Thus far we quoted the decision of the last Christian Reformed Synod in regard to the TCNN (Theological College of Northern Nigeria), and we also criticized that decision in general from a principal viewpoint. 

We still wish to discuss that decision and criticize it somewhat in detail. 

In many respects this is a very strange decision and unworthy of a synodical gathering. I surmise that the reason for this must be found in the fact that, although the majority of the Synod was in favor of continuing Dr. Boer as professor in the TCNN, that majority certainly was not very large. There was a strong minority that insisted that Christian Reformed Church would initiate its own theological training in Nigeria. And not only this, but there were several protests from the churches voicing their opposition against allowing Dr. Boer to continue teaching in the TCNN. Of course, this should not have motivated Synod to make such a strange decision if it were convinced that it were principally correct. If that had been the case, Synod should simply have decided to continue Dr. Boer as professor in the TCNN on the ground that, on the mission field it is perfectly proper to support a mixed theological training of missionaries. That would have settled the matter regardless of a strong opposition minority and regardless of the consequences, regardless even of a possible split in the Christian Reformed Church. But Synod, evidently, did not have the courage of its conviction. And the result is the strange decision of which I spoke already. 

Now, why is this decision so strange and one that is unworthy of a Synod? 

The following are my reasons for this opinion:

1. The main decision of Synod, is that it continues Dr. Boer as professor in the TCNN. But on what grounds is this decision reached? Was this very important matter decided on principal grounds. Were the grounds, for instance, that the TCNN is perfectly sound and that the training which the students receive in that school is expected to be Reformed? Not at all. The grounds for this very important decision were the following: 

“a. Former Synods have committed the Church up to this point, and we are morally bound to honor this commitment. 

“b. The present commitment satisfies the urgency of the situation.” 

What to say about these grounds? 

The first, namely, that Synod is morally bound to honor the decisions of former Synods in regard to the TCNN, is evidently erroneous. Suppose that a Synod passes a resolution to condemn all denominationalism, are the following Synods morally bound to honor such a resolution? Or suppose that a Synod denies the Reformed truth of predestination and adopts Arminianism? Must all the succeeding Synods consider themselves morally bound to abide by this decision? The very opposite is true as anyone will admit. Hence, the first ground for the decision of the last Christian Ref. Synod to let Dr. Boer continue to teach in the TCNN is, evidently, beside or rather contrary to the truth. Succeeding Synods are morally bound to disavow and repudiate wrong decisions of former Synods. The decision to let Dr. Boer teach in the TCNN was certainly wrong and, therefore, the last Synod of the Christian Reformed Church was morally bound to repudiate that decision. 

The second ground of Synod to continue to let Dr. Boer teach in the TCNN is equally untrue. It refers to the urgency of the situation in Nigeria. I suppose that by this the Synod refers to the fact that there is need for the training of native missionaries in Nigeria and, perhaps, also to the fact that some students of the Benue and Tiv churches are already being trained in the TCNN. But if this is meant by the urgency of the situation in Nigeria, the second ground of Synod of the resolution to let Dr. Boer continue to teach in the TCNN is just as fallacious as the first. How can a situation in the churches or on the mission field be ever so urgent as to make it necessary to support or condone false doctrine. And this the last Synod certainly did by continuing Dr. Boer as professor in the TCNN as we have shown in our previous editorial on this subject. Besides, there was before Synod the advice of the minority report of the committee of pre-advice on this matter which recommended not only that Synod should reject the request of the Board of Foreign Missions to participate in the program for united theological training in Northern Nigeria, but also to help the churches there to establish a theological school of their own. This certainly would have met the urgency of the situation in a much better way. But this advice was rejected by Synod by a vote of sixty to forty-five! 

Another strange element in the decision of the last Synod in regard to the situation in Nigeria and the TCNN is that they first decided to continue Dr. Boer as professor in that seminary and afterward added a decision to appoint a committee to investigate the matter: “That a stud; committee be constituted of nine members (in which both the minority and the majority opinions are represented), in consultation with the Nigerian General Conference, to define and clarify certain matters which follow, and that clear cut recommendations be made to the Synod of 1959 on these matters:” (the matters referred to follow). 

