We stated repeatedly that we cannot agree with the covenant view generally advocated by the liberated churches, nor with the declarations on this matter by the Synod of Sneek-Utrecht; neither would we subscribe, however, to the Conclusions of Utrecht 1905.
That a compromise statement such as the latter would become the occasion of trouble, and might lead to a division in the churches, as soon as one element of the compromise statement was accentuated at the expense of the other, and the attempt was made to enforce the accentuated element and make it binding for the churches, might easily be surmised. That the Synod of Sneek-Utrecht did not foresee the inevitable consequences of their actions, but went right ahead, not only in making certain declarations on the matter of the covenant, but also in attempting rigidly to enforce them, and in deposing officebearers that refused to accept this yoke, is, in the light of the history of the Conclusions of Utrecht 1905, surprising indeed.
These Conclusions are little more than a conglomeration of statements from both sides, those that advocated presupposed regeneration, and those that opposed this view.
The result is that they are self-contradictory.
Let us examine them a little more in detail.
They begin with the statement “that in virtue of the promise of God the seed of the covenant must be considered as regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until, as they grow up, the opposite appears from their doctrine or walk.”
Now, even if this statement is considered by itself, it implies a contradiction. By “the seed of the covenant” is meant all the children of believers that are presented for baptism. Of these it is said that they “must be considered as regenerated and sanctified in Christ.” The basis for this statement is the promise of God. Now, if this promise of God can indeed serve as a basis for some statement concerning the regeneration of all the children of believers, it is evident: 1. That such a statement should not speak of considering them as regenerated, but should definitely declare that they are regenerated and sanctified in Christ. For the promise of God is sure, and what is based on the promise is equally certain. If God, therefore, promises us something, we have no right to say: “we will consider it as if it were true.” We simply have to accept God at His Word. 2. That, in that case, we have no right to add: “until the opposite appears.” If, on the basis of the promise we may declare of all the children of believing parents that they are regenerated, there is no room for the latter statement. There is no falling away of saints.
The trouble is, of course, that the statement is not true, and that those who adopted it in 1905 were very well aware of it that it is not true. “In virtue of the promise of God” we cannot say anything about, all the children of believers, nor is it possible to “consider” them as regenerated, for the simple reason that the Scriptures very emphatically teach us the opposite. Romans 9 is quite sufficient proof for this statement. All are not Israel that are of Israel. The children of the promise are counted for the seed. The authors of the “Conclusions” were so well aware of this that a little further they contradict their own statement by saying: “that further, the judgment of love, according to which the Church considers the seed of the covenant as regenerated, does not at all mean to say that each child is, on that account, truly regenerated, because the Word of God teaches us that not all are Israel that are of Israel, and of Isaac it is said that ‘in him shall thy seed be called.’”
If you combine the two statements in one brief sentence, you would put it this way: “We must consider all the children as regenerated, although we know that this is not true.”
This is a contradiction in terms.
And the presumption of which it speaks is impossible.
And the contradiction is accentuated if you combine the opening sentence of this declaration of Utrecht 1905 with the closing statement. For then the result is as follows: “In virtue of the promise of God the seed of the covenant must be considered as regenerated, but the proposition that each child is therefore regenerated before baptism cannot be proved either from Scripture or the Confession, while God fulfills His promise in His own sovereign time, before, during, or after baptism.”
It is evident, then, that, in regard to the question of the covenant, the Conclusions of Utrecht 1905 were so formulated that each of the contending parties could appeal to them in support of his own view. If, on the one hand, the supporters of the view of presumptive or presupposed regeneration claimed that their conception was the doctrine of the Church, they certainly could quote the first part of the Conclusions to substantiate their claim. If, on the other hand, the opponents of this view claimed that the Church had plainly repudiated the idea that all children of believers must be considered as regenerated from their birth, they could appeal to the last part of the same Conclusions in support of their contention.
In such a compromise there is dynamite.
And all that was necessary to set off the explosion was to accentuate one statement, attempt to enforce it, and eliminate the other.
This is exactly what the Synod of Sneek-Utrecht did.
The explosion followed.
And the result is that the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands were split in two, and that, too, almost entirely along the old well-known line of A and B.
From the above it will be evident at the same time that we cannot subscribe to the decisions of Sneek- Utrecht regarding this matter.
They accentuate the doctrine of presupposed or presumptive regeneration. It is true that they do not altogether remove the contradiction of the Conclusions of 1905. They, too, remind us that “they are not all Israel that are of Israel,” and that “this does not at all mean to say that, therefore, each child is truly regenerated.” But they forgot to mention that it is “less, correct” (minder juist) to say that baptism is administered to the children of believers on the ground of their ‘supposed regeneration’.” And they do not quote the last sentence of those Conclusions in regard to this matter that repudiates the entire idea of presumptive regeneration.
And against these decisions I have the following objections:
For all these reasons we cannot subscribe to the decisions of 1942.
But how about the view of the liberated churches? Our discussion of this must wait till next time, D. V.