Book: The History of the Protestant Reformed Churches (1924-1936)

Chapter 5 - The Synod of Kalamazoo: what it decided.

              We must now return to the work of the committee of pre-advice.

            On Tuesday, July 1, almost two weeks after synod first convened, it was ready with its report.

            The report consists of three main parts.

            In the first part the committee enumerates the various overtures and protests that had been filed with synod in connection with the common grace question.

            The second part represents the judgment of the committee regarding the legality of these various documents.

            The third part contains the advice of the committee regarding the contents of these documents and concerning the question itself.  This third part is again subdivided.  In the first subdivision the committee offers a list of the different points of doctrine involved in the case and submitted to the attention of the synod by the protests and overtures.  In the second subdivision the committee discards several of these points of doctrine, that, in its judgment, are more or less irrelevant; and singles out three doctrinal matters that are, in its opinion, of essential importance, viz., the general grace of God, the restraint of sin, and the ability of the natural man to do good. The third subdivision contains the advice of the committee with regard to these essential pints of doctrine, as well as its advice concerning the question of disciplining the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema.  The fourth subdivision deals with the problem of common grace in general, and advises synod not to formulate any dogma concerning that theory, but to urge all the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches to apply themselves diligently to the study of that problem.

            The whole is concluded by a testimony to the Churches in general.

            It is of importance to note that the  report cannot be found in full in the Acta of 1924.  True, in the Acta the report of the committee is introduced by the following: “The report of the committee of pre-advice concerning the common grace question is read by the reporter, Doctor C Bouma; it follows here in its entirety.” But this last statement is not true.  The following part, which ought to be inserted in the report on p. 134 of theActa, was left out: “If synod adopts the above-mentioned points, the question arises, whether synod ought to make it a case of a discipline immediately and bring the objections against the pastors Danhof and Hoeksema to the attention of the consistories concerned.  Your committee is of the opinion that this would not be the more desirable mode of procedure.  First, because the brethren, according to their own repeated declarations do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach the Reformed doctrine as contained in the Holy Scripture and the Confessions, and we will gladly assume that they erred in good faith.  Secondly, because it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths, even thought it be with an inclination to one-sidedness.

            “However, your committee advises that Synod through its president:

            “ (1) Seriously admonish the brethren with respect to their departures and demand of them the promise that in the future they will abide by the three points declared by the synod.

            “(2) Urge the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema that they refrain from making propaganda for their dissenting views regarding the three points, in the churches.

            “(3) Point out to the brethren, that if it should appear, either now or in the future, that they will not abide by the decisions of synod, the latter to its profound regret will have to make the case pending with the consistories.”

            The reader will notice that it was the intention of the committee to make a covenant with the two accused pastors, a covenant that consisted of a condition, a promise, and a penalty.  The condition was: abide by the three points.  The promise: we will not bring your case to your consistories.  The penalty: if you prove disobedient, we will make the case pending with the consistories and demand discipline.

            The careful reader will likewise observe that the committee intended to turn the ecclesiastical screws rather tight.  First, the synod was to exact from the brethren a promise that they would abide by the three points; then, presumably after the brethren had promised the foregoing, the screws were to be given an extra twist and the two brethren were to be urged to abide by the three points; (“urge the brethren not to make propaganda against the three points”); and, lastly, lest the two brethren should ever attempt to tamper with the synodical screws, they were to be threatened with discipline in case they would not abide by the three points.

            From this it is also evident that the committee would not trust the two pastors any too well, if they should have experienced as sudden doctrinal conversion on the floor of synod (as the committee, evidently, considered possible), and promised what was demanded of them!  For, after the two pastors would have promised to abide by the three pints, the committee intended that the synodical president should urge them to keep their promise; and after they had so promised and listened to an insulting admonition to keep their promise, the committee proposed that the two pastors should be threatened with ecclesiastical extinction should they fail to keep their promise.

            Surely, the committee of pre-advice had intended a sound synodical spanking for the two culprits!

            The motive for this strange suggestion of synodical discipline is alleged to be that the committee gladly assumes that the two brethren erred in good faith!

            As if that were a sound reason why heretics should not be treated by their consistories!

            But, perhaps the committee had honestly introspected itself, it would have discovered another reason, why it preferred a synodical spanking rather than the usual order of discipline.  For, was there not every reason top believe that the consistories of Kalamazoo I and of Eastern Avenue would ignore the synodical mandate to discipline their pastors in this case?

