After the overture of Pella was read, the discussion continued as follows:
The Rev. H.H.: Mr. Chairman, in the first place, I want to state that the suspicion that is cast by Pella and by the Rev. Gritters, as if the Declaration was directed against the Rev. Petter is certainly thoroughly false. I cannot help it that the Rev. Petter wrote as he did. But the Declaration of Principles is not motivated by anything which he wrote, but simply by the desire to maintain our Protestant Reformed truth and to give the Mission Committee that which they ask for, namely, a basis for the organization of prospective churches. There was nothing else, and there is not one item of proof to sustain the suspicion that the Declaration was written in order to oppose the Rev Petter. In the second place, Mr. Chairman, I want to remind the Synod again that the question is simply whether this Declaration is the expression of the truth as contained in our Confessions. The overture of Pella contains many quotations to prove that Reformed writers spoke of conditions in the past. To me that means nothing. I can readily grant that contention of Pella. And over against that I can quote other passages from equally Reformed writers which show the contrary. Dr. Bavinck writes that faith itself is not a condition for the other benefits of salvation, such as, justification and sanctification. Again he writes that the covenant relation, did not depend on the keeping of the law as a preceding condition. And again, that the covenant is not dependent on any condition of man. And once more: “Properly speaking there are no conditions in the covenant of grace.” And Dr. Kuyper, in his Dictaten Dogmatiek, writes: “Conditional is the covenant of grace never God gives everything, everything for nothing.” Or, to give you a very specific quotation from the dogmatics of Dr. Bavinck, he writes in Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, III, 241: “In the first period theologians spoke freely of conditions of the covenant, but when the nature of the covenant of grace was thought into more deeply and had to be defended over against the Romish, the Lutherans, and the Remonstrants, many had objections against this terminology and avoided it.” Once more I want to say that I do, not attach over much importance to quotations from Reformed theologians. But these quotations which I just referred to certainly neutralize all that Pella has to say on this score. Besides, I am ashamed that Pella quotes Prof. Berkhof, one of the chief fathers of the Three Points. The question is not either whether the Reformed theologians that were delegates or present at the Synod of Dordrecht spoke of conditions. Also that we can grant. But while the term was well-known by the Father of the Canons, and in the opinions of some, as, for instance, those of North Holland, the term was used, how do you explain that nevertheless we never find the term in the Confessions, except as put in the mouths of the Arminians. I could easily make a motion to express as a Synod that our Confessions never use the term conditions, except in the Arminian sense. And no one can possibly deny this. But this is not the question. The question certainly is not whether all the opinions, of Calvin and Berkhof and the delegates of the Synod of Dordrecht and others, Heyns included, are Reformed. We certainly must not take that position as Synod. That all such opinions were Reformed in a very general sense of the word was indeed our position before 1924. Then we were still in the Christian Reformed Churches. They had not cast us out, And then we were willing to admit that all such opinions could be tolerated in the Reformed churches. But shall we do the same thing today? Shall we go back of 1924, and take that same general Reformed position? I personally will never go along with a movement that includes all those opinions and positions, and accepts them as being Reformed, that is, I will never go with a movement that would make our churches officially to assume such a position. Then we can just as well subscribe to the Three Points, and admit that they too are Reformed. Then certainly we must admit that the First Point of 1924 was correct. The question, the very serious question, before us as Synod is whether we are willing to remain distinct. For that reason we base the Declaration of Principles four-squarely on the Confessions. Our official opinion here as Synod must not be based upon the opinions of men, not even on that of Calvin. We all know that it is very well possible for me to quote Calvin in order to prove that there is common grace. That does not mean that we as churches can officially hold such an opinion, We must not go back, but defend our beautiful and strong position at the head of all the Reformed churches. And therefore, we must stand on the basis of our Confessions. Let us continue to do this. 0, even after the Synod of Dordt, 1618-19, many theologians claimed that they based their views on the Confessions. But they had no right to that claim. The same is true today. Even the Chr. Reformed Churches claim that the Three Points of 1924 are based upon the Reformed Confessions. We know nevertheless that this is not true. And therefore, let us clearly state what our Confessions teach, and stand upon their basis, Let us declare here as Synod that the Declaration of Principles is in harmony with the Confessions. Then we will remain distinct. Let us go on, not retreat. Reject this Declaration, and we sink back to a general Reformed basis. That danger is indeed imminent. Already it is evident that we have been influenced by Liberated theology, influenced by the writings of Prof. Veenhof, Dr. Schilder, and Bremmer. Be we should not be. We should be strong enough to take oar own definitely Reformed stand. Mind you, do not misunderstand me. I do not take the position that these men are to be cast out. But I do take the position, that we as Prot. Ref. Churches do not support their position.
