In the September 1 issue of the Christian ReformedBanner, Editor Vander Ploeg makes bold to apply the beautiful words of Psalm 133 to the union between the schismatic De Wolf group and the Christian Reformed Church. He states concerning it: “. . . and, we do not doubt, it is pleasing also to our Lord in heaven.” And then he goes on to tell his readers that in this connection there come to mind the familiar words ofPsalm 133:
“How good and pleasant is the sight
When brethren make it their delight
To dwell in blest accord.”
He then adduces some supposed reasons why this is a good and pleasant sight. They are, briefly, as follows:
1. “This reunion of brethren who have so much in common is a good and pleasant sight because of the wholesome effect it may be expected to have upon the children and young people of the church.”
2. It is “A good and pleasant sight . . . also because this reunion places us in a better position over against a Christless world to whom in the past we have unfortunately given cause to rejoice.”
3. “Yes, a good and pleasant sight . . . because we believe this to be a manifestation and exercise of true ecumenicity in keeping with the will of our Lord.” And in this connection the words of Christ’s sacerdotal prayer, from John 17, are quoted: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”
And Editor Vander Ploeg concludes by applying to this “good and pleasant sight” the concluding words of that same versification of Psalm 133:
“The Lord commands his blessing there,
And they that walk in love shall share
In life that never ends.”
In the meantime, almost it would seem with some pangs of conscience,—The Banner cannot forget that in this whole sham transaction the parties concerned are conveniently forgetting (or, willfully overlooking) a shameful chapter in Christian Reformed Church history which is certainly written too in God’s book of remembrance. For this same editorial states:
“The sharp rift that has divided us dates back to 1924; ever since, for 37 years, there has been a painful breach which God has now graciously healed, at least for ourselves and for many of those with whom we had a parting of the ways at that time.
“It is neither necessary nor wise at this time to review the so-called common grace controversy which has made very interesting and stimulating, but also very painful history. Woven into this history are unpleasant memories which ought not now be needlessly drawn out of oblivion. The efforts initiated by our Protestant Reformed brethren in 1957 toward reconciliation have been so blessed of the Lord that this has now been accomplished.”
Now there are many statements In this editorial which could well be the subject of comment and correction. But the most serious aspect of the entire article is that which led to the caption of this reply, “The Lord Does Not Command His Blessing There!” Indeed, if it can be said that this “reunion” is a good and pleasant sight,—good and pleasant in the sight of the Holy One, Who is too pure of eyes to behold iniquity; if it can be said that this “reunion” is an instance,—in the sight of our Lord in heaven,—of brethren who make it their delight to dwell in blest accord; if it can be said that God Himself has now graciously healed a breach of 37 years duration; if it can be said that reconciliation in the Scriptural sense of the word and upon the basis of Scripture and our Reformed confessions has been sought and has been accomplished; then it may also be added, “The Lord commands His blessing there.”
But what if all the above cannot be said?
Then it follows just as surely: “The Lord does notcommand His blessing there.”
And the premise expressed in Editor Vander Ploeg’s first quotation from Psalm 133 is not true. What has happened between the two synods,—the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church and the would-be synod of the schismatics,—is surely not a good and pleasant sight in the eyes of the Lord of heaven. It can never carry away the divine approval and benediction. For God is holy and just and true. He cannot be mocked!
Here are the reasons, and they cannot be gainsaid.
1. A triple breach in the fortress of the Reformed truth was struck by the Synod of the-Christian Reformed Church in 1924, not by a common grace controversy, but by the official adoption of the Three Points of Common Grace. These still stand in all their binding force. This the Banner will not deny, I am sure. For though the schismatics explicitly requested that the binding force of the Three Points be removed, the Christian Reformed Church rejected this request. These Three Points are false doctrine. Even our schismatic brethren formerly maintained this; and some of them continued even up to their last synod to attack the Three Points and to aver that they could never accept them. At any rate, the Three Points can never stand the light of Scripture and the confessions. And false doctrine is not good and pleasant in the sight of God. He is terribly displeased with it, and with any union on the basis of it.