However this may be, the important point is that synod did not adopt this part of the committee’s advice.  Later it adopted a substitute motion from which this entire section was eliminated.  And by adopting this substitute motion the synod naturally rejected the advice of its committee.  This is the more important in view of the fact that the substitute motion was passed after both the accused pastors had plainly and emphatically declared (the Reverend Hoeksema during his one speech he was allowed to make), that they did not agree with the contents of the three points and would never abide by them.  Nor was the synodical decision altered when the Reverend H. Danhof delivered a written protest to synod, in which he expressed elaborately his objection against the declarations and decisions of synod regarding the three points, and plainly stated that he would employ every means at his command to oppose them.

            These plain facts prove beyond a shadow of doubt, that synod did not want discipline.

            They also most clearly and convincingly disprove the interpretation that later was given of this omission on the part of synod, as if synod had been motivated by leniency and longsuffering in this rejection of the advice of its committee to discipline, on the floor of the synod, the two pastors.  One ceases to be lenient with a culprit that is openly rebellious and refuses blankly to mend his ways!

            And, finally, they characterize the subsequent action against the two pastors by the Classes grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids West, as a most wanton assumption of authority and violation of the decisions of synod in this case.

            How the section containing the advice to admonish the two pastors was eliminated form the official report in the Acta must remain a mystery.

            Doctor H. Beets, the state clerk of synod, testified in the Circuit Court of Grand Rapids that, when he received the report the section had been “blue pencilled.”

            Synod did not as readily adopt the report of its advisory committee as might have been expected.

            The trouble started when the doctrinal propositions of the committee became the subject of discussion on the floor of the synod.  Especially the declaration of the committee concerning god’s grace on the ungodly reprobates, which in different form was finally adopted in the “First Point,” caused a good deal of wrangling.

            The committee, after quoting quite at random from the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema some passages in which they limit the grace of God to the elect only, advised synod to adopt the following statement: “These expressions your committee deems to be in conflict with Holy Scripture, since according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established that God is favorably inclined and gives grace to those whom Scripture designates as ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.”

            This declaration, and especially the last part of it, received the lion’s share of the synod’s attention.  The other of the three “essential” points of doctrine were hardly considered.  No less than nine sessions of synod were devoted to the deliberation on the “First Point.”  To the synod it did not appear to be so obvious as to the committee that God is gracious to the reprobates, and that whenever the word of God speaks of the ungodly and the unrighteous the reprobates are necessarily included.  Even though the committee had referred to different passages from Scripture and from the Confessions to prove their point, synod did not seem to be prepared to adopt its declarations and advice.

            Several substitute motions were offered.

            One of these, presented on the evening of July 3, when synod was still in confusion on the matter under consideration, read as follows: “Synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confessions it is established, not only that God is filled with wrath against the reprobates because of their sin, but also that He is favorable inclined and bestows blessings upon those whom Scripture calls the ungodly and unrighteous, which, of course, includes the reprobates.

            No one seems to know that became of this motion, which, it must be acknowledge, is hardly an improvement upon the original of the committee.  In the general confusion it was probably forgotten that this motion was before the meeting.  It was never submitted to a vote.

            Mention deserves the substitute motion that was offered by the Reverend Manni.  It reads as follow: “Synod having duly considered the advice of the committee of pre-advice in the matter of the protests and objections against the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, decides to drop the common-grace case for the present, with the earnest admonition that thorough study be made of this matter, in the spirit of brotherly and mutual appreciation.

            “In order to execute this thorough study synod decides to appoint a large committee of which also the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema shall be members, which shall serve the next synod with more light on this very significant problem.

            “Finally, synod declares that the protestants (whose good intentions synod appreciates0 must be satisfied with this decision and abide by it, considering that synod is of the opinion that the time is not yet ripe for a more definite expression on the problem before which it was placed by the protestants.”

            This substitute motion is significant.

            First of all, because it was by far the truest reflection of the actual condition of the synod on the evening of July 3, after it had deliberated on the common grace question for several sessions, that was expressed.  the reader understands, that it is not the personal opinion of the Reverend Manni that is expressed in the motion, but his appraisal of the synodical state of mind.  From the wrangling and confusion on the floor of the synod he rightly judged that synod was not ready to formulate a sound opinion.  Neither the report of the committee, nor the synodical deliberations had sufficiently illuminated the synodical mind.

