“The Answer” (2)

This is the title of a little pamphlet concerning which I wrote in the last issue of The Standard Bearer, excerpts of which I compared with the latest stand taken on the matter of common grace by those who left us in 1953. This time I would like to quote as much of the pamphlet as our space will allow: Our purpose is three-fold. First, that those in the Christian Reformed Church responsible for seeking reunion with those who left us may know exactly what they believed and confessed when they were still with us. Second, that those who were carried along in the schism of 1953 may be reminded of what they believed and confessed when they were still with us, and urging them to return from the error their leaders would have them now embrace which clearly militates against their former confession. And third, that our own Protestant Reformed people may read once more what they have always subscribed to as it was expressed by those who now have forsaken the truth. The pamphlet, as we wrote last time, was written some years ago by the Revs. M. Gritters and A. Cammenga, who with others have been negotiating with a committee of the Christian Reformed Church for a return to that church. Without further comment we quote the pamphlet. 

“Undoubtedly at some time or other you have heard about the Protestant Reformed Churches. And there is no question in our minds but that you also have been informed through some source or other as to the history of these Protestant Reformed Churches, how they came into existence, what they teach, how they are actively engaged in the various fields belonging to church activity, etc. Possibly you have been honestly and well informed, but it is just as well possible that your source of information was unreliable and false. Possibly, too, there are still some questions left unanswered which you have asked or would like to ask about these Protestant Reformed Churches. Therefore for your personal information and benefit, as well as in justice to ourselves, we present in this little pamphlet the most common Questions asked over and over again about these churches and together with these questions we present you an honest answer, hoping and praying that in some little measure it may serve you that you, too, may help defend the glorious and precious heritage of our Reformed fathers for which the Protestant Reformed Churches stand. 

“Here, then follow the questions most generally asked about these churches, and with these questions we present the answers: 

“1. What is signified by the name PROTESTANT REFORMED? Does it differ from what is commonly known as Reformed or Christian Reformed? 

Answer: By the name PROTESTANT REFORMED we signify that we champion the truth which the fathers championed in the Reformation of the sixteenth century over against the doctrines of Pelagianism and Arminianism. In this they differ from the Reformed and Christian Reformed Churches of today in that this glorious and specific doctrine of the Reformation is revived, emphasized and strictly adhered to in the Protestant Reformed Churches rather than taking the middle-of-the-road position as is done in so many circles incorporating the name ‘Reformed.’ 

“2. What is the doctrine of the Arminians and Pelagians which is so vigorously opposed by any true Reformed church? Answer: Briefly stated their doctrine contains the following errors: (a) The saving grace of God is intended for all men individually, thus denying sovereign election. (b) Universal atonement, maintaining that Christ died for all men. (c) A denial of man’s total depravity. (d) That God’s saving grace can be resisted by man, making salvation dependent on man’s free will. (e) A denial of the perseverance of saints, that is, true faith and grace can ultimately be lost by those who once possessed it. 

“3. What is so objectionable to this doctrine? Answer: It is a denial of God’s sovereignty since it makes God dependent on the free will of man; and a denial of God’s sovereignty is a denial of God Himself. 

“4. Do the Protestant Reformed Churches teach something new? 

Answer: Indeed not! The Protestant Reformed Churches strictly adhere to Calvinism, emphasizing the following points: God’s sovereignty in His counsel of election and reprobation; particular atonement; the total depravity of man; perseverance of saints; irresistible grace. 

“5. Upon what Confessions or Creeds are the Protestant Reformed Churches based? 

Answer: Upon the Three Forms of Unity, which are the basis of all churches of Reformed persuasion, consisting of: The Heidelberg Catechism, The Netherlands or Belgic Confession, The Canons of Dordt. 

“6. But did not the Protestant Reformed Churches add the so-called ‘Three Points’ to their Confessions? 

Answer: Indeed not! The so-called ‘Three Points’ were composed and adopted by the CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCHES at their Synod of 1924. (See Acts of Chr. Ref. Synod, 1924, pgs. 145, 146.) 

“7. Why did the Christian Reformed Churches formulate these ‘Three Points’? 

Answer: They are supposedly an explanation of the Confession but were primarily intended to depose certain ministers of their group who did not agree with the doctrine of Common Grace which was becoming popular in the Christian Reformed Churches. 

“8. What is actually taught in the ‘Three Points’ of the Christian Reformed churches? 