2. The terrible injustices perpetrated by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924-’26 have not been rectified. That ministers of whom the Synod of Kalamazoo itself was impelled to testify that they were fundamentally Reformed were deposed and cast out (there was not merely a parting of the ways, as the Banner suggests), that consistories were deposed, that whole congregations were deprived of their place of worship because they maintained the truth,—and all this in a manner contrary to the spirit and the letter of Reformed church polity,—these all are injustices which cry still to Jehovah Sabaoth. They have not been rectified. There has been no reconciliation. But both parties to this sham healing of the rift have conveniently ignored the past. Our schismatic brethren have willfully made themselves co-responsible now for these iniquities. And the Christian Reformed brethren may speak of raking over a past they are eager to leave behind and may attempt to relegate that past to oblivion. But these matters are still “unpleasant memories” even to them. And the sight of them is not good and pleasant, but unpleasant in the eyes of the Holy One of Israel. He cannot, for His own name’s sake, ignore the crooked that has not been made straight. And He does not command His blessing there!
3. The union that has been effected is not a union of the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches. Our schismatic brethren know that they were not Protestant Reformed. For they forsook their own Act of Agreement, and with it what they once said were “their most sacred convictions,” when they embraced the Christian Reformed error of common grace. And Editor Vander Ploeg, I am sure, also knows that those who united with his denomination were no longer representative of the Protestant Reformed Churches. He knows very well that the De Wolf group capitulated doctrinally and embraced the Christian Reformed position not in 1961 but in 1953. And he knows very well that the Protestant Reformed Churches are continuing their same vigorously Reformed course, as represented in our churches. This whole transaction, if presented as a union involving the Protestant Reformed Churches, is pure sham. And the God Who demands truth in the inward parts is not pleased with sham. It is not good and pleasant in His sight. And He will not bless it.
4. Regardless of the respective doctrinal positions of the Christian Reformed Church and the Protestant Reformed Churches, and regardless of the peculiar views of Reformed church polity maintained respectively by each, the De Wall group was a schismatic group. In fact, by Christian Reformed standards of church government, this is, if anything, more emphatically true of the De Wolf group. They are ecclesiastical revolutionaries. They would not submit, even temporarily, to the discipline and government which they had solemnly vowed to honor. This too the Christian Reformed Church ignored,—something that should be below all proper ecclesiastical dignity. But according to our Reformed polity, schism is a censurable sin; and those who raise discord, sects, or mutiny in church or state are barred from the Lord’s table and excluded from the kingdom of heaven as long as they continue in such sin. Can all this, then, be characterized as good and pleasant in the sight of God? And can it carry away the divine blessing?
In the light of the above, it will be evident that the reasons suggested by the Banner do not bear the stamp of truth.
Perhaps it is too much to hope for. But we Protestant Reformed will continue to testify to the Christian Reformed Church nevertheless.
If the Christian Reformed Church will ever show a willingness to forsake the error of common grace; if the Christian Reformed Church will ever consent (not to rake over the past) to review its actions of 1924-1926 forthrightly and honestly, and will confess its wrongs and undo them in as far as that is possible; if the Christian Reformed Church will ever face up to the bitter fruits it has harvested and still is harvesting from its synthesizing common grace doctrine,—fruits which some of the very leaders who formulated the Three Points are now decrying; then there is hope for true reconciliation.
The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches has officially proposed this more than once, and even as recently as 1957, 1958, and 1959. But the Christian Reformed Church will not even discuss this. And as long as there is no discussion, there can be no reconciliation.
But surely, genuine reconciliation,—even though it involves a painful rehearsal of painful history,—is good and pleasant in the eyes of God.
And then only is it possible for brethren to dwell together in blest accord.
And . . . “The Lord commands His blessing there,” . . . not elsewhere.