeded in making the Theological School of Kampen (which originally represented the Afscheiding-trend in the churches) into nothing but a vassal and a branch of the Free University. When the neo-Kuyperians achieved the latter, they had achieved a position of sole dominance in the churches. Again the author names names and events in a brutally frank manner in this chapter, and he does so in language which is indeed calculated to arouse the people.
At the conclusion of the third chapter the author faces the question which by this time has arisen in the soul of every reader: what must be done? He suggests that various answers will be given to the question. But then he informs us that he will not answer this question immediately. First we may expect another brochure, in which Dr; Huijser will show how far the spirit of the times has penetrated into the ecclesiastical and theological sphere of the Gereformeerde Kerken. In a third brochure the author proposes to sketch the nature and the extent of the ecclesiastical and theological corruption. And only then, in still a fourth brochure, the author will face the practical question: “what can and must we do in order at least to free our own conscience from co-responsibility for the innumerable ecclesiastical crimes which have been and still are being committed under a pseudo-Reformed flag?”
What shall one say about this first brochure?
In the first place, as I suggested in my opening remarks, this represents an unlimbering of heavy artillery; and, in my opinion, if Dr. Huijser succeeds in arousing those in the Gereformeerde Kerken who are already disturbed about the situation, then this means open and fierce ecclesiastical warfare! I cannot see any other possibility. Especially in the light of the fact that there is hardly a leader of the liberal party in the Netherlands who does not come under attack from Huijser, and especially because all these liberal leaders are also the recognized leading lights of theGereformeerde Kerken and because they are certainly influential and dominant men, it seems to me that there must be war,—if, that is, there is still enough spiritual power and will to fight in the Dutch churches. About the latter I cannot very well judge, although from a reading knowledge of circumstances in the Netherlands I sometimes have serious doubts.
In the second place, I believe Dr. Huijser is to be congratulated and encouraged because of the courageous and forthright manner in which he declares his position. Personally, ,I have been waiting for a long time for someone in the old country to wade into the battle without fear or favor and to say things just exactly the way they are. Everyone seemed to be reluctant. It is true that the “Alarmed Ones (Verontrusten)” have become organized and have grown in number. It is also true that “Waarheid en Eenheid (Truth and Unity),” one of the Dutch papers, has lent itself as the voice of the “Alarmed Ones.” But until now the opposition has been rather mild. There seems to have been a reluctance, if not fear, to fight openly and to “call a spade a spade.” Meanwhile the corruption-process has been picking up speed, and one could sometimes rub his eyes in disbelief, at the outlandish ideas which could be proposed without any penalty and without very many people even becoming upset. I am glad, therefore, that someone has at last had the courage to come out in the open. At least a small ray of light can now be seen in the situation in the Netherlands, the cradle of our Reformed faith.
In the third place, I will not venture to predict what will be the result of this first brochure. Those whom Huijser has attacked will, I am sure, be as indignant and offended as he is, and probably more so. But how they will deal with it remains to be seen. They may belittle the author and his brochure. They may feel themselves so strong that they can afford to ignore it and allow Huijser and the few conservatives to “die on the limb.” They may also take swift and hateful vengeance. I have the distinct impression that Dr. Huijser does not care what they do, however. His concern is to arouse the people, the faithful Reformed people, if at all possible. And if this and succeeding brochures of this kind do not succeed in arousing them, then the situation is indeed hopeless.
In the fourth place, I have serious doubts as to the wisdom of Dr. Huijser’s approach. I can foresee that he will be accused of employing an argumentum ad hominem, of attacking the men instead of the issues. I am not saying that this is what the author does; in fact, I believe that he does not do so. He attacks their thought-structure and their methods. In effect, he attacks their ethics. I believe it would have been far more effective to deal with the doctrinal and spiritual issues first, and to do so on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions. This, after all, is what must appeal to Reformed people; and if they cannot be reached by an appeal to Scripture and the Confessions, they are not worth reaching any more. I do hope, moreover, that in his future brochures Dr. Huijser will make a strong and air-tight case against all the doctrinal corruption in theGereformeerde Kerken. This is highly necessary. This is, after all, the heart of the matter. We will be awaiting the remaining brochures eagerly. And I invite the publishers to send them to me; I will give them careful attention in the Standard Bearer.
My fifth remark is that I cannot at this time see how Dr. Huijser can reach any other practical conclusion in his forthcoming fourth brochure than that church reformation in the sense of secession, in the sense of a new Afscheiding or a new Doleantie, is the only salvation for the faithful remnant in the Gereformeerde Kerken. Thus far, to my knowledge, no one has dared to suggest this. Even among the “Alarmed Ones” the idea has been suggested that what they must work for is “richtingen” (trends)—a liberal wing and a conservative wing,—such as are present in theHervormde (Established) Kerken. This, to my mind, is the death of conservatism sooner or later. Besides, it is in my opinion morally wrong. But what will Dr. Huijser suggest as the practical solution? Time will tell.
Finally, I have this comment concerning Dr. Huijser’s characterization of the neo-Kuyperians. It seems to me that Dr. Huijser overlooks the fact that there was another Kuyper than the Kuyper of strong Reformed principles and of the antithesis. There was not only the Kuyper of a strong emphasis on sovereign, particular grace; but there was also the Kuyper of common grace. And it seems to me that the Kuyper of common grace is very closely related to the Kuyper whom Dr. Huijser pictures as being followed and imitated by the neo-Kuyperians namely, the power-thirsty Kuyper. I would like to have Dr. Huijser consider the possibility that all the doctrinal and spiritual departures in the Reformed churches today, as well as all the openness to the spirit of the times and to world-conformity of which he writes in his brochure,—all these are the direct result and fruit, at bottom, of the corrupting influence of Kuyper’s common grace theory. Moreover, the intolerant power-madness of the neo-Kuyperians is closely connected with this maintenance and influence of the common grace theory. In other words, the neo-Kuyperians are not as “neo” as might seem to be the case. Incidentally, although Huijser does not go so far back into the history, it might also be very interesting to study and consider the question whether what is now happening in the Netherlands represents (historically) the ultimate triumph of “de jongeren.”
In conclusion, I have a few practical words for Reformed people in our own country. In the first place, the entire history in the Netherlands is an object lesson in the necessity of constant watchfulness and readiness to fight for the truth. Those who should have spoken up long ago are only now beginning to speak up and to realize what has happened. And it may well be too late to accomplish anything now. Watch therefore! In the second place, would that there were in the Christian Reformed Church and in the Reformed Church in America a courageous voice like that of Dr. Huijser! What is highly necessary today is that Reformed people be rallied together around the banner of the pure Reformed truth. For the situation in this country is basically no better than in the Netherlands. The Christian Reformed Church in this country is only X number of years behind the Dutch churches; and the RCA, as a whole, is still farther gone. But in this country there are at least the Protestant Reformed Churches to serve as a strong and pure rallying point for all who wish to remain Reformed. And we can, and we must, and by the grace of God we shall, let our clear witness go forth. But it is high time that those who belong to the faithful Reformed remnant within the Reformed community put on their uniforms, come out fighting, be vocal in their opposition, and be prepared to accept the consequence of secession and church reformation! It is later than you think!