For some time we have had reasons to suspect that there was a rather large liberal and modernistic element in the Christian Reformed Church, an element that was broadminded, which means the same as saying that they do not care about specific Reformed truth. The different papers and magazines that exist apart from the official church papers, like Torch and Trumpet and the Reformed Journal, the latter rather liberal, the former orthodox, already point in that direction. Another sign that points in the same direction is the attitude some take toward the Christian School. Dr. Daane, for instance, according to the September 1958 issue of Torch and Trumpet, takes the position that the Christian schools are too separatistic and that they should seek involvement with American society. When later he was asked whether this purpose could not be more effectively reached by sending the children directly to the public schools and by having the Christian school teachers give instruction in the public schools, he admitted that this might be better. 

There are other signs that point in the same direction. 

In the Christian Reformed Church there is no agreement even on the most fundamental principles of the Reformed truth. 

It is drifting away. And that, too, rather fast. 

This is evident from the fact that the liberal element, in Calvin College, teach the evolution theory, as is a well-known fact. What this means for the church is not difficult to estimate. Future leaders of the church, ministers and teachers, are imbued with the ungodly theory of evolution, these in turn teach others in the church, in the catechism classes, the schoolroom, and from the pulpit, and before long the whole church becomes corrupt. 

But I was going to write, in the present editorial, especially about the last decision regarding Nigeria, specifically concerning the participation of Synod-and the Christian Reformed Church in a certain theological school which is called the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, a school in which men of different denominations and colors may and do give instruction, and in which also Dr. Harry Boer has been teaching in the past and in which he may, according to the decision of the last Christian Reformed Synod, continue to give instruction in the coming year. 

Dr. Boer, the reader understands, is a missionary in the Christian Reformed Church. He was very strongly in favor of having the Christian Reformed Church support synodically, also financially, that union seminary in Nigeria. 

But let me, first of all, quote the decision of Synod regarding this matter: 

“1. Synod continues Dr. Harry Boer as teacher in the TCNN (Theological College of Northern Nigeria, H.H.) under the terms of the 1955 and 1957 decisions of Synod. 

“Grounds:

“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. 

“2. That a study 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 Synod of 1959 on these matters: 

“a. The implication of our ordination vows with respect to missionaries who serve in a united theological enterprise. 

“b. The relation of the Christian Reformed Church to the TCNN, taking into account our church polity as well as theological distinctiveness. 

“c. The relation of the Nigerian General Conference to the TCNN (for example to the appointment of members of the Board of Governors). 

“d. The relation of the Benue and Tiv churches to the TCNN. 

“e. The relation of the teachings of our Missionary Professor to the distinctive positions and practices held by the Benue and Tiv churches. 

“f. The relation of the Missionary Teacher to the Nigerian General Conference (for example supervision of his teaching at TCNN and problems that arise for him at TCNN). 

“g. Further investigation of the need for a distinctively Reformed theological training on the Benue and Tiv field. 

“Grounds: 

“(1) The present recommendation of the Board is somewhat ambiguous. The term ‘participate’ can be construed in such a way that the Christian Reformed Church becomes one of the sponsoring and operating churches of the TCNN—which would violate the clear statement which Synod gave to Classis Sioux Center. Or this term might have a weaker meaning. 

“(2) There are many aspects of this problem that have not been defined, or that have not come to sufficient clarity. 

“(3) Several Classes have requested such a study. 

“3. That Synod permit special gifts to be solicited for the native church which desires to participate in TCNN and that it be understood that this not further commit the Christian Reformed Church to the TCNN at this time inasmuch as the support is given to the native church and the responsibility for expansion of the TCNN at this time is the responsibility of the native church. 

“Grounds: 

“a. The Benue church has requested such help. 

“b. The Christian Reformed Church has on other occasions allowed the solicitation of gifts without thereby committing itself to the participation in the particular cause concerned. 

“4. That this be considered as Synod’s answer to the overtures nos. 16, 26, 35, 41, 48, and 52; also Protest No. 4 and the Protest of Rev. J. DeJong.”


Such, then is the decision of the last Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in regard to the TCNN. 

Let us discuss this matter for a bit. 