We often speak of conditions in the Reformed sense. I would like to have someone give us a clear-cut definition of such conditions. Let someone present such a definition, and then let us test it. No one has ever made an attempt at this, not even Dr. Schilder, whether in the conferences we had with him or in the Reformatie. To me, a condition is always a prerequisite which someone must fulfill in order to receive something from someone else. Apply that definition of conditions ti the work of salvation, and you have pure Arminianism. But, Mr. Chairman, we must not discuss here on the floor of Synod the abstract questions of conditions. That is not necessary here, for we stand before a very definite question. What point II of the Declaration of Principles teaches on the basis of the Confession is that the promise is unconditional. This we already accepted principally when we adopted point I of the Declaration. And, Mr. Chairman, I want to state that certainly it has always been our Prot. Ref. position that the promise is unconditional. That I personally always maintained that position may be well-known to all of us, even though some try to quote me erroneously in favor of the opposite position. I always denied that the promise is conditional and that faith is a condition. And this is the sole question before Synod at present. Are we going to deny that the promise is unconditional? Are we going to assume the position that faith is a condition? The question is: condition unto what? Is faith a condition unto the promise? The moment we accept that position, we certainly depart from all that is taught in the Confessions concerning the promise, as I have clearly shown. Faith is not a condition unto the promise. But faith is included in the promise itself. Faith is promised. A horse’s hoof is not a condition for a horse. A section of an orange is not a condition for the orange. My eye is not a condition for my body. No more is faith a condition of the promise. Faith is included in the promise Faith is promised. Faith in relation to the promise, therefore, can certainly not be called a condition. To claim that God promises faith on condition of faith is absurd and nonsense. In the Confessions faith never occurs as a condition unto the promise, but it is a God-given instrument whereby the promise is appropriated. As I have emphasized before, the Holy Spirit is also included in the promise, and the gift of the Holy Spirit certainly can never be conditional, When God promises the Holy Spirit, He promises the application of all the benefits of salvation,—regeneration, calling, faith, justification, sanctification, etc. And all this is not our part of God’s covenant, but God’s part. And therefore, faith is included in the promise, and can never be a condition unto the promise. I am afraid, as I have said before, that some of us have a very limited conception of the promise of God, so that it only included eternal life in the future. The promise of salvation, then, is the promise to go to heaven. And faith is presented as a condition to enter into heaven. I am afraid that there is disagreement on this score among us. We do not understand the all-comprehensive promise of God, as it is taught in our Reformed Confessions. I am afraid sometimes that the trouble is that we have been separated too long as churches. How otherwise can you explain the patent fact that at this Synod Classes East and West are divided exactly along this line We should have had conferences as ministers and elders. And we should still have conferences, preferably with as many of our people present as can attend such conferences. I said last week that a certain exclusive emphasis on the promise as it occurs in Canons II, 5 is evident on the floor of the Synod. This is evidently what the Rev. Gritters wants. This is not an insinuation. But nevertheless, this exclusive emphasis on Canons II, 5 as a definition of the promise is dangerous. It does not do justice to the concept promise as it is in our Confessions. If you do this, you probably get the notion that faith is a condition to enter into heaven. I do not mean to say that this is the teaching of Canons II, 5. Nevertheless, the danger is that when you place exclusive emphasis on the promise as it occurs there, you will teach and preach thus. And therefore, Mr. Chairman, I want to warn Synod that we do not go the way of a general Reformed tendency and position, but that we adhere to the Confessions, regardless of the opinions of Reformed writers; that we do not retreat, but go onward, and develop and strengthen the Reformed position.
Rev. Howerzyl: I agree with much that has been said by the Rev. Foeksema Nevertheless, I think that the Rev. Gritters is held up to ridicule. I would be suspicious too of men who would point only to Berkhof. But even the Standard Bearer put the stamp of approval on what Berkhof said. For this I refer you to the overture of Oskaloosa. The point which Pella wants to bring out is that the impression is left that all use of the word condition is condemned, when we adopt the Declaration of Principles. We must remember that basically we are not dealing with a Declaration for those that are outside of our churches. The Declaration concerns us too. I certainly am willing in a proper way to submit to an examination of my views, but not in this way. If this Declaration is meant to be only for those that are outside, let us make this very clear. Mention has been made of a generally Reformed stand. And it has been said that if we assume such a stand, we can just as well go back to the Christian Ref. Churches. I have been told before that I should go back to the Chr. Ref. Churches. My orthodoxy already has been judged and questioned. I am afraid that this Declaration is going to be used as a club over our head, and that by it we are becoming too limited in our opportunity to express our opinions.
The Rev. Ophoff: Our fathers had reasons for composing the Canons. And those reasons were the five points of the Arminians. At that time too many said, “We must not be bound” But if this Declaration of Principles is in agreement with the Confessions, how can it possibly bind us more than our Confessions bind us? And why are we afraid to adopt it? How could the Declaration ever be used as a club over our head, above the Confessions? Do we not agree with our Confessions? Do we not love the Confessions? If so, we also agree with the Declaration. If the law is in us, we are blessed. But if the law is only outside of us, we are cursed. The same is true with the Declaration of Principles. If we hate this truth, it curses us. But if it is in our hearts, how can it possibly be a club over our heads to kill us?
Rev. Veldman: How can a Declaration be a club over our head to kill us? I can conceive of the fact that Confessions can. But can a Declaration?
Rev. Vos: I want to remind Synod that we are debating the question whether we shall check point II with the Confessions, not whether someone’s private opinion will become a club. Let us be definite. Let us definitely refer to the Confessions. And tell us what is not in harmony with such and such an article in the Three Forms of Unity.
Rev. Gritters: Pella does not say that it wants conditions. We definitely said that we do not mean to usher in the term. But we are nevertheless afraid that those who do me it in our circles will be disciplined on the basis of the Declaration.
