Mrs. Meyer is a wife and mother in Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan. (Preceding article can be found in the December 15, 2003 issue, p. 137.)
Our children need to see that true, real unity is found only when there is true, real unity in the truth. The Spirit that makes us one is the Spirit of truth. And that unity and fellowship in the truth will be blessed indeed! But there is another aspect of this glorious principle of unity that our children need to see and understand. Not only is there unity in truth, there is also unity of truth. The truth itself is a unified, glorious, harmonious whole.
This is uniquely Reformed. Our creeds themselves attest to this unity as they, from all of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, bring the truth together for us into one concise and consistent system. The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt—all of our creeds speak in unison of the sovereign glory of God and the salvation that He alone has wrought. The message of the Word (singular, not plural) is one. Our Reformed doctrines reflect this.
It is because the truth of Scripture constitutes one thorough and complete unity that all of Scripture may, and must, be explained only in light of itself. “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This, too, is uniquely Reformed. Not by authority of church tradition or mystical tongue, not by authority of higher critic or pope, but only in light of the infallible Word of God itself is Scripture to be understood. Thus we see the tremendous import of our creeds. They interpret the truth for us in light of the whole Word of God.
By such illumination our spiritual fathers were guided into ever richer and deeper veins of the truth. One deposit of gold led to another. An example is Calvin’s development of the five points of doctrine, which we call TULIP. They are five points that hang together, or, if just one be denied or misconstrued, fall together. They constitute a whole.
Rev. Herman Hoeksema appealed to the principle of unity when he developed the concept of the place of reprobation in the preaching of the gospel:
God is One. There must therefore be unity in His revelation, unity of thought and purpose in all His works. And therefore a child of God, especially a Reformed child of God, cannot rest until he has learned to see and understand this unity of thought and purpose. It is from this point of view that we wish to consider the place of reprobation in the preaching of the Gospel.¹
It is from this point of view that we should consider all of doctrine! To see how one truth stands in relation to another and to the truth as a whole—that is how we grow in our understanding of these things. When a question arises about a certain word or verse, our concordance must be at the ready. Other texts must be consulted. When our children have a question about a Bible or Sunday School lesson, we will examine the context of the story to see if we can help them better understand what is being taught. We will try to explain to them how one truth is connected to another. That is how we help our children grow, too.
From a positive point of view, the truth is founded upon the whole, unified body of Scripture. Negatively, every heresy and error can be exposed on this same basis. Even as an ear trained in all the finesse of musical harmony is able to detect one dissonant note among a full and accomplished orchestra, so does a lover of the truth hear the slight and subtle sound of that which does not ring true with all of Scripture. Our spiritual fathers made a point of emphasizing the unity of the truth when they judged the teachings of their heretical foes in light of Scripture and the creeds. They would allow no discrepancies or contradictions, no discordant doctrines that may have been held as a matter of some strange, blind faith. Such, however, is the sound of all heresy. Arminianism must pit God’s justice against His love and mercy, corrupting beyond recognition the precious truth of both. Dispensationalism must drive a wedge between Old Testament and New, denying the one universal body of Christ gathered from all nations and history. Evolutionism must regard Genesis 1-11 as mere legend or myth, separating the headship of the first Adam from the Second, and ultimately denying the reality of both. In all these instances and untold more the unity of Scripture is destroyed. Such destruction proclaims loudly the falsehood of those contradictions. May our children’s ears be so trained to hear the noise.
The unity of the truth is uniquely Reformed, and it is also uniquely beautiful. This, too, our children must see. The beauty of one aspect of the truth cannot be elevated above another, but each aspect possess its own glory. And the glory of this facet is profound. From Moses to the Prophets, to the Gospels, to the Epistles—all parts of Scripture together comprise an exquisitely cohesive, harmonious whole, infallibly so. The law in all its various applications may be summarized in one grand command—love God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength. Such oneness is most glorious and lovely, even as brethren dwelling together in unity is a most good and pleasant sight—like dew on Mt. Zion descended (Ps. 133).
