That “Final Letter”

There is a little periodical published by the schismatics (I care not to mention its name) which made its appearance a few years ago with the bold, but patently false, claim of guarding truth and justice. When I think of that paper in connection with that claim I am invariably reminded of the words of Isaiah 59:14: “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”

This is emphatically true of an editorial in the issue of that periodical of July 25, 1961, entitled “A First and Final Letter.” This article refers to a letter sent by our Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches of 1961 to the synod of the schismatics, and in the course of the article the letter is quoted in full. The sole reason why this letter was not published in our Acts of Synod or in The Standard Bearer previously is that said letter was treated and adopted by our Synod in executive session in connection with other legal matters. Since, however, there is nothing secretive about that letter, and since it has already been published by those who received it, we reproduce it below for the perusal of our people. It speaks for itself. And indeed it bespeaks “truth and justice.”

Here follows the letter.

“Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches,”

To convene July 12, 1961,

c/o Rev. J. Howerzyl, Stated Clerk,

Redlands, California

Dear Erring Brethren:

The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches, in session June 7 to June 13, 1961, at the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has decided to address to you and your membership this last admonition and warning to desist from the evil path you have chosen and have continued to follow ever since your acts of schism in 1953. Herewith we also reply to and reject the demand made in the letter of your synod dated January, 1961.

First of all, however, before admonishing you, we want to make two things abundantly clear:

1) You must not consider this letter of admonition in any wise as anything else than a solemn warning in the name of the King of His church against the evils which you have perpetrated in the past several years, and that too, in the name of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We are not interested in any legalistic jockeying for position; nor are we motivated by any materialistic desire of gain. With us it is a matter of our sacred obligation before God to maintain before God and men our God-given name as Protestant Reformed Churches, together with all that this name has meant in the past, and of which you have attempted to rob it.

2) Secondly, we want to assure you that we do not admonish you in a spirit of pride and superiority, but in all humility. That we have been able to continue as Protestant Reformed Churches, and to grow and flourish; that we have remained faithful to the truth as we always held and confessed it as Protestant Reformed Churches, even while many departed and followed after heresy: that we might continue to give forth a clear testimony to the truth among others and even organize new congregations;—in regard to all these and in accord with the truth of God’s sovereign grace and covenant faithfulness, we confess that all that we are and all that we have is of grace only, and that we have absolutely nothing of which to boast in ourselves and over against you.

In admonishing you we shall not rehearse in detail all the history of the past eight years. As far as details are concerned, we refer you to our synodical letters of 1954 and 1959. Suffice it now to mention the following:

1) The schism had its beginning—and this still remains the fundamental nature and root of your entire sinful course—in your departure from the truth which we as Protestant Reformed Churches have always professed and maintained. This departure was concretely embodied in the two heretical statements of the Rev. H. De Wolf, known to and embraced by you all, namely: “God promises everyone of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved,” and, “Our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God.”

2) From a church political point of view, your evil way was begun when the Rev. De Wolf and his supporting elders refused to submit to the discipline of the Consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church, as advised by Classis East, but instead rebelliously organized a new congregation. It was continued when the churches were propagandized by this schismatic group, when their sympathizers in Classis West joined them and set their official stamp of approval on this ecclesiastical rebellion, when dissident elements of Classis East did the same, and when you organized a new synod.

Secondly, permit us to point out with fear and trembling that God has been your Judge in the subsequent history. Frequently it was pointed out in the period of struggle prior to the schism that you were abandoning the historic position of the Protestant Reformed Churches and moving in the direction of the Christian Reformed Churches, which cast us out in 1924. History has borne this out. Let us remind you of the following facts:

1) Shortly after you fomented schism in our churches, you officially rejected that thoroughly Protestant Reformed document, the Declaration of Principles.

2) Since 1953 many of your number, among them sever11 of your ministers also, have defected, either individually or as groups, to the Christian Reformed Churches, and that too, without your dissent.

3) Worst of all, while you have not ye! accomplished organic union with the Christian Reformed Churches, yon have forsaken the “Act of Agreement” of our Protestant Reformed Churches when you officially decided and publicly stated that the Three Points of 1924 were not Arminian and Pelagian, as well as when you conveniently side-stepped the fact that the Christian Reformed Church was guilty of heresy and ignored the sin of hierarchical imposition of discipline on the part of the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924. All this was plainly in conflict with the historic position of our Protestant Reformed Churches as expressed in the “Act of Agreement” and also in our synodical letters of testimony to the Christian Reformed Synod in the past.

Permit us to quote but the opening expression of that “Act of Agreement”: “Whereas the Synod of 1924, assembled in Kalamazoo, Michigan, adopted three points of doctrine which, according to our most sacred conviction, are in direct conflict with our Reformed Confessions and principles . . .” (italics ours). Cf. “The Protestant Reformed Churches in. America,” pp. 250, 251.