Rev. Veldman: I would like to know what is wrong with this point II confession ally, and what we as Protestant Reformed Churches never taught that is contained in the Declaration. What has to be added? Some seem to think that it does not say everything. And therefore I ask the question: what, according to them, should be added?
Rev. Ophoff: The Confessions state literally that faith is not a condition unto salvation, but a means or instrument. Now we are discussing the question whether the Declaration is the expression of the Confessions. If any do not agree with this statement, they are under the moral obligation to show that the Declaration is in contradiction to the Three Forms of Unity. If they cannot do this, they may never vote against this motion.
Rev. Doezema: I want to make an amendment to this motion, that we add the following: “There are conditions in God’s Word, the confrontation of God’s demand which God annexes to the promise, in order to bring out clearly His unconditional grace and mercy, as well as His just wrath and man’s inability to fulfill them.”
Rev. H.H.: We must not forget, Mr. Chairman, that this Declaration is based upon the Confessions. I therefore must ask the Rev. Doezema to base his amendment on the Confessions, and not to appeal directly to Scripture. We must have no additions to the Confessions, which the motion certainly is. The brethren have been maintaining right along that this Declaration of Principles is a fourth form. But this amendment would surely make it such. Let us give Rev. Doezema time, while we have recess, to find confessional proof for his amendment. The method to avoid the Confessions, and to get directly at Scripture over the Confessions was the method of the Arminians, and always is.
Mr. N. Yonker: With this suggestion, Mr. Chairman, I agree. Let us give the Rev. Doezema all the time he wants to Und confessional proof for his amendment.
Rev. H.H.: I move that we give the Rev. Doezema time till tomorrow morning to submit confessional grounds for the amendment he made.
Mr. J. Faber: I support this motion, Mr. Chairman.
The motion to give the Rev. Doezema time till 9 o’clock Tuesday morning carries. Tuesday morning, 9 o’clock.
After the proper devotional exercises have been conducted, the discussion continues as follows:
Rev. Doezema: To see this proposition of mine clearly, we must turn to several Scriptural passages, such as. . . .
Rev. Ophoff: This is out of order, Mr. Chairman. The
Rev. Doezema agreed to come with confessional proof, and not with the Scriptures.
Rev. Doezema: I always operate this way. I think we must always take the Scriptures and the Confessions together.
Rev. Vos: An interpretation of the Confessions requires grounds from the Confessions only. We need not go outside of those Confessions to search for grounds for an amendment.
Rev. Veldman: Let the Rev. Doezema speak. Can we not cull out the Scriptural passages pretty soon?
Rev. Doezema: When we treated the oath of the promise, appeal was also made immediately to the Scriptures.
Rev. Ophoff: Mr. Chairman, the Arminians always adopted that same method. They too would never appeal to the Confessions, and would not be bound by them, but would seek refuge in Scriptural passages.
Rev. Veldman: Those words of the Rev. Ophoff may be true. But to say that here to these brethren does not leave a good impression.
Rev. Vos: I rule this Scriptural reference out of order.
Rev. Doezema: I will limit myself, then, to our Confessions. Let us begin with the Heidelberg Catechism. In Qu, 2 we read: “How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this true comfort, mayest live and die happily?” And in the answer we read of the three requirements that are necessary to possess this only comfort in life and death. I want to call the attention of Synod that here you have requirements, things that, must be there before we have this comfort. In Question 3 mention is made of the law, which confronts us with its blessing and curse. Again in this question emphasis is laid on the requirement of man. Qu. 5 asks: “Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?” And the answer is: “In no wise; for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.” In this negative answer you have the confrontation of man with the law of God to bring out the misery of man and his incapability to fulfill the conditions. In Lord’s Day V, Qu 12, we read: “Since then, by the righteous judgment of God,, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, is there no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favor?” And the answer is: “God will have his justice satisfied: and therefore we must make this full satisfaction, either by ourselves or by another.” Here once more you have the confrontation of the demand.
Satisfaction must be made. That is the demand. And that satisfaction must be made by us or by another. In this way we are taught to see the necessity of the incarnation. Qu. 84 of the same Heidelberg Catechism contains a conditional temporal question: “How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?” And again you have the confrontation of the demand in the answer, when you read: “Thus: when according to the command of Christ, it is declared and publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ’s merits.” This plainly shows that we experience the forgiveness of sins only when we believe. The experience of forgiveness is only for the believing heart. Qu. 86 speaks of the “must” of good works: “Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?” This question and its answer again mentions the confrontation of the law of God. According to the answer we can have the assurance of faith only by its fruit. Good works are required of us. The fulfillment of them is the condition to the assurance of faith.
Now let us turn to the Belgic Confession. Art. 24 gives us the proper view of this assurance of faith. I will quote only part of this article, beginning near the end with the word “moreover”: “Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable; and although v/e could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus then we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences continually vexed, if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior.” In the matter of the assurance of faith God confronts us with the requirements of good works and of Christian living, not indeed as the ground of our assurance, for that assurance rests only on the merits of Christ. But nevertheless, good works must be performed to attain to the assurance of faith. I may refer once more to the Heidelberg Catechism. Question 116 asks: “Why is prayer necessary for Christians?” And the answer is: “Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them.” Here again we are confronted with the demand. Prayer is a condition for Christian living. Again, Art. 22 of the Belgic Confession speaks “of all things which are requisite for our salvation,” and says that they are all in Christ.