Now, I ask whether it is not very strange and unworthy of any ecclesiastical body that they first make a decision and after that investigate whether that decision is correct? This certainly is always wrong but it certainly is such in respect to such an important matter as a professorship of one of their own missionaries in the TCNN. I cannot understand why the Synod did not postpone the whole matter until it had been thoroughly investigated. What the Synod may expect in 1959 from the committee of investigation that was appointed is not a clear-cut recommendation, but again a majority and minority opinion. This is my prediction which is based on the fact that at the last Synod the opinions were sharply and strongly divided as well as on the fact that, in the committee appointed, both the minority and majority opinions are represented.

Let us also consider for a moment some of the “certain, matters” which the committee appointed by Synod must “define and clarify.” One of them, in fact, the first one is: “The implications of our ordination vows with respect to missionaries who serve in a united theological enterprise.” 

I could not help but wonder why this matter was introduced at Synod as it evidently was. Naturally, I consulted the “Form of Ordination of Missionaries” that is used in our churches and I believe also in the Christian Reformed Church. And I discovered a, rather striking difference between the vows a professor of theology is required to make at his ordination and those that a missionary (and also, by the way, a minister) makes. I will refer only to the difference between the questions asked of both, the professor and the missionary (or the minister) when they are to be ordained. The questions asked of a professor that is to be ordained are the following: 

“First. I ask thee, dost thou feel in thy heart that thou art lawfully called of God’s Church and therefore of God himself to this office?” (This question is virtually the same as that asked of a missionary or minister at his ordination.) 

“Secondly. Dost thou believe the books of the Old and New Testament to be the only Word of God? Dost thou reject all doctrines repugnant thereto, and dost thou accept the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church as the truest expression of the doctrine of salvation? (Here we find a rather important difference with regard to the questions asked of a missionary at his ordination.) 

“Thirdly. Dost thou promise faithfully to discharge thy office according to the same doctrine as above described, and to adorn it with a godly life? 

“Fourthly. Dost thou promise to submit thyself, in case thou shouldest become delinquent, either in life or doctrine, to the ordinance of the Church, and if necessary, to Church discipline?” (The last two questions are also the same in the Form of Ordination of Missionaries, except that they are combined into one question.) 

The difference, therefore, is in the second question. 

And to my mind, this difference is a rather important one. In the second question, quoted above, the professor that is to be ordained is asked, not only whether he believes that the books of the Old and New Testament are the only Word of God and whether he will reject all doctrine repugnant thereto, but also whether he believes the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church to be the truest expression of the doctrine of salvation. The latter element is omitted at the ordination of a missionary. The missionary is asked only whether he believes that the books of the Old and New Testament are the only Word of God and the perfect doctrine of salvation, and whether he rejects all doctrines repugnant thereto. Nothing is said about the Standards of the Church. 

Was this perhaps, intentional? Did those that composed the Form of the Ordination of Missionaries proceed from the opinion that it was not as necessary for the missionaries to subscribe to the Standards of the Church as it is for the professors? I do not know. But I hardly can conceive of the possibility that the omission was not intentional. This seems especially true in the light of the fact that also the Formula of Subscription omits any mention of missionaries. There we read: “We, the undersigned, Professors of the Christian Reformed Church, Ministers of the Gospel, Elders and Deacons of the Christian Reformed Church of …………………… of the Classis of ………………………… do hereby sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord, declare by this, our subscription, that we heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine, contained in the Confession and Catechism, together with the explanation of some points of the aforesaid doctrine, made by the National Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-19, do fully agree with the Word of God.” 

Also here no mention is made of missionaries. 

Was this, perhaps, the reason why the investigation committee must report on the implication of “our ordination vows with respect to missionaries who serve in a united theological enterprise”? 

I do not know, for I was not present at the sessions of the Christian Reformed Synod where this matter was discussed. But it seems to me this is highly probable. Why otherwise speak of the ordination vows of the missionaries in connection with their teaching in the TCNN? 

Dr. Boer can alway insist that he never promised to teach according to the Three Forms of Unity as missionary, but that he vowed only to maintain the doctrines contained in the Old and New Testament as the only Word of God. For this reason it is legal for him to teach in a general and united theological seminary. 

But if this should be the case, as it probably is, the matter becomes more serious still. 

But about this next time, D.V. 

—H.H.