When these lines and this edition of the Standard Bearer appear in the mailboxes of its subscribers, it will be almost two years since Classis East of the Protestant Reformed Churches took steps to rid our churches of and to defend our churches against the conditional theology of the Liberated. It was in May 1953 that Classis East condemned the heretical statements of Rev. De Wolf as Liberated—which they surely are—and as heretical and demanded of him that he do likewise.
Before Classis East could deal further with the case and pass judgment upon the action of the Consistory of First Church as to whether it acted properly in its execution of this advice of Classis; and before Classis East could decide which faction in First Church should be recognized as the legal Consistory; Classis West which—even according to the testimony under oath before Judge Taylor of Rev. Gritters, who was the Stated Clerk of Classis West—had no jurisdiction at all over anyone or any church in Classis East dared to meddle in the case of another Classis and decide (1) that Rev. De Wolf and the “elders” that supported him were the legal Consistory and (2) that the Rev. H. Hoeksema and the Rev. C. Hanko and the elders that supported them were outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. If you please! A Classis that has no jurisdiction over anyone in the other Classis dare to make a motion to decide who belongs to that Classis over which it has no jurisdiction at all. This is rebellion and hierarchy, pure and simple! It was one Classis lording it over another Classis! It was a group of Consistories lording it over a Consistory in another Classis.
All Classis West had the right to do was to protest this action of Class& East and/or of the Consistory of First Church to the next Synod ; but to take a stand in the discipline case of another Consistory that is not in its own jurisdiction was an act of schism. And it is encouraging that, in private conversion at least, some of the office bearers in that group that performed this act bf schism acknowledge that what they did in September of 1953 was a violation of the Church Order.
But now in one of the last copies of Concordia a report appears of a “Classical meeting” that these same schismatic churches held in Hull, Iowa, this past March. One of the matters treated there was a letter from our Synod calling the attention to these perpetrators of hierarchy and schism to the error of their deed of September of 1953. In this report they inform us that they will not reconsider their evil deed. Instead at the very end of this decision of theirs comes this amazing statement: “Finally, we urge you to open the door for fraternal discussion, and until you open such door, we call you back from your sinful way.”
Hence the title to this article.
And the question mark on the end is due to the fact that we have very, very serious doubts that they desire such fraternal discussion at all. In the light of all their past actions as well as of this very decision, these words have no meaning at all except, perhaps, to try to soothe the hearts of those in their group that are seriously disturbed by the course of events and by the strange sounds they hear in the preaching, as well as the wholly unprotestant Reformed maneuvers of reaching out all over for men from other denominations to help them in their missionary projects and to teach them in their various society meetings.
Cannot even the blind see that their very unbrotherly treatment of this communication from our Synod is a denial of the fact that they truly want brotherly, fraternal discussion with us? They are so unbrotherly even in this report that they will not even address us as Protestant Reformed Churches and place the name in quotation marks. Instead Rev. Gritters who squirmed visibly on the witness stand in Pipestone, Minnesota and deliberately pleaded ignorance to defend himself when he was pressed exactly about the matters of which we wrote above (a little more of this later) states in this report that they received a communication from Rev. George C. Lubbers. Come, come, Rev. Gritters, would it not be more brotherly to concede us at least the name in quotation marks?, at least until the courts take it away from you and say that you have been using it illegally? Would it not be more fraternal to concede us at least equal right to that name with yourself seeing that Judge Taylor, after your testimony, already ruled that we and not Rev. De Wolf—and therefore not you either—have the right to that name?
But then, perhaps that is the personal sentiment of the Stated Clerk of their Classis and not the decision of the Classis to call it the communication of the Rev. Geo. C. Lubbers. And we could let it go at that except that it is quite ironical that the man who was given a department in practical Christianity in Concordia and was always set forth as one who was on the “practical” rather than on the doctrinal side should practice such unbrotherly and unchristian actions himself.
And we might add, do not let anyone deceive you into thinking that those who defend and feel the need of conditional theology and of finding an admonition in every text of the Bible have a more holy and sinless life than is to be found in our churches where we preach the fundamental principles of holy writ of unconditional election, unconditional promises, total depravity and perseverance of the saints. Just look around a bit amongst those who had to adopt conditional theology, so they said, because the Protestant Reformed truth makes a man careless and profane. Look at the walk of life of the congregations of these “practical men.” Yea, you might even look where the malcontents have gone who left because we did not admonish them enough to suit them and because we could not find an admonition in every text. And then you might ask them to ask their minister(s) how a Christmas or New Year’s Holiday ought to be spent by office bearers in the Church of Jesus Christ. Must services be dispensed with so that one may go to the Rose Bowl game? And the proper application, the practical application, the you-must-do-this and you-must-do-that application to the message of the Birth of the Savior, the admonition to be found in that glorious truth, is it that we should go home now and be sure to watch the prize fight on television?