Now let us turn to the Canons. Canons I, 3 speaks of the calling of the preaching to repentance and faith. These therefore come in the form of a demand. And again, therefore, you have a requisite or condition to the enjoyment of salvation in this article of the Canons. In Canons II, 5 the promise is presented in a conditional form, and adds to that promise the command to repent and believe. Canons III, 5 says that the law “discovers the greatness of sin, and more and more convinces man thereof.” In other words, through the law God shows man how weak his flesh is, so that he cannot fulfill the demands of the law. This is the confrontation of the law. Canons III, IV, 17, the middle part, speaks of “the sacred precepts of the gospel.” And it warns us that we must not presume to tempt God by separating what He of His good pleasure hath most intimately joined together. And it tells us: “For grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced.” Canons V, 4 admonishes us that converts must “be constant in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation.” And further, it warns us that “when these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins, by Satan, the world and the flesh, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God actually fall into these evils.” And Canons V, 5 speaks of the interruption of “the exercise of faith.” And then they lose the sense of God’s favor for a time, “until on their returning into the right way of serious repentance, the light of God’s fatherly countenance again shines upon them.” Here too God shows to the Christians the unbreakable chain of repentance, conversion, and enjoyment of grace. And in Canons V, 14 we see that God begins the work of grace in us “by the preaching of the gospel,” and “so he preserves, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of his Word, by meditation thereon, and by the exhortations, threatenings, and promises thereof, as well as by the use of the sacraments.”
Now turn with me to the Baptism Form. The third part of the doctrinal section tells us that we are “obliged unto new obedience, namely, that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that we trust in him, and love him with ,all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our mind, and with -all our strength; that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a • new and holy life.” Here you have once more the confrontation of the law and the admonition and demands. This is all in a conditional form, so that unless we do this, there is no enjoyment of salvation. “And if we sometimes through weakness fall into sin, we must not therefore despair of God’s mercy, nor continue in sin, since baptism is a seal and undoubted testimony, that we have an eternal covenant of grace with God.” Again you see here the unbreakable chain according to which God gives His unconditional mercy on condition of our fulfilling the demands of His covenant.
Rev. Ophoff: I have one question. What point is the Rev. Doezema arguing in presenting these excerpts? Does he mean to argue that faith is a condition, a prerequisite unto salvation?
Rev. Doezema: I do not make that kind of distinction and definition of faith. I consider faith to be a spiritual bond with Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism gives its contents. But you also have to insist upon the demand of faith. Faith is a requirement, a thing that God demands of all men. God does not stipulate that He demands it only of those who are in Christ. But when we obey that demand, faith in Christ will be the means of the enjoyment of salvation.
Rev. Veldman: I would rather have this discussion under point III of the Declaration. All this belongs under the unconditionality of salvation.
Rev. Ophoff: The Rev. Doezema has evaded my question.
We must have an answer. The Declaration of Principles says that faith is not a condition or a prerequisite unto salvation. Now let the Rev. Doezema show us that this statement in the Declaration is not in harmony with the Confession. That is the question, and that question the Rev. Doezema has not answered.
Rev. H.H.: In the first place, Mr. Chairman, I want to state that principally we can agree with what the Rev. Doezema meant to say. I have tried very seriously to understand the Rev. Doezema in respect to what he meant to say. And, if rightly understood, I think I can say again that there is no principal objection. Only, he always seems to want to present faith as a condition to salvation. And that certainly is not correct. In the second place, I want to say that the remarks of the Rev. Ophoff fall away, because this is not a substitute motion, but an amendment to point II, which says plainly that , faith is not a condition. And therefore in the amendment to this point the Rev. Doezema cannot mean to say that faith is a condition, because then the amendment would destroy the original motion. I think, Mr. Chairman, that the Rev. Doezema will admit that his own motion was somewhat hastily composed and is not very correctly worded, in fact, in a way is somewhat clumsily expressed. Besides, I agree with what the Rev. Veldman said about this amendment belonging under point III. Yesterday I offered to serve on a committee to help the Rev, Doezema find confessional proof for his motion. I was very serious about this, although you rejected my offer. But I thought about the material of the Rev. Doezema’s amendment, attempted to put it in my own words, and find confessional proof for it. In this I acted all alone in my study last night. And this morning I am prepared to offer a suggestion which covers the same material as the amendment of the Rev. Doezema, though it is presented in a different form. I have almost the same references from the confessions which he has.
It may even look like plagiarism, but it is not. And therefore I suggest this amendment in the place of the Rev. Doezema’s: “The sure promise of God which He realizes in us as rational and moral creatures not only makes it impossible that we should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness, but also confronts us with the obligation of love: to walk in a new and holy life, and constantly to watch unto ^prayer. All those who are not thus disposed, who do not repent but walk in sin, are the objects of His just wrath and excluded from the kingdom of heaven.”
I offer the following confessional grounds for this amendment.
The Baptism Form, point 3 of the doctrinal section, which speaks of our part in the covenant of God.
The Form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, beginning with “all those then who are thus disposed,” etc., and up to and including the paragraph which starts “All these while they continue in such ;sins,” etc.