Answer: In brief, the following: Point I teaches that besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect there is also a certain favor of God which He shows to His creatures in general, including the wicked reprobate. As proof for this contention Point I refers to the so-called general offer of the Gospel. Point II teaches that through the operation of the Holy Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, God protects the good that remains in man since the fall so that the progress of sin is checked and restrained, with the result that man did not become as corrupt as we might expect, and therefore did not fully die as God had said. Point III teaches that man would have been and would be totally depraved, that is, wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, if there were no general operation of God’s Spirit in the heart of unregenerated man; but now, through God’s common grace, man is not totally depraved which implies that man is able to do a measure of good in the sight of God.

“9. Why did the Protestant Reformed Churches so vehemently oppose these ‘Three Points’? 

Answer: Because the ‘Three Points’ imply all the fundamental errors of Arminianism and Pelagianism. The First Point is principally a denial that the grace of God is particular, since it teaches that the preaching of the Gospel is grace to all that hear the gospel, while Scripture itself teaches that for many it is a savor of death unto death’ (II Cor. 2:16). The Second and Third Points are fundamentally a denial of the. Scriptural doctrine of the total depravity of natural man (Rom. 3). And these errors are all the more dangerous because they pretend to be in conformity with the Reformed Confessions while in reality they are contrary to the Reformed truth and undermine the church of Christ. 

“10. What is the theory of Common Grace which is so often mentioned in connection with the controversy between the. Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches? 

Answer: Besides the saving grace of God there is another grace which God shows to the elect and reprobate alike, the godly and ungodly, alleged to be manifest in the things of this present time as they are common to all men. This latter grace is called ‘common grace.’ This theory was adopted by the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924 and it forms the heart and soul of the ‘Three Points.’ In fact, in Point I the Christian Reformed Churches teach that common grace is evidenced in the preaching of the gospel since by it God indicates that He is graciously inclined to and bestows grace upon all the hearers, and is therefore gracious to all. 

“11. Why do Protestant Reformed Churches object to the theory of Common grace? 

Answer: Common grace is a denial of sovereign election and reprobation and of particular atonement and naturally implies that Christ died for all and therefore salvation depends upon the choice and free will of the sinner. It is contrary to Scripture and the Reformed Confessions which teach that God is gracious only to His people and is a God of wrath to all those who choose to walk in sin: (Prov. 3:32-35Ps. 146:7-9Ps. 147:6Ps. 73:18-20.) 

“12. But would it not have been better if the Protestant Reformed people had remained in the Christian Reformed Churches and tried to improve conditions? 

Answer: The Protestant Reformed people had no choice in this matter, for it should be remembered that they did not leave the Christian Reformed Churches but that they were cast out

“13. But why were the Protestant Reformed people cast out of the Christian Reformed Churches? 

Answer: Because certain consistories together with their pastors refused to sign and agree to the ‘Three Points’ because they were convinced that the ‘Three Points’ were contrary to Scripture and the Confessions. 

“14. Is it not true that one of the Christian Reformed Synods had declared that the doctrine of these ministers, whom they deposed because of their refusal to sign the ‘Three Points,’ was REFORMED? How, then, could such ministers be deposed? 

Answer: Yes, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Churches of 1924 declared: ‘It cannot be denied that they (nl. these ministers) are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.’ (Acts of Christian Reformed Synod, 1924, pg. 147.) How these ministers with their consistories could still be deposed can only be explained by saying that such deposition was an act of greatest injustice caused by a sad dislike for the true Reformed doctrine.” So far the pamphlet. 

I see that I do not have room to quote the rest in this issue. So, the Lord willing, we will do this the next time. We also at the beginning of this article had not planned to make any further comment. But there are, however, two remarks we still wish to make. 

In the first place, if the reader will refer to question 14 once more he will notice that the Revs. M. Gritters and A. Cammenga had strong convictions as to the reasons why certain ministers and their consistories were deposed by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924. They conceive of these depositions as “an act of greatest injustice” and “caused by a sad dislike for the true Reformed doctrine.” Now it is quite apparent from the reports of the committees negotiating the return of the Revs. Gritters and Cammenga et al to the Christian Reformed Church that this matter is not up for discussion. Nowhere do you read that the sin of deposing men who were confessionally Reformed was even considered. In our judgment this is a plain case of dishonesty especially on the part of those who left us. 

But notice in the second place, the charges the Revs. Gritters and Cammenga laid at the feet of the Christian Reformed Church. How can the latter even talk about receiving those who left us back into their fold until these serious charges are properly disposed of? Or, is this another case of letting bygones be bygones with no concern about the sin that has been committed? To charge that the Christian Reformed Church is guilty of gross injustice and the cause of this guilt is a sad dislike for the true Reformed doctrine, it seems to me is worthy of the most sincere investigation before there can even be talk about any doctrinal differences. 

—M.S.