Our readers are aware of the fact that the Rev. B. Kok, in the Reformed Guardian and again in recent numbers of Concordia, has made much of the fact that our leaders now endorse, church-politically, the stand of Prof. Ridderbos and the Synodical Churches in re Art. 31 of our Church Order whereas they, in former years, vehemently repudiated their views, And that which has particularly borne the brunt of Kok’s attack is a series of three articles written by the Rev. Ophoff in which the latter condemns Ridderbos’ interpretation of Art. 31. These articles appear in the Standard Bearer, Vol. 23, pages 394, 418, and 441.
The undersigned does not purpose in this article to rise to the defense of Rev. Ophoff. He is well able to take care of himself. My purpose in this article is to call the attention of our readers to a glaring example of the manner in which the Rev. Kok quotes.
In connection with the, dispute between Ridderbos end the Liberated in re the interpretation of Art. 31, as revolving about the expression: “unless it be proved to conflict with the word of God or with the articles of the Church Order,” the Rev. Ophoff writes as follows, page 395, second column: “Just what is the issue in the dispute? To be clear on the issue, we must know what is not the issue. The issue is not whether a classical or synodical decision may be rejected on the alleged ground of it being in conflict with the word of God without the aggrieved one being compelled to make an attempt to prove the decision unscriptural also to the satisfaction of the churches on their major assemblies. This is a solemn duty certainly. For refusing to be bound by g decision of a major, assembly is not a small matter, as it implies that the aggrieved is persuaded that the decision militates against the Scriptures: Hence, if the aggrieved one will take no action, if he does not protest and at the same time persists in refusing to be bound by the decision, his consistory, if he be a common member or officebearer, may have to take action against him. If a consistory should so behave, the classis might have to refuse for the time being to receive its delegates on the classical assembly. (Classis would have no right to depose that consistory). The issue, once more, is not whether the churches must allow, let us say, a consistory to persist indefinitely in pronouncing a classical or synodical decision unscriptural and on this ground to refuse to be bound by it, after they, the churches, even once and again have treated that consistory’s protest of the error of their decision. The churches may expect bf such a consistory that it now be still or comply, and they may expel it from their fellowship (but not depose it) if it refuse to comply.”—end of this quote.
This is surely an important quotation of Rev. Ophoff’s articles against Prof. Ridderbos. It appears at the very beginning of these three articles. In this quotation Rev. Ophoff clearly states what is not the issue in the controversy involving Art. 31.
Rev. Kok quotes also this part of Rev. Ophoff’s article as follows see Reformed Guardian, Vol. II, Number 1, page 10, as follows: “Just what is the issue in the dispute? To be clear on the issue, we must know what is not the issue. The issue is not whether a classical or synodical decision may be rejected on the alleged ground of its being in conflict with the word of God without the aggrieved one being compelled to make an attempt to prove the decision unscriptural also to the satisfaction of’ the churches on their major assemblies. This is solemn duty certainly . . . . The issue, once more, is not whether the churches must allow, let us say, a consistory to persist indefinitely in pronouncing a classical or synodical decision unscriptural and on this ground to refuse to be bound by it, after they, the churches, even once and again have treated that consistory’s protest on their major assemblies without being convinced of the error of their decision . . . .”—end of quote of this particular part of Rev. Ophoff’s article.
Do our readers see the difference between these two quotations? O, yes, the Rev. Kok did indicate in his article that he did not quote all of this part of Rev. Ophoff’s article. But, this does not excuse him in the least. Did he expect his readers to check up on him and look up Vol.23 of the Standard Bearer, if, indeed, they were able to do this? Besides, he quotes the rest of Rev. Ophoff in its entirety, with the exception of a few lines at the bottom of page 396 of the Standard Bearer, and a reading of this part of Rev. Ophoff’s article also leaves the impression that Rev. Kok has left this part out very deliberately. Why did Rev. Kok fail to quote the Rev. Ophoff in full? In this particular quotation, not quoted by the Rev. Kok, Rev. Ophoff declares that that a consistory must comply with the decision of a major assembly or be expelled from its fellowship. And the Rev. Ophoff also declares that if an aggrieved one refuses to be bound by the decision of a major assembly and also refuses to walk in the way of protest, the consistory will be compelled to take action against him. Is it clear why the Rev. Kok fails to call attention to this part of Rev. Ophoff’s quotation? He cannot use it because the Rev. De Wolf and his elders have committed the wicked and unbelieving folly of refusing to submit to their discipline, as advised by the classis and executed by their consistory, under protest.
I do not rise to the defense of Rev. Ophoff. But the following must surely be borne in mind. The point at issue in the controversial discussion of Art. 31 is simply this: what is the status (ecclesiastical) of one who regards a decision of an ecclesiastical assembly as contrary to the word while he is appealing his case and protesting to the following major assembly? Both, Rev. Ophoff and Prof. Ridderbos, declare that such an one must appeal to the following major assembly. The Rev. De Wolf and his elders, however, simply refused to walk in the way of protest at the classical meeting of Oct. 6, 1953. They ignored the disciplinary action of their consistory, continued to function as officebearers, and could therefore never be seated at the Oct. 6, 1953 classical meeting. The entire discussion, involving Rev. Ophoff’s articles against Prof. Ridderbos, have no bearing whatever on the case of the Rev. De Wolf who must shoulder before God and our churches the claim of having caused the split in our churches. And that the Rev. Kok has quoted the Rev. Ophoff as he did no longer surprise us. We have grown accustomed to the evil and slanderous way in which he quotes from the past.
Let us not confuse the matter or be confused. In his articles against Prof. Ridderbos, Rev. Ophoff defends the proposition that an appellant must be granted the full right of protest (this, by the way, we never denied anyone) and that no classis or synod has the right to depose him as long as his protest is pending or is being treated; (in fact, they may never depose him.) This is the heart of Ophoff’s dispute with Ridderbos. When did our leaders ever change their stand in re the hierarchical treatment of hundreds of “Liberated” officebearers by the Synodicals? When did they ever justify the Synodical treatment of the various points of dispute, the so-called doctrinal differences? And, whatever may be the correct interpretation of Art. 31, particularly as it concerns the question to whom the protestant must prove a decision to be in conflict with the word of God, to the ecclesiastical body or to himself? When was it ever reformed that anyone could ignore a classical or synodical decision, fail to protest against it, and continue as a member of those churches? It is a simple axiom in Reformed Church Polity that an aggrieved one must walk in the way of protest. This the Rev. De Wolf and his elders failed to do. This was not merely an act of wickedness but also of unbelievable folly. For it they stand condemned, also by any Reformed conception of Church Polity.