Heidelberg Catechism, Qu. 64, which speaks of the impossibility of carelessness and profanity in believers Qu. 84, which ;speaks of the preaching of the gospel as a key of the kingdom of heaven. And Qu. 116 which speaks of the necessity of prayer for Christians.
Canons III, IV, 12, 16, 17, and also B, 9; V, 14.
Belgic Confession, Art. 24.
You see, Mr. Chairman, I proceed from the assumption that the Rev. L. Doezema in his motion yesterday meant to make an amendment to II. He did not mean to destroy II as to its contents. Hence, point II still stands. That point says that faith is not a condition, but an instrument. The amendment certainly does not mean to contradict that proposition. If it does, it is no amendment. In the second place, Mr. Chairmen.
I want to point out that the Rev. Doezema in his argument from the Confession seems to forget that the promise of the covenant is not another law. It is not another covenant of works, but a covenant of grace. Grace dominates the whole covenant. The result is that we do not have to have another law confronting us, but that we have the law by grace written in our hearts. The obligation and the precept become one because both are rooted in love. There is not an obligation of another law, that stands without us. But there is an obligation of a law written in our hearts. It is not a law imposed upon us from without, but it is a law that is entirely in harmony with our inmost heart. For this you can see Heb. 8, which speaks of the new covenant through which the law is written in our hearts. Thirdly, as I said before, the Rev. Doezema’s
amendment is not correctly worded. In the first place, he speaks of “conditions in God’s Word”; but it is not the Word of God, but the Confessions that is in question here. Besides, the Rev. Doezema in his amendment states that these so-called conditions consist in “the confrontation of God’s demand, which God annexes to the promise.” Also this is not correct. God does not annex anything to the promise. That leaves the impression as if the promise after all were conditional, as if we must do something before we can receive the promise. And that is not correct. God does not annex the command to the promise. By the promise, that is, when God fulfills the promise, the demand is written in our hearts. And the last part of the amendment I suppose refers to the very first part. The pronoun “them” must refer to “conditions in God’s Word.” But grammatically the same pronoun could refer to all that is between. And therefore the formulation is clumsy and ambiguous.
Rev. Veldman: I was troubled about this business early
this morning. More and more I feel that it is a pity that we never had conferences. We would have understood one another better. And we would have been closer to otne another.
Rev. Vos: I too consider it unfortunate that this amendment comes at this time. It really belongs under the third point of the Declaration.
Rev. H. H.: To make this plain, Mr. Chairman, cannot we read point ill with the amendment?
Rev. Veldman: Only the Rev. Doezema can withdraw his amendment at this time, so that we can take it up at point III. It was his amendment.
Rev. Doezema: Mr. Chairman, I want to maintain my own amendment. I still insist that there are conditions in the Word jf God. The Declaration states that little infants cannot fulfill conditions. /But that is not the question. This Declaration was tentively adopted by our Synod of 1950. And since we have made history with this document, I want my stand to be known in the minutes of Synod, so that all our churches may know where I stand. Our churches ask me to preach for them, or extend a call to me. I want them to know my stand. And, if necessary, I also want my stand to be condemned officially. And therefore, I want my amendment to stand, so that all may know my position.
Rev. Ophoff: I wish I knew what that stand of the Rev. L. Doezema is. His proposition is not clear to me. I interpret it as saying that the commands of God and the believers’ response to the command is a condition to salvation. If that is true, than the law, obedience, and faith are conditions to salvation. On the other hand, he speaks of God’s unconditional grace and mercy. There is ambiguity and dualism in his proposition. If God’s mercy is unconditional, how can obedience to the law be a condition to this unconditional mercy? This to me is nonsense. And therefore I ask him to clarify his stand.
The discussion continues as follows:
Rev. van Weeldem: Now we are getting at the heart of the matter. I am convinced that these statements concerning the unconditionality of salvation are certainly the truth. Yet I too feel that there are conditions iin Scripture in a certain sense.
I am not much in favor of the word condition, but there is an idea in the word that I like to keep. I feel like Bavinck, who said that in the covenant of grace there are no conditions or demands. But he speaks of a conditional form. Faith is no condition to the covenant, but a condition in the covenant. It is the way for the enjoyment of all the blessings of the covenant. The confrontation is very strong in Scripture. God confronts us, places before all who hear the demand to repent.
This element we must keep. I agree that .salvation is unconditional, and that faith is no condition unto salvation. But this idea in conditions we must retain. (In this connection the Rev. van Weelden quoted some passages from the dogmatics of Dr. Bavinck, which, however, the reporter did not quote.)
Rev. Veldman: I like to emphasize that we are in danger of denying or softening the truth of the unconditionality of the promise of God when we try to maintain the term condition nevertheless, Remember that in our Confessions the term is never used favorably.
Rev. Ophoff: You may ,say all you like that salvation is unconditional. But if at the same time you speak of conditions, you have ambiguity, and a duality. The Rev, Doezema says that God’s mercy is unconditional, and yet that there are conditions in the Word of God. The whole issue in this debate is this: is the law of God and the believer’s response to that law and to the demand a condition unto salvation? I like to have an answer to this question. We must know what the brethren mean.
Rev. H H.: After the last remark of the Rev. L Doezema, I have need of his answering another question. Did he mean this amendment to be an amendment, or did he mean by this so-called amendment to contradict point II ? I now get the impression that he does not agree with point II, and that he means to express this in his amendment. If so, then this is no amendment, but it destroys the original motion. And then it is out of order.