            And, secondly, the motion is significant, because it pointed out a better way.  Although in justice tot he Reverends Danhof and Hoeksema synod should have declared that the protestants had not succeeded to prove that the views of the two pastors were unreformed; and thought, for the rest, synod might have left the common grace question to the free discussion in the churches; yet, it must be admitted that he way the Reverend Manni pointed out was far preferable to the direction in which the committee advised synod to go.

            But synod was destined not to prefer the better way.

            The motion of the Reverend Manni was discussed until it was time to adjourn.

            Synod took a recess until July 7.

            We learn from the Act (p. 145) that when synod reconvened Doctor C. Bouma addressed the synod to explain the report of the committee.  This address occupied almost the entire afternoon session.  After this speech had been delivered the motion of the Reverend Manni was submitted to a vote and was rejected.

            Another substitute motion, that had, evidently, been prepared during the days of recess was now offered and after a brief discussion in the evening session of July 7 it was adopted.

            The final motion, that became the decision of the synod in the common grace question, consisted of four parts.  The first part contains three doctrinal declarations, the “Three Points”.  The second part expresses a judgment of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.  The third part is a testimony to the churches in general.  And the last part is a statement concerning the theory of common grace.

            The “Three Points” read as follows:

                "1. Regarding the first point, touching the favorable attitude of God toward mankind in general and not only toward the elect, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession it is established, that besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect unto eternal life, there is also a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, II, 5 and II, IV, 8,9, where the general offer of the gospel is set forth; while it is also evident from the citations made from Reformed writers belonging to the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "2. Regarding the second point touching the restraint of sin in the life of the individual man and of society in general, synod declares that according  to Scripture and the Confession there is such a restraint of sin. This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Netherland Confession Art. 13 and 36, which teach that God by a general operation of His Sprit, without renewing the heart, restrains the unbridled manifestation of sin, so that life in human society remains possible; while the citations from the Reformed authors of the most flourishing period of Reformed Theology proves, moreover, that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                "3. Regarding the third point, touching the performance of so-called civic righteousness by the unregenerated, synod declares that according to Scripture and the Confession, the unregenerate, though incapable of doing any spiritual good (Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 3) are able to perform such civic good.  This is evident from the Scripture passages that were quoted and from the Canons of Dordt, III, IV, 4, and from theNetherland Confession, Art. 36, which teach that God without renewing the heart, exercises sucyh an influence upon man that he is enabled to do civic good; while it is, moreover, evident from the citations made from Reformed writers of the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our fathers from of old maintained this view."

                For a discussion of these doctrinal declarations we refer the reader to the second part of this book.

                The second part of the synodical decisions contains an opinion of the views of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema and an admonition addressed to the two brethren and to the churches in general.

                The synodical judgment regarding the teachings of the two pastors read as follows: "synod expresses that several statements in the writings of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confession teach us regarding the above mentioned three points.  Synod also judges that the pastors referred to, in their writings use some strong expressions, from which it is evident that in their presentation of the truth they do not sufficiently adhere to the way in which our confessions express themselves, especially Point I of the Utrecht Conclusions.

"On the other hand, synod declares that these ministers in their writings, according to their own repeated declarations, do not intend or purpose anything else than to teach and maintain our Reformed doctrine, the doctrine of Scripture and the Confessions; and it cannot be denied that they are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions even though it be with an inclination to one-sidedness."

                This judgment of the synod is partly true.

                It speaks the truth when it testifies of the two pastors that they never intended anything else than the propagation and development of the Reformed truth.  And they also faithfully accomplished this purpose. Again, synod speaks the truth when it declares that it cannot be denied that the two pastors are Reformed in respect to the fundamental truths as they are formulated in the Confessions.  The two pastors may well be grateful for this testimonial respecting their soundness in Reformed doctrine, especially in view of the fact that that it was an admission made by a synod that had tried them for heresy.  And, on the other hand, the Christian Reformed Churches may well be ashamed that they, nevertheless, cast out of their synagogue two pastors concerning whose doctrinal soundness they offered such a splendid and unsolicited testimony.

            They are witnesses against themselves that in 1924 they would not tolerate in their fellowship ministers that were fundamentally Reformed, but whom they nevertheless expelled form their midst because of their doctrine.

            The synodical judgment, however, is also partly untrue.