This can be illustrated in a work of art. A painting that does not in some way exhibit the principle of unity is deemed ugly and disjointed. In fact, it will not meet the definition of “composition” at all. To lack unity is a fatal flaw in design. To the extent that a piece of artwork is harmoniously composed, however, its beauty is enhanced.
Rev. Hoeksema also drew from the illustration of art to speak of the unity of the truth:
It is obvious that in the preaching or instruction of the truth the various aspects of the truth must be placed in their proper light and in their relation to one another. If I should describe a masterpiece of an artist, and if I should attempt to describe the individual parts which are on the canvas without relating them to the whole, that masterpiece would be ruined by my description. Or if I should attempt to portray my impression of the whole and lay so much stress on the background that the background becomes the foreground, I do not do justice to the work of the artist. So it is also in respect to the work of salvation.²
God’s work of salvation is one. His counsel is one. There are no plans A and B. Just one. Marvelous it is to see how each individual doctrine stands in relation to each other one and to the whole. Understanding this, we begin to see the full beauty. It is when we fail to consult all of the Word that we are in danger of seeing a less than accurate picture, or even of seeing a perversion of it. This is the strength and beauty of the Reformed faith, that it sees the truth as one. It all fits. This is not merely academic. It is gloriously fair and comely. It is supremely magnificent and fine. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined! (Ps. 50:2). Our children need to appreciate this aspect of the truth as well.
This is uniquely Reformed. This is uniquely beautiful. And in the providence and wisdom of God, this is uniquely teachable. Scripture provides us with many figures to help us better understand the truth. There is one figure in particular that shows us how important it is that we see the unity of that truth. Jesus told His disciples to beware of the “leaven” of the doctrine of the Pharisees. We as parents (and particularly mothers, for it is a homey illustration) can look for an opportunity to speak of this figure to our children. We might speak to them of bread, the process involved in making it, and yeast, or leaven. In Bible times, a small piece of leavened dough was added to a large lump of new dough in order to accomplish the certain, steady work of fermentation. Because that large lump was one, a little leaven would affect the whole lump. Thus we can show our children what happens when heresy is introduced into our thinking. One little error will affect all that we believe. A current example of this that we might point out to our children is how the doctrine of common grace, in a mere three small points, has worked itself out in the whole theology, life, and practice of those churches that have embraced it. Uncritical contact with such leaven is certainly something of which we need to be warned.
The unity of the truth and of Scripture is indeed a profound theological concept, but it must not be left on such a high shelf that little eyes are unable to gaze thereon. Though deep and profound, it is also basic. We live in a day when the foundations may not be taken for granted. As one attempts to understand the difference between the mind that is bent on Arminianism and the mind that is seeking to be thoroughly Reformed, this is one of the underlying principles that will inevitably come to the surface. The Arminian is willing to accept, on the one hand, that God is sovereign, and, on the other, that salvation depends on the will of a puny, dependent man. A contradiction? Perhaps. But so be it. These are mysteries. These are things we must simply accept in blind faith. That is his view. And with that view he distorts all doctrine until it finally fits together too—in falsehood.
There are mysteries, to be sure, but not that kind. The Reformed man, woman, or child has eyes of faith wide open, searching, seeing, and understanding more and more. One truth fits with another. One text joins with other texts. It is imperative that our children have this mind instilled within them. It is imperative, not only for their own spiritual growth, but for their defense of the truth as well.
Unity in the truth—with God and with one another. Unity of the truth—in Scripture and the creeds. Let us show these wondrous things to our children. Let us grow in this blessed endeavor.
¹Herman Hoeksema, The Place of Reprobation in the Preaching of the Gospel, pamphlet printed by Southwest Protestant Reformed Church Evangelism Committee, 4875 Ivanrest Ave., Wyoming, MI 49418, 1993, p. 1.
²Ibid., p. 2.