First of all, let me briefly explain to the reader what is the TCNN. It is a theological school or seminary. It is a school, therefore, where the students are instructed not only in matters of faith and doctrine but also in the exposition and preaching of the Word. It is, therefore, very important, not only for the students that are taught there, but also for the church. Just imagine the nature and contents of the subjects that are taught in such a school, subjects such as exegesis or exposition of the Scriptures from the original languages; Old and New Testament History; Dogmatics and the history of Dogma; Catechetics, i.e. the theory and practice of teaching the children and youth of the Church; Church Polity, the theory and practice of governing the Church; Homiletics, the theory and practice of preaching the Word of God, and other subjects. I mention some of these subjects in order that the reader may know not only what is the importance of a seminary, but may also understand the necessity of the teaching in such a school being very definite. It may not be general and vague. How can the explanation of Scripture ever be vague? If it is, it is simply no good. The same is true of dogmatics: it must be based on Scripture and must definitely represent the doctrine of the Church that instituted the seminary. 

Now this is not true of the TCNN. Anyone, whether he is Reformed, Lutheran, Anabaptist, Arminian or Baptist, may teach there; it is very liberal. What is the result? 

One result is that if each professor teaches his own view, the student becomes necessarily very confused. I do not know how the subjects are arranged in the TCNN and what each professor teaches nor what Dr. Boer teaches there. But suppose that the latter teaches Dogmatics and that, therefore, he presents the Scriptural conception of election and reprobation as would be his calling as a missionary professor of the Christian Reformed Church. And suppose that one of the other professors, an Arminian, teaches exegesis and, in explaining Rom. 9, presents the Arminian view of predestination. Will not the students become utterly confused? Or suppose again that Dr. Boer teaches the Reformed view of the covenant in the line of continued generations and, therefore emphasizes infant baptism; and suppose that another professor, who, is a baptist, denies infant baptism. What must the student think. Must he take his own choice? Will he not be confused by such teaching? Or again, suppose that Dr. Boer teaches that the signs in the Lord’s supper are only signs and seals, while another, a Lutheran, emphasizes the real presence of Christ “up and under and with” the bread and wine? Will not the student be confused? And thus we could continue. There is hardly an important doctrine of the Church concerning which there is no difference of opinion. And in order that the teaching may be definite it must not only present the positive conception of the truth as it is found in Scripture, and that too, by a Reformed missionary, in harmony with sound Reformed doctrine; but it must also present that truth antithetically, i.e. in opposition to every error. Then, and then only, will the student receive a clear conception of the truth and become prepared to proclaim it by his preaching. 

But there is another conceivable possibility, and I am afraid that an attempt is made in the TCNN to realize this possibility. I say that an attempt is made toward that end, for in reality this is impossible. It is the attempt to avoid all controversy and to prepare the students for some general “evangelistic” work. I do not like that term “evangelism” as it is used in our day. The term itself is beautiful enough. It refers to the “evangel” or the gospel and the preaching of the gospel. But the sense in which it is used of late conveys the impression that some kind of a general gospel is meant in distinction from the proclamation of the whole truth and of definite doctrine. The idea is to save souls. We must bring people to Jesus. We must proclaim a general offer of salvation to all sinners without exception. We must tell people that they certainly can be saved if they only are willing to come to Jesus and accept Him as their Savior. As we can often hear it over the radio: “Just repeat after me: ‘I accept Jesus as my personal Savior’ and you will be saved.” In such a gospel sound doctrine has no place. People do not like doctrine: they want the “gospel.” Especially the doctrine of predestination, election and reprobation, can have no place in such an “evangel.” I call this cheap and corrupt evangelism. And I am afraid that exactly that cheap evangelism is taught at the TCNN. 

This stands to reason. 

In a school where everybody can teach, it is impossible for everybody to present his own conception of the truth. Then the school would become a house divided against itself. Hence, all controversial subjects must be and are avoided. The result is some vague and good for nothing instruction, some cheap evangelism without any definite doctrine. And since Dr. Boer teaches in the TCNN he must cater to that same spirit. Perhaps, he likes this. In fact, I have reason to believe that he does. 

But if so, he should not be a missionary in a church that professes to be Reformed and that subscribes to the Three Forms of Unity. 

For that is nothing short of dishonesty. 

More about this next time, D.V. 

—H.H.