Surely we can expect, can we not, that in those circles that had to get rid of the Protestant Reformed truth, those who became convinced that the gospel of salvation by grace is not enough and that the Liberated have taught us that we need conditions besides it to have a well orbed gospel, that in such circles there will be a marked show at least of outward piety. Their walk of life ought to show that we need this “practical” preaching, this doctrine that does not make a man careless and profane. If we are to find walking In His Fear, we surely ought to find it abundantly then amongst these who now say that they want fraternal discussions with us and who say that if we do not open such a door they will call us back from our sinful way.
It can in the abstract be possible, though not probable, that their Classis is not so unbrotherly as the Stated Clerk. Yet this very decision of that Classis shows that it is not so. In a very unbrotherly way it declared outside of the Protestant Reformed Churches men over whom it had no jurisdiction; and now it refuses to give an answer to the document that is sent to it to recall its attention to its error. It will not give an answer to thearguments of our Synod, yet it claims to desire fraternal discussion.
Discussion of what?
Are they actually willing to discuss those statements of Rev. De Wolf with us? Do they really doubt that they are as innocent as they at first maintained. If they are convinced that those statements are such pure Protestant Reformed truth, then what profit is there in discussing the matter further with us? We gave them our answer and stand in different documents we sent to them. They repeatedly refused to go into the matter and give us an answer to our arguments. Instead they say that it is the communication of one of our men, the Rev. Geo. C. Lubbers.
Is it the Church Political matter that they wish to discuss? Then before there can be any brotherly discussion of that matter they must confess to us their sin of having closed the door.
They closed the door!
How shall we open the door that they closed?
Consider once that our Church Order exactly makes arrangement for brotherly discussion of difference of opinion, whether they be of doctrinal matter or matters of a church political nature. And that arrangement, or door is the right to appeal to a broader ecclesiastical assembly.
But Classis West, which in September of 1953 did not approve of the action of Classis East and of First Church’s Consistory, did not want to go through that door which the Church Order provides. Classis West did not want to meet the members of Classis East in a brotherly discussion of these matters on the floor of the Synod.
Instead Classis West said to the Rev. H. Hoeksema, the Rev. C. Hanko and their elders: We put you outside the door of the Protestant Reformed Churches. We close the door of our denomination upon you.
And now they ask us to open the door for fraternal discussion?
It all started farther back than that.
With unbrotherly malice in their hearts, three consistories, those of Bellflower, California, Oskaloosa and Pella, Iowa sent instructions to the Classis to shut that door upon these brethren instead of to go through the door to the next Synod. And let no one be deceived! Evil documents such as those from these three Consistories are not born out of a desire for fraternal discussion. They were born out of a desire to cut off all possibility of discussion of this matter with us.
And Rev. Gritters, this man of “practical Christianity” even permitted his Consistory to advise the Classis to usurp the power of the Synod and to appoint new professors in the Theological School in the place of the Rev. H. Hoeksema and the Rev. G.M. Ophoff. Rev. Gritters’ conditional theology has done something to you. It has not kept you from being careless and profane. It has hardened, you in your sin.
When you appeared before Judge Taylor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you tried to be careful and to keep from profanity. You tried hard—and we respected you for it—to be truthful; and in doing so you caused Rev. De Wolf’s case much harm. But in less than one year conditional theology—which is supposed to help us know what we must do and what we must not do—left its mark upon you so that before Judge Flinn in Pipestone, Minnesota—though you were very, very uneasy on the witness stand—you suddenly did not know what Classis West did to the Rev. H. Hoeksema and to the Rev. C. Hanko. Your Consistory advised very definite steps in regard to these men. Classis West adopted your advice. You, as the Stated Clerk sent out the information to all. the churches in our group and in yours; and yet when attorney Vander Kooi asked you what Classis West did to these brethren, you said that you did not know what Classis West did to these men, at least that you did not know what happened to these men according to the decision of Classis. When Mr. Vander Kooi would not let you go but pressed you hard for the truth, you know that you had to use the subterfuge of saying that you could not change the decision of the Classis. Before God in whose name you swore, you threw away the “you must, you must, you must” of conditional theology and revealed that you still despised that door for fraternal discussion which the Church Order prescribes.
As long as that is the attitude of the “Classis West” of which Rev. Gritters is Stated Clerk, it is folly to talk of fraternal discussion.
Fraternal discussion is possible. Make no mistake about that.
And fraternal discussion of the doctrinal and political aspects of the matters which brought about this separation in our churches we heartily welcome. If it could be realized, we would rejoice in it.
But then, first of all, those who closed the door, “Classis West” of which Rev. Gritters is the Stated Clerk must confess the evil they committed in closing the door and of dealing so unbrotherly with Classis East of the Protestant Reformed Churches and with the Consistory of First Church.
That is dealing with the matter In His Fear.
If they will not do this, they do not sincerely desire fraternal discussion. There can be no other way.
Let them now open the door by confessing their error.