            It is false when it declares that several statements in the writings of the two pastors cannot very well be harmonized with what Scripture and the Confessions teach regarding the three points. It is, indeed, true that the statements referred to do not agree with the three points.  And we may add that no statements in their writings agree with these points.  But the reason for the disharmony must be sought in the fact that the “three Points” do not agree with the Scriptures and the confessions.  For exhaustive proof of this assertion we refer the reader to the second part of this volume.

            Finally, the synodical judgment is self-contradictory.

            Did not synod declare three fundamental and essential points of doctrine?  Do not the “Three Points” deal with such important truths as the grace of God and the depravity of the natural man?  How, then, can synod at the same time declare that the two pastors deviate from the line of doctrine indicated by the “Three Points”; and the dissenting pastors are, nevertheless, fundamentally Reformed in the doctrines formulated in the Confessions?  Surely, if the Confessions teach what the “Three Points” declare about these fundamental truths, and if the two pastors disagree with the “Three Points,” they cannot be fundamentally Reformed.  On the other hand, if the two pastors are sound in the fundamental doctrines as formulated in the Confessions, it follows that they cannot be in conflict with the teaching of the Confessions regarding the “Three Points.”  In the latter case the “Three Points” must be regarded as themselves in conflict with the fundamental doctrines of the confessions and synod condemns its own declarations.

Synod also adopted the following admonitions:

“With a view to the deviating sentiments of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema regarding the above mentioned three points, and with a view to the controversy that arose in our Church regarding the doctrine of Common or General Grace, synod admonishes the two brethren to abide in their teaching and writing by the standpoint of our Confession regarding the three points that were discussed, and at the same time she admonishes the brethren and the Churches in general to refrain from all onesidedness in the presentation of the truth, and to express themselves carefully and with sobriety and modesty.

“On the other hand, in as far as the pastors H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema in their writings warn against worldly-mindedness, synod judges that there is, indeed, reason for such warning with a view to a possible misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace and, therefore, synod considers it its calling to send the following TESTIMONY to the churches.” (Here follows the testimony).

Whatever may have been the motive of synod in adopting these decisions, they certainly are unworthy of an ecclesiastical gathering.

It is and was not the calling of the synod to admonish, but to express a definite opinion and give advice in very concrete matters of doctrine and discipline.  In the Danhof-Hoeksema case there was a definite matter of doctrine and discipline before synod.  It was the task of that body to render a definite verdict with respect to the soundness or unsoundness of the teachings of the two pastors involved.  If synod found upon thorough investigation that the views of the accused pastors were in conflict with the Reformed Confessions, it was nothing but its plain duty to express this in unambiguous language.  And having rendered this verdict it would have been synod’s calling to inform the consistories of Kalamazoo I and Eastern Avenue of its decision in the matter and to advise these bodies to discipline their pastors.  On the other hand, if upon examination they found no guilt in the two pastors, if they discovered that the accused were fundamentally Reformed, they should have exonerated them in language that could leave no doubt.  Instead, after days of wrangling about the report of the committee it appears, that a most miserable compromise was attempted.  It is not improbable that those members of synod who were determined to effect the expulsion of the two pastors from the Church, began to realize that they would never gain an extreme decision in their favor; and fearful lest the two pastors should be exonerated, they consented to the compromise.

However this may be, the fact is that synod acted like the Sanhedrin in the case of Peter and John; they decided to admonish the brethren and let them go!

In one other respect the act of synod is comparable to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem in respect to Peter and John.

            For, just as the Jewish tribunal was well aware of the fact that the apostles would not heed their admonitions nor be terrified by their threats, so that the Synod of Kalamazoo was fully conscious that the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema would not alter their preaching and writing.  They had emphatically declared themselves on the “Three Points” before the whole synod.  They had revealed their attitude toward the synodical decisions in no ambiguous language.  And even after synod had decided to admonish the brethren to abide by the “Three Points,” the Reverend H. Danhof filed a protest against the decisions of synod, in which he declared that he would do all that was in his power to oppose the doctrine of the synodical declarations.  Yet, synod was satisfied with a mere admonition of the brethren!

And from one point of view synod’s action was more cowardly than that of the Jewish supreme court.

                The latter, at least, called the two apostles before them and actually did administer the admonition.  But synod did not even carry out its decision in any form, neither by the spoken word through its president, nor by letter through the clerk.  The Reverend Hoeksema was no longer present when synod took its decision in this matter, nor was he ever summoned to receive an admonition, nor was he officially informed of the synodical decisions.  Nor was the admonition administered to the Reverend Danhof, who was delegate and probably voted against the motion that he should be admonished!