Rev. Doezema: That is the usual way to place the burden of proof upon me. If Synod thinks that my amendment contradicts the Confessions and the Declaration, let Synod say it, ard let Synod reject the amendment and reject me. That is what I want. It has been intimated that the only use of the word condition is Arminian. In my mind this is not true. We can use the word condition in such a way that the Confessions are not contradicted. And I do not think that my amendment contradicts the Confessions.
Rev. H. H.: I am not satisfied with that answer. I want a definite answer whether or not his amendment destroys the second point and the original motion. I say once more: in that case it is out of order. Will the Rev. Doezema vote yes on the motiorn as amended ? That is the test as to whether this amendment destroys the original motion, or not.
Rev. Doezema: I gave the amendment to test your reaction to it. I intended to give another amendment later. I will not vote for anything which says, “This is an expression of the Confessions,” till I can see the necessity of it.
Rev. Ophoff: I still like to know what the Rev. Doezema means. Does he mean that faith is a condition unto salvation ? Let him clarify his own proposition.
Rev. Doezema: God has placed that unbreakable relationship that there is no enjoyment of salvation until certain things take place and certain demands are fulfilled.
Rev. Ophoff: Again, Mr. Chairman, that is evading the question.
The amendment of the Rev. L. Doezema is now put to a vote, and fails to carry.
A substitute motion is made that Synod expresses that there is nothing essentially objectionable in Point II. That motion is supported. And immediately an amendment is made to add: “because it is the truth expressed in the Confessions.” The amendment carries by a vote of 9 to 7. Thereupon the motion as amended is put to a vote, and carries, again by a vote of 9 to 7.
Discussion is begun on point III of the Declaration.
A motion is made to express that this part of the Declaration is the truth expressed in the Confessions as these were always interpreted and maintained in the Prot. Ref. Churches.
Rev. Veldman: I make an amendment that instead of III,
B, 2, we insert the statement which the Rev. H. H. made this morning, together with the grounds of the Confessions which he offered.
Rev. H. H.: I would like to know what this part of the Declaration is, that has to be replaced. The question is: are all the amendments covered by the statement I offered this morning ? If so, I think it is safe to do this.
Part III, B, 2 is now read.
Mr. John Faber: The Rey. J. van Weelden said something
was missing in the Declaration. I think he will find what is missing right in this amendment I think, therefore, Mr. Chairman,, we should • adopt this .amendment.
The amendment is now voted upon, and carries. No dissenting votes are voiced. Thereupon the motion with the amendment is put to a vote, and carries by a vote of 9 to 7.
Point IV of the Declaration is now read and discussed.
Rev, H. H.: I make a motion that we eliminate A under IV.
Rev. Vos: That is out of order. We first must have a motion to the effect that we adopt point IV.
Rev. Veldman: I so move.
Rev. H. H.: I now make an amendment to eliminate point A, 1 and 2. My ground for this amendment is not that we do net express the truth here, but I am nevertheless impressed by the objections handed in that we cannot express judgment upon these churches.
The amendment is put to a vote and carries without a dissenting vote.
Another amendment is made to insert the amendments suggested by Classis East, which contain the grounds for the motion that is on the floor. This amendment too carries without a dissenting vote.
The motion with the amendments is now put to a vote. It carries without a dissenting vote being voiced.
The preamble is now treated, and a motion is made to adopt the preamble.’ A substitute motion is made to add this preamble to the Declaration. A motion is made to table the matter till we decide the main question as to whether we are going to adopt the Declaration for the use of the Mission Committee and the missionary as a basis for the organization of churches.
A motion is now made to adopt the Declaration, to be used by the Mission Committee and the missionary as a basis for the organization of churches.
An amendment is made to add the word “only,” so that it reads: “to be used only for the organization of churches.”
The amendment carries.
The Tuesday afternoon session is closed with prayer.
The Wednesday morning session is opened with the proper devotional exercises. Thereupon the Rev. A, Cammenga is given the floor to address Synod, a privilege to which he has the right according to Art. 8 of the Constitution of the Mission Commitee.
I am very sorry that the reporter did not transcribe that speech of the Rev. Cammenga in his report. But at the time I jotted down the main points of that speech. These are as follows: 1. In the first place, the Rev. Cammenga expressed that he was very much aggrieved by the atmosphere of suspicion in which he labored as missionary of our churches. He felt very strongly that he and his labors were put under a cloud of suspicion in the midst of our churches, as if he did not faithfully present the Prot. Ref. truth in his labors.
In the second place, the Rev. Cammenga strongly expressed that he had no objection to the contents of the Declaration. He feels that they are surely the expression of the Confessions, as we have always interpreted them. He is in full agreement with the truth of that Declaration, has always preached it, and will preach it in the future.
The Rev. Cammenga asks what must be done with the Declaration when he goes to the mission field. Must the Declaration be conceived as a signatory document, which all that express the desire to be organized as a Prot. Ref. Church must sign? And must the people thoroughly understand the contents of the Declaration and express whole-hearted agreement with its contents before they can even be organized into a Prot. Ref. Church? The speaker feels that this will take a long time. He suggests that a pamphlet be written, or even a series of pamphlets, to present this Declaration in printed form, together with the necessary elucidations and comments.
