This is a continuation of the editorial that was written by special request of the editor.
(Re: Reformed Guardian – Vol. 1, Nov. 27, 1953, No. 9)
Because of the lack of space this article, begun in the last issue of the Standard Bearer, must be completed in this issue. Hence, because of the lapse of time, too, it is suggested that our readers, once again, read the first installment that the picture presented therein may be clearly before them, as they continue this second installment.
In the fourth place, note Observation No. 4. (Ref. Guardian, Vol. 1, No. 9, Pg. 6) Rev. Petter draws the following rash conclusion: “those that have brought about the rupture now readily feel that these were no really valid grounds.” The grounds to which he refers, of course, are the heretical statements of Rev. H. De Wolf. I say this is a rash conclusion because it is founded on what he and those supporting him have simply heard are “other grounds and causes” responsible for the split. In plain words, his conclusion is founded on pure hearsay. Nowhere in the records of Classis East, or in the records of the consistory of First Church is there any indication that the grounds for the controversy has been, and is, and always will be, any other than a question of faithfulness to the Scripture; in other words, one of pure doctrine.
But this, of course, can never and will never be admitted by the Rev. Petter or his supporters. Hence, Rev. Petter proceeds to set the stage for the introduction of “other grounds and causes” responsible for the split and thus, divert the attention of the people from the true ground and issue, which is one of pure doctrine. Thus, it is from the opposition that we hear such questions as: “Is it anything more than a matter of personalities?”, etc. I shall not take the time and space to answer such questions for, I am sure, our people are thoroughly aware that it is anything but a matter of personalities. The question of personalities has been introduced as a “red herring” to simply confuse the true issue and, introduced, I say, by the opposition.
However, the Rev. Petter does set forth a reason, one which he considers to be “the deepest reason” for the
split in our churches. I am sure, though, he would never have set forth this reason had he been aware of, and understood its implications. “The deepest reason” according to the Rev. Petter, is the fact that those who sought the split were possessed with the idea of distinctiveness. Rev. Petter elaborates on this idea of distinctiveness and says: “To begin with, there is the well-known expression: “We must be distinct.” or “we have a distinctive calling.” With this expression we begin to assume an attitude that is not the mark of the true church, but it is in fact the mark of the sect, with its ugly distortion of the beautiful Church of Christ.”
Now, Rev. Petter may not be conscious of what he says in these words, but our readers must know that he speaks the language of pure modernism. In these words, Rev. Petter advocates the all-inclusive church of the modernist. I challenge anyone to take this statement of the Rev. Petter, and the exposition which accompanies it, set it before any thorough going modernist, and the latter will unequivocally admit agreement with the Rev. Petter. This is so obvious that, here too, I shall not take the time and space to elaborate further. However, I do want to call the attention of our readers to the fact that while the Rev. Petter speaks about what is not the mark of the true church, what he actually does, is distort and corrupt Articles XXVIII and XXIX of the Confession of Faith. The true Church, to which Articles XXVIII and XXIX refer, is nothing other than the distinctive church. Hence, in substance, Rev. Petter repudiates and casts aside as “ugly” the whole position of the Protestant Reformed” Churches since their inception in 1924. This is clearly seen in his remarks concerning the quotation from the Rev. H. Hoeksema’s Pre-Synodical sermon of 1950, preached in Hull, Iowa. Furthermore, it speaks anything but “truth and justice”, of which the Rev. Petter and his supporters claim to advocate. Notice, if you will, how the Rev. Petter interprets these remarks of the Rev. H. Hoeksema, as cited in his article (Ref. Guardian, Vol. 1, No. 9, Pg. 8). He (Rev. Petter) says, in commenting: “Those who are not 100% Protestant Reformed had better go away, had better ask for their papers. It was not said that one should repent (italics, the Rev. Petter’s) if he compromised the word of God; No, here the Protestant Reformed doctrine is the doctrine of the Scriptures, and if anyone still has any questions to ask, if anyone is still willing to listen to reasonable discussion of details, but is not 100% Protestant Reformed, he had better ask for his papers.” (italics the Rev. Petter’s). “And where he goes, while he still has these questions, what becomes of him, what becomes of his wife and children—that all makes no difference. In this distinctive church there is only room for those who are 100% in agreement with what is asserted to be Protestant Reformed doctrine.”
In these remarks, Rev. Petter distorts and corrupts the fundamental thought and idea of the distinctive—the true church which the Rev. H. Hoeksema was trying to con vey to his listeners. Furthermore, I say, this a deliberate attempt on the part of Rev. Petter. For, Rev. Petter knows only too well, that he does not speak the truth here. He knows that when he was pastor of the former Protestant Reformed Church in Chatham, there was not total agreement—100% agreement, if you please, to the Protestant Reformed position. Nevertheless, because, at first, there was a willingness, on the part of the people to submit to instruction, that group in Chatham was organized and a Pastor was called to lead them and instruct them in the way of truth. This truth was set forth by the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Rev. Petter makes mention of “speaking the truth in love.” However, he deliberately refuses to recognize the fact that Chatham, as well as Hamilton, was actually organized because of the fact that our people desired to speak the truth in love to these groups. We were concerned about their welfare hence, spiritual and material assistance and support were solicited to the end that these congregations might be one with us. All this, mind you, though these people in Chatham and Hamilton were not 100% in agreement with the Protestant Reformed position, because of the doctrinal problems which were still before them—having just left the Liberated Churches in the Netherlands. Rev. Petter totally disregards these facts when he criticizes the Rev. H. Hoeksema’s Pre-Synodical sermon and the idea of the distinctive church.