                As to the “Testimony” synod decided to send to the churches, it read as follows:

              “Now synod expressed itself on three points that were at stake in the denial of Common Grace and thereby condemned the entire disregard for this doctrine, she feels constrained at the same time to warn our Churches and especially our leaders earnestly against all one-sided emphasis on and misuse of the doctrine of Common Grace.  It cannot be denied that there exists a real danger in this respect.  When Doctor Kuyper wrote his monumental work on this subject he revealed that he was not unconscious of the danger that some would be seduced by it to lose themselves in the world.  And even now history shows that this danger is more than imaginary.  And also Doctor Bavinck reminded us of this danger in his Dogmatics.

                “When we consider the direction in which the spirit of the time develops round about us, it cannot be denied that our present danger lies more in the direction of worldly-mindedness than of false seclusion.  Liberal theology of the present time really obliterates the distinction between the Church and the world.  It is more and more emphasized by many that the great significance of the Church lies in her influence upon social life.  The consciousness of a spiritual-ethical antithesis becomes increasingly vague in the minds of many to make room for an indefinite notion of a general brotherhood.  The preaching of the Word concerns itself largely with the periphery of life and does not penetrate into its spiritual center.  The doctrine of particular grace in Christ is more and more pushed to the background.  There is a strong tendency to bring theology into harmony with a science that stands in the service of infidelity.  Through the agency of the press and various inventions and discoveries, which as such are,--undoubtedly, to be regarded as good gifts of God, the sinful world is to a great extent carried into our Christian homes.

“Because of all these and similar influences, exerted upon us from every side it is peremptorily necessary that the Church keep watch over the fundamentals; and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.  May she never permit her preaching to degenerate into mere social treatises or literary productions.  Let her be vigilant that Christ and He crucified and risen always remain the heart of the preaching.  Constantly she must maintain the principle that the people of God are a peculiar people, living from their proper root, the root of faith.  With holy zeal she must constantly send forth the call to our people, especially to our youth: ‘And be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable will and perfect will of God.’ With the blessing of the Lord this will keep our churches form worldly-mindedness, that extinguishes the flame of spiritual ardor and deprives the Church of her power and beauty.

                What shall we say about this testimony?

                It proves clearly how conscious the synod was of the conflict between the so-called doctrine of Common Grace and the maintenance of the spiritual ethical antithesis of which this testimony speaks.  Nor only is this consciousness evident from the very fact that she deemed it necessary to accompany the declaration of the three points by this Testimony, but she also plainly expresses this consciousness of the existing conflict in the words: “and that, though she also maintains the above mentioned three points, she vindicates the spiritual-ethical antithesis tooth and nail.”  And in this respect the synod was right.  She is sadly mistaken, however, when she labors under the impression that a pious testimony will prevent the influence of a false doctrine.  The false doctrine is the theory of common grace, even in as far as it is officially adopted in the three points.  The inevitable result of that doctrine is obliteration of the distinction between the Church and the world, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, righteousness and unrighteousness.  And the practical fruit is worldliness.

                The “Testimony” never was sent to the churches!

                Outside of those that were present at the synod at the time this “Testimony” was read, and those that received or purchase an Acta of 1924, no one ever heard of it.

                Finally, with respect to the common grace question in general, synod adopted the following resolution.

                “In connection with the overtures that would urge synod to express itself on the doctrine of common grace as such, or to appoint a committee to study the matter, synod decides as follows:

                a. At the present to formulate no statement relative to the standpoint of the Church regarding the doctrine of general or common grace in every detail and all its implications.  Such a statement would presuppose that this doctrine had already been thoroughly considered and developed in all its details, which certainly is least of all the case.  Preparatory study, necessary to this purpose, is almost entirely wanting as yet.  Consequently, there is in the Reformed Churches as yet no consensus of opinion at all in this case.

                “b. Neither to appoint a committee to devote itself to the study of this matter, in order to reach the formulation of a dogma concerning this matter, which eventually may be received as part of the Confessions (Overture, Muskegon).

                “(1) Because dogmas are not made but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.  Participation in such a discussion must be as general as possible and must not be limited to a single group of churches.

