The GKN and the Wiersinga Case

From time to time we have commented on this case, which involves a denial of the truth of vicarious atonement and of reconciliation through Christ’s bearing of the wrath of God in the place of His people.

We last reported that the Dutch synod had revised its original decision—according to some, sharpened it—and had declared that Dr. Wiersinga attacked an essential element of the confessional doctrine of atonement and did not do justice to the proper preaching of the gospel. Further, the synod in November of 1974 had appealed to Dr. Wiersinga to adhere to the confessional doctrine of atonement in his official labor. And, finally, the synod had expressed the hope of receiving a satisfactory answer to that appeal by the time of its last session, in March, 1975. A letter to this effect was addressed to Dr. Wiersinga, and a committee of three (H.N. Ridderbos, J. Verkuyl, and A. Kruiswijk) was appointed to discuss the contents of this letter with Dr. Wiersinga.

This effort failed. The committee mentioned above even prepared a mildly worded statement for Wiersinga to sign, but he refused. Dr. Wiersinga did, however, send his own letter to the synod. In this letter he agreed to say almost everything except that he is wrong and the synod right. He even insists that the difference between the synod and himself concerns the manner in which they present the atonement. But he does not give up his stand.

Meanwhile, it must be remembered that Wiersinga has considerable support in the churches. Those who support his right to express his ideas in the churches are also very vocal. After the last decision of synod they expressed their displeasure at synod’s decision in an open letter; and they pleaded, in effect, for room in the Gereformeerde Kerken for men to express such deviating views.

And what did synod do at its March session?

To put it bluntly, they passed the buck to the next synod.

What considerations moved the synod to do this? Well, officially the following: 1) There are various passages in the letter of Dr. Wiersinga which are disappointing, and others which are hopeful; and the letter as a whole puts synod before questions which require clarification. 2) There is insufficient time for a careful judgment of Wiersinga’s letter and for a definitive decision. 3) A more careful consideration of the committee’s report is also necessary. 4) Unnecessary delay can be avoided by appointing a committee to advise the next synod concerning the treatment of Wiersinga’s letter.

Those are the official considerations.

They can hardly be the actual considerations, however. If the synod were serious about its calling and serious about the crucial nature of this case, it would never have come to the above conclusions. On the contrary, the synod would have sought the necessary clarification, would have taken the time for careful judgment and a definitive decision, would have considered carefully the committee’s report, and would have avoided unnecessary delay by immediately appointing an advisory committee to serve it with advice at its March session. No one can ever convince me that this could not be done. The Dutch synods can do almost anything nowadays—even have sessions all year, long. Why, when it concerns such a life-and-death matter of the Reformed faith, could the synod not even put other work aside, and, if necessary, extend its session in order to finish the Wiersinga case.

The synod evidently did not have the will and the courage to do this.

Underlying this is the lack of will and courage to exercise any kind of doctrinal discipline in the GKN.

I do not know what the Dutch churches will ultimately do with Wiersinga. I cannot imagine, in the light of past actions, that they will ever have the courage to discipline him. And why should they? They have not disciplined others who were guilty of contradicting the confessions. The only factor which might possibly make it hard for a synod not to advise discipline of Wiersinga is the fact that Wiersinga’s heresy is so extreme and so obvious as to make it rather embarrassing not to discipline him, especially in the light of synod’s own strong avowals of allegiance to the doctrine of atonement through satisfaction and in the light of the rather vocal opposition to Wiersinga’s views.

Personally, however, I have no expectation of a sound decision from any synod of the GKN. And one can already find elements in the current decision of synod which might serve as eventual grounds for trying to have further discussions with Wiersinga. After all, there were hopeful elements as well as disappointing elements in his letter!

Meanwhile, Wiersinga continues to propagate his views. For according to the Dutch papers, Wiersinga has more deviating views to which he has been giving expression. And if the reports are correct, none of what Wiersinga is writing has a Reformed sound.

Let any “daughter churches” or “sister churches” of the GKN beware. To lean on the GKN is to lean on a broken reed!