Rev. Hoeksema: In the first place, Mr. Chairman, I want to make a few remarks in, response to the speech of the Rev. Cammenga. As to his remark concerning the suspicion that is cast upon his labors, I want to emphasize that I personally am certainly not the author of those suspicions. I never gossip and cast suspicion. But what I ,say and write I express openly. Nor do I hear much about that suspicion. But, Mr. Chairman, it is not our churches that cast suspicion upon the labors of our missionaries, but those outside of our churches. I refer to writings such as those of Mr. van Dixhoorn in Chatham, who declared publicly that when Chatham was organized, they mever promised to abide by the doctrine of the Prot, Ref. Churches. For the rest, Mr. Chairman, I think I can assure the Rev. Cammenga that our churches do not put him under a cloud of suspicion.
I am very glad, Mr. Chairman, that the Rev. Cammenga expressed wholehearted agreement with the contents of the Declaration. And I will try to answer briefly his question as to what must be done with the Declaration of Principles in the mission field.
It is my conviction that it will not prove to be difficult for him to explain to Reformed people, that is, in the general sense Reformed, this document in such a way that they can understand the truth of it in distinction from whatever might be in conflict with it. In 1924 and after we had to explain the tricky Three Points, which was much more difficult than the explanation of this Declaration. We instructed the people publicly and privately. And when after being instructed they asked for organization, we granted their request. The fruit of our labors was usually small. The gatherings were always well attended, but only a few families usually organized. Oak Lawn, for instance, was organized with 6 families, South Holland with 7, Rock Valley with 9, etc. The only churches that organized in greater numbers were Hull, with approximately 40 families, and Redlands, with 33. That only few organized shows that the others understood rather definitely what we preached and taught. Also in Hamilton, I am convinced, the families that organized understood the difference very well. You can easily explain the difference between a promise for everybody, and a promise for the elect only. I think it is not necessary to have a series of pamphlets to do that. We trust our missionary to be able and willing to explain the Declaration.
Then there is the question whether there must be complete understanding and agreement, or a willingness to be instructed before they can be organized. Now, Mr. Chairman, although we like to organize churches, we certainly are not interested in the first place in establishing churches, but in proclaiming the Reformed truth. The Christian Reformed Churches are not interested in being very specific. And if we follow their example, it is not difficult for us to become big, especially in Canada. But we do not expect our missionary to organize churches left and right, although we like to organize new congregations and we must have fruit on our labor under the blessing of God also in that way. But we must remember that it will be a slow process, unless we are willing to widen the gate. And therefore, I think that the question of the Rev. Cammenga should be answered thus. If after .a while the Rev. Cammenga knows a group that in a general way understands the Declaration, and then expresses its desire to be organized into a Prot. Ref. Church, they should be organized. But they must understand the difference. You cannot organize merely on the basis of a promise that they will not agitate against the truth. That is negative, and we must have something positive as a basis for organization.
And now, Mr. Chairman, I have something to say yet about the motion that is on the floor. I do not care ,a great deal whether the Synod adopts this motion or not, that is, to add the preamble that this Declaration is only to be used for the organization of churches by the Mission Committee and by the missionary. But I think that Synod does wisely if it adopts this motion, nevertheless, because it will limit what we have adopted so far. The Declaration is adopted now anyway, and that is sufficient for me. However, I am afraid that if nothing is added, what some fear might happen, and that it will be considered a fourth form. Therefore we must add that it is only for the use of the Mission Committee and the missionary for the organization of churches. Once more I say that it is immaterial to me whether or not the Synod adopts this motion. The truth prevails, whatever we do. Of that I am convinced. You cannot legislate the truth, not by a majority vote. Nor can you do anything against the truth by a vote of Synod. The truth is free, and will certainly prevail.
In the third place, it is plain now that the Declaration has been adopted, that the Consistory of Fuller Ave. in conjunction with the Mission Committee can exercise its own right, and print pamphlets if they deem necessary, and ask that our mission work be conducted according to the Declaration of Principles. We do not need a decision of Synod for that.
Rev. Cammenga: Mr. Chairman, the impression must (not be left as if I find it difficult to explain the Declaration to the people. I asked for the pamphlets rather to be witness next to mine that my explanation is correct. It is not so easy to explain the pure Reformed truth to people even of so-called Reformed persuasicin, especially not today. It is much more difficult today than when the Rev. Hoeksema went out to explain the Three Points. Today even people that call themselves Reformed do not know the truth as did the former generations, At that time, when they heard us they testified that this was what they have always been taught to be the truth of the Reformed (Confessions. But today I would say that even many that call themselves Reformed hate the pure Reformed truth.
Rev. H.H.: I have no objection to the proposition of printing pamphlets. I also realize very well that times are different now from what they were 25 years ago. Nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, is not this a question for Fuller Avenue’s Consistory in conjunction with the Mission Committee?
Rev. Ophoff: The Rev. H. Hoeksema is not so much interested in this particular motion. Neither am I, seeing that the Declaration itself is adopted. But would it not be ridiculous to vote it down now?
