Evaluation of Kuitert’s View of Scripture
Before I criticize the position of Dr. Kuitert with respect to Scripture, I wish to make some introductory remarks.
The first is that Dr. Kuitert did not really present in any orderly fashion a view of Scripture, not even in brief. It is rather difficult, therefore, to criticize in detail and concretely. Any critic of the remarks Dr. Kuitert made in this part of his lecture is compelled to draw conclusions and inferences from the few remarks which Kuitert made. At the same time, I think Dr. Kuitert made his fundamental position rather clear, especially to anyone who is acquainted with the current discussion and debate about Scripture which is taking place in the Netherlands. Besides, one is quite able to draw conclusions about Kuitert’s view of Scripture not only from the second section of his lecture but also from the manner in which he allegedly interpreted Genesis and described its origin in the first part of his lecture.
My second remark is that this second part of Kuitert’s lecture is by far the most important part. The reader should readily grasp the fact that it is this view of Scripture which is the fundamental question here. Actually Kuitert should have lectured on this subject and then talked about the implications of his view of Scripture for the interpretation of Genesis. For I assure you that it is his view of Scripture which underlies and makes possible his errant views of Genesis. Perhaps historically Kuitert abandoned the proper view of Scripture because he did not want the proper view of Genesis; I know not. But this I know: if Dr. Kuitert held to a proper view of the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, he could not possibly give utterance to his wildly anti-Scriptural and anti-Reformed views concerning creation and the fall, and he could not possibly maintain his evolutionistic position. The deepest issue is that of Scripture.
This has serious implications for the whole structure of the truth, we must remember. It concerns not merely the doctrine of creation; it concerns any and every other doctrine set forth in the Scriptures. This has been denied. It has been claimed that one could hold, for example, to a theistic evolution (contrary to Genesis) and yet not deny other doctrines, such as the incarnation, the virgin birth, the real resurrection of Jesus Christ, the miracles, etc. Now it may be true historically that the individual may be able to occupy a certain stance with respect to the creation-evolution issue and a certain position with respect to Scripture’s inspiration and authority without immediately and in his individual doctrinal beliefs coming to the denial of other teachings of Scripture which would be the logical consequences of his position. I say: that may be possible. But, in the first place, even this is highly unlikely. A case in point is the views of Dr. Kuitert himself. Let no one deceive himself that what Dr. Kuitert teaches concerns only Genesis and creation. He made it very plain in the third part of his lecture that it concerns the whole structure of dogmatics, the entire structure of the Reformed truth. He stated plainly that the historical order of creation, the fall, and redemption must be abandoned. All of dogmatics must be reconstrued. In the second place, this is necessary exactly because the issue of Scripture is a principal one. One’s view of Scripture is fundamental to all his other views. If he errs on the former, he will necessarily err in the latter. Beginselen werken door. Principles work through. And remember: if they do not work through in the case of one individual and in the course of one generation, they will nevertheless work through. Besides, in our times they work through so rapidly that it is difficult to keep pace. It is well known, for example, that these same errant views of Scripture are affecting New Testament interpretation also. The teachings of Dr. Berkouwer are rapidly being carried to their logical consequences by his disciples, to the destruction of the Reformed faith in the Gereformeerde Kerken.
This brings me to my third remark, namely, that these matters may not be controversial in any Reformed church. I say this because both in the Netherlands and in the Christian Reformed Church in this country they are allowed to be controversial and admitted to be controversial within the church communion. I am not saying that the church must not have controversy; on the contrary, there should be such a controversy that heretics like Dr. Kuitert, together with their heretical views, are driven out of the church. This is quite different from allowing these matters to be controversial. In the former case, you have controversy, but it is controversy that is conducted at the institutional level of the church, at consistory and classis and synod. You have an ecclesiastical trial at which the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of certain views and certain teachers is determined, and discipline is exercised as a result. In the latter case, i.e., when matters are allowed to be controversial, discussion and debate rages in the ecclesiastical and theological journals; but everyone goes on holding his own views and making propaganda for those views within the churches. The result is that the church takes no stand; or really, by default it does take a stand. Heretics are tolerated, and they are allowed to propagandize the churches. And the end is that the entire church is corrupted, frequently from the seminary down, until finally liberalism has won the field.
What I have described above has only too often been realized in history, both here and in the Netherlands.
This, therefore, is the serious aspect of what we are now discussing.
What does Dr. Kuitert do with Scripture?
My answer is, in the first place, that he denies Scripture. He denies its inspiration. He denies its authority. Principally, Kuitert has no Bible left. Let us not be deceived on this score. In the first place, there is no such thing as a half-way station on these matters. Principally, the doctrine of Scripture is an either-or matter. You hold to Scripture, or you do not. You hold to Scripture in toto, or you hold to it not at all. You may speak of different theories of inspiration and different theories of the authority of Scripture. Kuitert does this too. Berkouwer does also. But when it comes down to the simple issue, the question is whether the Bible from beginning to end is the inspired Word of God or not, and whether the Bible from beginning to end is authoritative and trustworthy, dependable, able to be believed or not. And especially in the light of the fact that Scripture is an organism, it is of the utmost importance to see this. No amount of philosophy about associating the message and the authority, about distinguishing between the form and the material, or the kerugma and the manner in which that proclamation is conveyed, will ever change this. The matter is exactly as simple as that.
If you wish to have it put in the terminology so commonly used today, the kerugma (proclamation, message, gospel), the contents of the Bible fromGenesis 1 through Revelation 22, and the authority thereof,—these three are co-extensive.
You ask for my proof that Kuitert denies this?
Here it is.
1. He insists that what must be emphasized in Scripture is not its inspiredness apart from its content (as if anyone does this!), but its content. But then, mind you, he proceeds to distill that content out of the whole of Scriptures, let alone that it was a very vague and ill-defined content at that.
2. He plainly said that we must listen to the scientists in interpreting Genesis. This is a plain exaltation of the authority of the scientists above the authority of Scripture and a denial of the principle that Scripture is its own and solely authoritative interpreter.
3. He plainly taught that Genesis had its origin in the myths of Israel’s heathen neighbors. This is a simple denial of its inspiration. Kuitert may attempt to cover this up by devious means, and he may try to explain that Israel adapted these myths to their faith in Jehovah. The simple fact is that Genesis is then heathen-breathed, not God-breathed. It is a conglomeration of heathen lies, not the truth of God. It is heathen lies with the name of God substituted for the names of heathen idols. To me this is worse than a simple lie. This is a lie with a form of godliness. It is blasphemous.
4. He mocked and caricatured the orthodox view of inspiration, suggesting that it taught that inspiration means that something drops out of the blue. This no Reformed theologian should ever do.
5. He denied the entire faith of the church built upon the Scriptures when he stated openly that the creation-fall-redemption order must be abandoned. Let it be noted that Kuitert here parts company with the church of all ages; this he can only do because he does not stand with the church on the basis of an infallible, inspired, authoritative Scripture.
I have more points of criticism; but these must wait until the next issue.