In light of Rev. Petter’s attitude toward the idea of the distinctive church, I sincerely wonder, as many of our people do, whether Rev. Petter really knows what it is to be Protestant Reformed. To be truly and consistently Protestant Reformed is to be truly distinctive. In other words, truly Protestant Reformed and distinctive are synonymous terms. However, I doubt whether Rev. Petter will ever understand this as long as he continues on the road he now travels.
On Page 10 of his article (Ref. Guardian, Vol. 1, No. 9), Rev. Petter, in connection, with a reference to the Declaration of Principles, and a clarification of its purpose regarding those who believed in the concept of conditions, cites the response to a proposal for such clarification. In this response he writes: “Already then there was a craving for a certain pattern of distinctiveness, so that the Declaration was simply negated and answered with the threat, “that means a split.” However, what the Rev. Petter fails to see and hence, set before his readers is the fact—the historically attested fact that there was always a pattern for distinctiveness. This isn’t something strange and new. The very purpose for existing as Protestant Reformed Churches, from the time of their birth as a denomination of churches, to the present, is that these churches should be distinctive, because of their peculiar calling. The Standard Bearer for instance, clearly substantiates this fact. From the earliest volume to the most recent issue, the keynote—the ring that is heard throughout its pages is that ring of distinctiveness. Rev. Petter is thoroughly aware of this, but, of course, these things cannot be set forth to support the error and hence, he conveniently overlooks them. In all seriousness, we ask: Is this your kind of “truth and justice” Rev. Petter?
If Rev. Petter does not conveniently overlook these things, then we must ask the question: Where has he been all these years? Was he never aware of the distinctive calling of the Protestant Reformed Churches? Or, did he at one time sincerely feel he was part of this distinctive movement, but now feels he must have none of it? For, in substance, he does the latter when he repudiates the idea of distinctiveness, because it is this same idea of distinctiveness we desire today, as was set forth in 1924. It would be interesting to know how the Rev. Petter felt about this question of distinctiveness when he was ordained to the ministry, and during the time when he was ministering the Word of God and labouring in his former charges in behalf of and representing the Protestant Reformed cause.
In the light of Rev. Petter’s position, then, one can easily see how that he would misinterpret the remarks of Rev. H. Hoeksema, which he cites on Pages 11 and 12 (Ref. Guardian, Vol. 1, No. 9). It is plain to see, too, that he sets these remarks forth to illustrate “the utter disregard for the life and welfare of the Church of Christ.” This is understandable because he fails to see that it is distinctiveness and distinctiveness alone which really and truly does regard the life of the Church of Christ. It is because a church is truly distinctive that it is concerned with its purity in doctrine and in life. How clearly this is illustrated in the Church of the Old Dispensation. Israel was called upon to be truly distinctive hence, she was commanded to remain separate, to avoid union, and intermarriage with the heathen and ungodly nations ‘round about.’ God always calls His church (His people) to be distinctive—to be peculiar—to be holy as He is holy. We fight the good fight of faith in the way of maintaining our distinctiveness, and not by compromising the truth,
The desire to be distinctive is not, as Rev. Petter would have us believe a “craving” which brings forth evil results. On the contrary, it is a sincere desire to do the good pleasure of our God, and thus fulfill our calling before all the world. And it is the calling of the distinctive church to labour and instruct all those in her midst who submit to such instruction. And, the true church will do this—until such time as those in her midst reveal themselves as other than “worthy members of the flock.”
The split was there—the result of questions involving pure doctrine. These “other grounds and causes” which the Rev. Petter and his supporters “are given to hear” are not the grounds and causes at all. They are merely the inevitable results which must follow because of the split. No, the split was there already; it was merely a question of formally declaring it.
If the facts were faithfully set forth by the Rev. Petter, he would, of necessity, be compelled to admit this. Nevertheless, I for one, would be the first to say, Let the Rev. Petter have all the ink he needs for, in writing this issue of the Reformed Guardian, he has certainly lifted the lid and revealed himself, and the position of his supporters. In this issue entitled: “Was the Split Necessary?” Rev. Petter stands representative of all those who support the Reformed Guardian. He speaks for each individual and repudiates the idea of a distinctive church. In other words, he repudiates the whole Protestant Reformed movement.
As long as there is no opposing response to what Rev. Petter has written in Vol. 1, No. 9 of the Reformed Guardian, we must conclude his supporters are in total agreement, hereby revealing themselves just as the Rev. Petter.