The following editorial was written by special request from the editor.
(Re: Reformed Guardian, Vol. 1, Nov. 27, 1953, No. 9)
In examining the latest issue of the Reformed Guardian, in which the Rev. Petter writes, I felt constrained to make a few observations. These were originally intended for my own use, and the remarks that follow are not to be understood as serving to expose the Rev. Petter and the position he embraces. For, the Rev. Petter, in simple and clear-cut language, exposes himself and reveals to all his readers what his position always was—is now and what it shall continue to be as long as he embraces his present position. Nevertheless, I feel these observations should be set forth simply because of the possibility that those of our own people who read the Reformed Guardian overlooked the tremendous significance and implications of the contents of this most recent issue (Vol. 1, Nov. 27, 1953, No. 9). For, in this issue, we clearly see the inevitable results of embracing wrong doctrine. We clearly see that once wrong doctrine is embraced and there is an attempt to defend it, the whole question resolves itself into one of ethics—of faithful and true representation of facts. Hence, that our people may become keenly aware of this, the following observations are set forth for their consideration.
In the first place, notice, if you will, the title of this issue: “Was the Split Necessary?” Observe, too, that the author readily admits there are many among those who have cast their lots with him who are confronted with this very question: “Was the Split Necessary?” But, what he fails to see is that to ask this question is to immediately imply there is still some doubt as to whether the right step was taken. The Rev. Petter continues and indicates this doubt has expressed itself in a number of ways, namely, under the query of: “Is there really any doctrinal difference?”—“Could these things not have been discussed in a brotherly way?”—“Is it anything more than a matter of personalities?”
Now, it is most significant to note that while this question: “Was the Split Necessary?” (in its various forms) has been, and is still being asked by the adherents of conditional theology, not once, has it been heard from those who have declared themselves. in opposition to this view, and who understand its implications. From these folks, never once, have we heard the above and related questions and remarks such as: “What is the difference?”—“We fail to see the difference?”—“What are we quarreling about?”—”We are all fundamentally agreed and this whole controversy is merely a question of personalities.”
It is true, as Rev. Petter has written; these questions are being asked by “a great portion of our people”; that is, the adherents of conditional theology. But, as was indicated, this is quite an admission. For, even at this late date, “our people” (as Rev. Petter denotes his followers) are still confronted with the question of whether or not they did the right thing in pledging their support (formally or otherwise) to the movement represented by the Rev. Petter. But, in addition, this also indicates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of the opposition, which will become all the more manifest in due time.
Now, I say, this is quite an admission on the part of the Rev. Petter—especially when we consider the fact that not once have such doubts been expressed among those who constitute the opponents for the Rev. Petter. For, though the congregations may be small, some without pastors, and worshipping in the best temporary quarters available, those who have been given grace to declare themselves for the historic Protestant Reformed representation of the Scriptures, have done so because they are thoroughly convinced in their hearts that this position most faithfully and consistently sets forth the Word of God. In contrast to the opposition (confronted with questionings and doubts), reflected in these congregations is delight in the administration of the Word of God, comfort, confidence, and a joy and peace that has long since been lacking in days past. There is a genuine peace that prevails in our midst. There is no crying of peace—peace when there is no peace. For, how can there be peace when the minds of the people are continually confronted with doubts and questionings as to whether they did the right thing, and whether the split was necessary? We say, the split was not only necessary, but inevitable. Necessary and inevitable because, although there was much time and opportunity given to the parties concerned for discussion with a view to reconciliation, it became quite apparent that reconciliation was virtually impossible. Necessary and inevitable because peace and harmony within the church must never be sought by way of compromise and hence, the sacrificing of the very basic and fundamental truths for which the Protestant Reformed Churches have been raised to preserve, propagate, and to which they must bear faithful and effective witness. We simply deceive ourselves if we say this division of our churches was not necessary.
In the second place, note Observation No. 2. Rev. Petter makes mention of an excerpt from “Sermon 1,” and of this, he writes: “—this scrap of sermon was before the Consistory for two years, went through the process of being considered, being dropped, being taken up again, and after being rescued from the archives of silence was finally forced to Classis East.”
Now, the fact that Rev. Petter is aware that the excerpt from “Sermon 1” was before the Consistory for two years clearly indicates that the Consistory was working with the problem. It clearly indicates there was nothing rash and hasty in the conduct of the Consistory, as is evident in Rev. Petter’s own remarks: “—this scrap of sermon was before the Consistory for two years.” ( Italics mine E.E.) Nevertheless, at the same time, Rev. Petter leaves his readers with the impression that “—this scrap of sermon” was treated lightly. He does this when he refers to it as “being considered”—“being dropped”—“being taken up again”—“being rescued from the archives of silence” and “finally forced to Classis East.” This is a deliberate and gross misrepresentation on the part of the Rev. Petter. For, Rev. Petter knows, just as we all know”—this scrap of sermon” was always being considered, it was never dropped, it was never silent as far as the Consistory was concerned, and as far as many in the congregation were concerned, and it was certainly never “forced to Classis East.” Hence, what Rev. Petter does, as revealed in these remarks, is a most shameful thing for, in substance, he pokes fun and mocks at all the labors and efforts exerted by the Consistory over this two year period to gain the erring brother and eliminate the problem. Is this an example of “truth and justice?” Shame on the Rev. Petter and the “truth and justice” he represents.
In the third place, note Observation No. 3. Rev. Petter is quick to cite the findings of the “pre-advisory study committee,” into whose hands protests were placed for consideration, by Classis East. Note, however, the manner in which he presents these findings and advice—as though they were readily acceptable and adopted by Classis. Here, too, we have another instance where the entire picture and story is not faithfully set forth. In other words, where is the other half of the account? Why doesn’t Rev. Petter say something regarding the retraction of Rev. Lubbers? Why doesn’t he make mention of the fact that the Report ceased to be a Majority Report? Why doesn’t he tell his readers, as Rev. Lubbers does in the Standard Bearer (Oct. 1, 1953), that Rev. Lubbers repudiated the Majority Report—that he is ashamed of that Report, and that, by his own admission, he believes “the majority report erred.” Furthermore, in all fairness, why doesn’t Rev. Petter tell us that it was not a question of the Committee needing more time, as he intimates on pg. 13 of his article (Vol. 1, No. 9). The brethren on that Committee had all the time they required; they never came to Classis requesting more time. This Committee simply brought to a head all the discussions of the past two years. Even after the Rev. Lubbers repudiated his former stand and there was no further attempt, on the part of any of the members of that Committee to defend the Majority Report, Rev. Petter would have liked further discussion. What he was really looking for, however, was more delays and finally compromise. This was impossible in light of the events that had taken place. The die was cast. There was nothing to do but separate. There was no agreement hence, we could not walk together. If some of these facts were seriously considered and mentioned, Rev. Petter would not have any difficulty in understanding why the apology of the Rev. De Wolf, which he considered to be “remarkably in accord with the findings of the majority report,” could not possibly be accepted. In addition, he would not leave his readers with the mistaken notion that the “Majority Report” speaks in any terms of finality and hence, misinformed. For, the fact of the matter is, the Majority Report just ceased to be when it was openly repudiated and retracted on the floor of Classis, and without anyone to speak in its defense. Hence, Rev. Petter should not continue to speak of the Majority Report in such a way as to leave the impression with people that it sustained the error embraced by the accused. Yet, this is not strange for, when one endeavors to defend the error, it is natural that only that which appears to be in his favor is emphasized—and emphasized at the expense and total disregard for all the true facts involved.
Again, we ask, Is this an example of “truth and justice?” Shame on the Rev. Petter.
(To be continued next time, D.V.)