Mr. John Faber: Mr. Chairman, I think we need to adopt this motion, and I hope that we adopt it unanimously. I am thinking of the public and the church-world that is watching us today. No doubt men like the Rev. Daane will write about it. The Liberated, reading the report of the Synod, will say that there are still some among us that believe otherwise. And they will point to the negative votes that are recorded in the Acts of Synod. But, Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize that the negative votes did not mean that some of us are convinced that the Declaration is not the expression of the truth of our Confessions. Some voted no, so they told me, not because they were not in agreement with the contents of the Declaration, but just because they did not want to declare anything. Others, though they agreed with the contents of the Declaration, said that it does not say all that can be said, and therefore vote against it. But essentially there is agreement among us as to the principles. Hence, we need to pass this motion.
Mr. N. Yonker: This Declaration was composed at the request of the Mission Committee, and therefore we certainly must adopt this motion. If we do not pass this motion, we have given the Mission Committee no answer to its request.
Rev. Veldman: What can be wrong from .any point of view in passing this motion? Surely, if we pass this motion, it cannot be an obstacle for correspondence with the Liberated Churches of the Netherlands or with any Reformed churches. We owe it to one another to express clearly what we believe to be the truth of our Reformed Confessions. Let us, therefore, adopt this motion, and use the Declaration as a basis for the organization of churches, to be used by the Mission Committee and by the missionary. There certainly cannot be any danger then in adopting this Declaration of Principles.
Rev. Howerzyl: Those last remarks I cannot understand. Why should there be dangers? It is all settled. If Synod voted its convictions, I cannot see how the Declaration could be used in a wrong way.
Rev. Cammenga: The motion says that the Declaration is to be used “as, a basis for organizing churches.” Is that true? Is not the basis for organization of churches Scripture and the Confessions in the light of what we expressed since 1924? Would it not be better to call it an instructive document?
Rev. Veldman: I feel for what the Rev. A Cammenga says.
I hesitate too to adopt that word basis. I prefer instrument. Basis can mean a whole lot.
Rev. Vos: The Rev. J. Howerzyl says that he is surprised at the remarks that the Declaration may look like a dangerous thing. But the danger or fear expressed of having such a document or instrument was expressed by those who did not want to accept the Declaration. Those that spoke against the Declaration repeatedly spoke of its danger. Therefore it is wise to limit it by this motion and amendment.
Rev. Ophoff: I like to know, Mr. Chairman, what danger there can he ever in expressing the truth. This Declaration is, according to the conviction of Synod, the truth as expressed in our Confessions. It is, therefore, to our conviction the same as the Confessions. To be opposed to the Declaration is the same as being opposed to the Confessions. Let us admit this.
Rev. Hoeksema: I am not afraid of this document, no more than I am afraid of the Confessions. Nevertheless, suppose that one comes to our Consistory to protest against a sermon, and appeals to the Declaration. That would not be formally correct. And we would have to refer him to the Three Forms of Unity as a basis for his, protest.
Rev. Veldman: I am not satisfied with this motion. “Basis” for organizing congregations does not sound good to me.
Rev. van Weelden: It was remarked that the opposition to the Declaration has spoken of this fear that it might be used in a wrong way, while the others did not express such fear. Suppose that this motion fails, does that mean that what we decided in regard to the Declaration takes on the form of a fourth form? I claim that this is not true.
Rev. H.H.: I can feel something for the remarks, of the Rev. Veldman. We do not organize on the basis of the Declaration, but on the basis of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity. Can we not remedy this by stating “on the basis of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity as, always maintained by the Prot. Ref. Churches and as they are further explained in the Declaration of Principles”? I make that an amendment, that we elide all after the word “missionary”, and in its place add: “to be used only for the organization of prospective churches on the basis, of Scripture and the Confessions as they have always been maintained in the Prot. Ref. (Churches, and as these have been further explained in regard to certain principles in the Declaration.”
This amendment is put to a vote, and is carried.
The motion with the amendment is put to a vote. Three votes are recorded as being against it.
Rev. H.H.: May I know, Mr. Chairman, what it means that these three negative votes are recorded? Does it mean that these brethren want their name publicly recorded in the Standard Bearer if the report of Synod is written? They will, of course, be recorded in the Acts. But I do not want to insult the brethren by mentioning their names or by failing to do so.
Rev. Vos: I do not understand this recording by name and its import. It is proper procedure in church polity? Does it mean to leave room for a protest, or it is a protest?
Rev. Veldman: I cannot see the necessity of mentioning the names of those who voted negatively.
Rev. H.H.: To me it means that these brethren want their names published. Otherwise I cannot see why it must be recorded in the Acts.
Rev. Howerzyl: I cannot have any objection to having my name published, since it will appear in the Acts.
The Rev. L. Doezema and the Rev. J. van Weelden express their agreement with this statement.
The preamble is now further treated. A substitute motion is made to use the substance of the motion just passed, and the amendment, as a preamble instead of the one suggested by Classis East. This motion is put to a vote, and according to the president is carried by a vote of 13 to 3. After Synod there seems to be some doubt as to whether this estimate by the president is correct. Certainly it sounded to me as if the motion was carried with an overwhelming majority, and, after all only three negative votes were recorded. These were those of the Revs. L. Doezema, J. Howerzyl, and J. van Weelden
The Synod had finished its agendum. The Rev. G. Vos addressed a few appropriate words to Synod, and also personally to the Rev. A. Cammenga, and thereupon closed the sessions of Synod with thanks to God.