                “(2) Because a certain truth must live clearly in the consciousness of the Church in general, or in the consciousness of a particular group of churches, before the Church is able to profess such a truth in her Confession.  It cannot be said, that this indispensable condition exists at the present or will exist after two or four years.

                “c. But to urge the leaders of our people, both ministers and professors, to make further study of the doctrine of common grace; that they give themselves account carefully of the problems that present themselves in connection with this matter, in sermons, lectures and publications.  It is very desirable that not a single individual or a small number of persons accomplish this task, but that many take part in it.  Grounds:

                “(1) This will be the most naturally conducive to a fruitful discussion of the question of Common Grace, and such an exchange of thoughts is the indispensable condition for the development of this truth.

                “(2) It will be instrumental to concentrate the attention of our people upon this doctrine, will serve to elucidate their conception of it and to cause them to feel its significance, so that they become increasingly conscious of this part of the contents of their faith.

                “(3) It will, undoubtedly, in the course of a few years, lead to a consensus of opinion in this matter, and thus it will gradually prepare the way in our churches for a united confession concerning Common Grace.”

                One who carefully compares this final resolution of synod with the preceding decisions of that body will find it difficult to discover the jewel of consistency.

                On the other hand, synod did not hesitate, in the midst of considerable confusion and difference of opinion to coin three new dogmas that are directly in conflict with the Reformed trend of thinking; on the other hand, it is rather belatedly mindful of the sound rule that “dogmas are not made, but are born out of the conflict of opinions, and, therefore, it is desirable that the establishment of a certain dogma be preceded by a lengthy exchange of opinions.”

                In the preceding decisions synod adopted the main fundamental tenets of the theory of common grace; in this last resolution it does not hesitate to declare that even all preparatory study, necessary for the formulation of a dogma of common grace is practically wanting.

                No doubt, this last resolution is by far the truest of all synod’s decisions.  If synod only had made this last declaration its starting point and proceeded accordingly, all would have been well.

                For the rest, it cannot escape the attention of the reader that this last resolution is somewhat derogatory of the work of others and smacks of conceit.  Preparatory study is almost entirely wanting with regard to the question of common grace!  But what, then, of the “monumental” work De Gemeene Gratie by Doctor A. Kuyper, Sr?  The synod of 1924, evidently, set this work aside as of no or little account, even as a preparatory study!

                And, as far as the earnest exhortation to the ministers and leaders of the churches is concerned to make a careful study of he question of common grace, one cannot fail to trace a strain of hypocrisy here.

                Forsooth!  Had not synod by its decisions in the common grace case killed all incentive to study this question, and, in fact, to study any question at all?  Were there in the Christian Reformed Churches two men that had earnestly begun to study the question like the two pastors that had just been condemned by synod because of their efforts?  Blindly the synod had condemned the fruit of their labors, without giving due consideration to what they had produced and published; without even considering the possibility that their view of the matter might be correct!  And after in this fashion having condemned the two pastors and having killed all incentive to study, synod brazenly adds that it is very desirous that as many as possible shall make study of the matter!

                Does it not call to one’ imagination the picture of the hangman, holding wide the noose, with two victims lying prostrate in the shade of the gallows, asking the question: Who likes to try next?

                Beside, the exhortation to study this question, as might be expected, proved rather futile.

                The request is far too general.  Everybody’s work is nobody’s work.  And, at the time of this writing, eleven years after the synodical exhortation was broadcast, no one responded, not even the broadcasters themselves!

                Nor is there any room left to study the question of common grace after the synod of 1924 raised  to dogmas the three main issues involved in the problem.  Synod put all its ministers and leaders in a strait-jacket, then addressed them and said: now, get a move on you, brethren!

                No, as far as the Christian Reformed churches are concerned, the matter is dead.

                There is no hope that the exhortation will ever bear positive fruit.

                  In the preceding chapter we characterized the Synod of Kalamazoo as a weak synod, ill prepared to deal with fundamental questions of doctrine.

                Our narrative of its transactions and decisions in the common grace case justified, we trust, our characterization.

                The synod of 1924 solved no problems.

                It did not advance the cause of the truth.

                But it did seriously tamper with the Reformed Confessions in its desperate attempt to make them teach the false doctrine of common grace.

                And it caused a good deal of trouble subsequently.

                It inserted the wedge, which the two Grand Rapids Classis only had to hammer in more deeply to cause a split in the Christian Reformed Churches.

                As the rest of this History will set forth.

Last modified on 27 March 2013
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