All this has taken place in the span of a few brief years? and is the fruit of the seeds of heresy and rebellion sown in 1953.

And from all this it is evident to anyone, and must be evident to you, that your claim to being Protestant Reformed is false on the very surface of it. Now if in all good conscience before God and men you could no longer agree with the Protestant Reformed Churches and remain affiliated with us, we would have no objection. That would be a matter between you and your God. But then your course of action would have been honest and upright. You would have left us openly and honestly and peaceably. Instead, you have committed schism and rebellion; you have sought to deprive us—and in some cases succeeded—of name and possessions. And also synodically you have perpetrated all these evils allegedly in the name of the Protestant Reformed Churches, in the meantime seeking to deprive us of the denominational name and the possessions which belong with it.

We earnestly call upon you to repent of all these evils, to desist from them, and, by the grace of God, to return to the way of the truth in the only possible way, that of upright and open-hearted confession before God and His church.

In the meantime, we want to impress upon you that by the grace of God we are resolved to maintain our rights as Protestant Reformed Churches, both with respect to the name and all synodical possessions. We do not relish further costly and wearisome litigation, but would much rather see these matters finished outside the civil courts. Nevertheless, we are compelled before God to maintain our rightful position as the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. And, if you insist on depriving us of that which is rightfully ours, we will be compelled, even in legal channels, if necessary, to claim as Synod the Protestant Reformed name, archives, and the real and personal properties of the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. We have warned you of this intent in the past; we now reaffirm it, so that there may be no miscalculation on your part.

Above all, it is still our prayer that the Lord may so impress this word of admonition upon your hearts that you give heed, repent, confess, and return to the way of the truth. Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches,

REV. G. VANDEN BERG, Stated Clerk

Copies to: Delegates and alternates to said synod.

In regard to this letter, the article mentioned above makes the following claims, all of which are either false, half false, or beside the point entirely. In the first place, it designates this letter as received from “the churches with the Rev. H. Hoeksema.” This is a lie. For: 1) There are no churches with the Rev. H. Hoeksema. This is the language formerly used by our opponents in Reformed circles. And it simply evinces how thoroughly the schismatics have imbibed the Christian Reformed approach. There was indeed a time when all the schismatic leaders stood with us and denied that our Protestant Reformed Churches were the “Hoeksema group” or the “Hoeksema churches.” The Rev. H. Hoeksema is with the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, but there are no churches “with” him. 2) The letter was received from the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches; and sent by the Stated Clerk, the Rev. G. VandenBerg.

In the second place, the article claims: “the letter published below is the first official correspondence which our Synod has received from said churches since our separation in 1953.” This is but a half truth, and therefore a lie. True enough, our Synod has heretofore not addressed the schismatic synod as a group. And let me point out that even now we do not address them as the Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches, but as the “Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches,” that is, as the claimed, self-proclaimed synod. But what the article ignores is the fact that twice before, even as early as 1954, our Synod prepared and sent letters of admonition, similar in content to this one, to the schismatic membership individually.

In the third place, the article claims that the schismatic synod has sent letters to our churches requesting discussion of doctrinal differences and amicable settlement of property disputes already as “early as 1953.” This is a downright lie. “As early as 1953” there was no split at the synodical level, first of all, and therefore there could have been no letters. But above all, the schismatics never addressed any letters to our Synod. Mind you, not a single one! They insultingly attempted to address us as “the synod gathered in Hudsonville” or “the churches with the Rev. H. Hoeksema” or “the eight original delegates of Classis East.” But by the same token our Synod never officially received letters from them, and did not recognize the letters sent by the schismatics. And amicably settle property disputes? Nothing could 6e farther from the truth! They have done nothing else than blatantly expropriate property that was not theirs but which happened to be in their physical possession. And properties which were not in their physical possession they have by all manner of false claims and wicked oaths attempted to take from us by legal processes. And discuss doctrinal differences? As is now evident, they never wanted doctrinal discussion. They merely wanted to convert all to Christian Reformed doctrine. And even while we were still together in one ecclesiastical fellowship, they would never discuss; they were always ready to vote as a bloc.

The only element of truth in the entire article is that this is a “final” letter. Final it is indeed, because the schismatic group has now gone out of existence. But their last Synod does not mark the close of the Protestant Reformed denomination, as the article claims. Indeed not! They never were the Protestant Reformed denomination. But the Protestant Reformed Churches continue! And, by God’s grace, they flourish! Finally, let it be noted that with all its false camouflage the article ignores the main thing, namely, the contents of the letter itself. Not a word is said about that letter as such; nor is an answer attempted. Nor, although their “administrative committee” has received directives for a reply, has our Stated Clerk received a reply to date.

Truth and justice?

“And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”