The condition of the CRC is confusing at best. Challenges to the Bible’s teaching on its own inerrancy, on women in office, on creation, the feminization of God, abortion and homosexuality are being raised constantly. The pew wonders if anything is “for sure” anymore. The Council of the First Chino Christian Reformed Church in Chino, CA, prepared and unanimously endorsed an entire package which they presented to each household in their congregation. Basically, it says, “No matter what ideas you see flying in the denominational sky, here is where this church stands.” We laud First Chino CRC and encourage other congregations to follow suit. The Editors
First Christian Reformed Church
Ronald L. Scheuers, Pastor
Dear Fellow Members of First Chino,
As council members we have been mandated by God to give the best possible leadership that we can for the church. We appreciate your prayers for us in the past. and now ask for your prayers and support in avery important matter. Most of you know that this past June, synod decided to open the offices of elder, minister and evangelist to women. Synod 1994 will be asked to ratify this decision. Obviously this is a major departure from the historic position of the Reformed churches who have from their inception restricted these offices to men. How are we to give leadership on this critical issue? For this we request your fervent prayers.
We have announced to you by way of the bulletin. that we appointed a special committee to advise us on these matters. The committee consists of: John Verhoeven, chairman, Loren Struiksma, Jim Johnson, Jerry Sterk, Geoffrey Vanden Heuvel, and Rev. Scheuers as advisor. After reviewing the Acts of Synod 1993, the committee proposed and the council adopted a set of important guidelines under which we shall operate (copy attached). In accord with the guidelines the council unanimously adopted a statement of what we believe and where we stand on the issues. In an effort to dissuade the synod from ratifying its decision to open these offices to women we have sent an overture to this effect. We have also requested our pastor to address these issues in a positive fashion in a series of sermons. In the future, educational materials will be provided as well as opportunities to discuss and wrestle with these issues together as we become well informed about them.
Perhaps you may ask why synod’s decision is of such great concern to us. There are basically two reasons. As you see from the council’s statements, we believe the decision of Synod 1993 is not in harmony with the teaching of Scripture. We believe that those who favor women in office use a method of Biblical interpretation which is very dangerous. There are those who admit that certain passages clearly restrict church office to men but who nevertheless say that such passages are ‘culturally bound,’ that is, they only applied to a specific time or place in the pest but have no binding effect upon us in our day. Using this principle one could argue, that what the Bible says about homosexuality, or abortion, or about God’s character, etc., applied only to the time the Bible was written, but it no longer applies to us today. Once we accept this method of interpreting Scripture we have lost the foundation for our faith and for the life of the church.
That brings us to our second reason tor concern. We believe that to set aside God’s Word in this fashion invalidates the church’s total witness to the world and makes obedient adherence to the Great Commission impossible. We want. with you, to reach our world for Christ. But we believe that we can only do this if we are faithful to God’s Word and do not send a mixed message to our community. If we are asking our wond to fully believe God’s Word, the least we must do is to fully believe it ourselves.
We kindly ask that you will read the enclosed materials, be much in prayer for us, the congregation and denomination as we struggle together with these matters. We want above all that Christ’s name be glorified, and that His Kingdom be promoted
Serving Christ Jesus with you,
STATEMENT OF THE COUNCIL FIRST CHINO CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH
Because of the confusion surrounding recent actions and trends in our denomination, the council of the First Chino Christian Reformed Church seeks in this document to clearly communicate our position on various issues.
We believe that it is the fundamental duty of the church to preach the gospel, faithfully administer the sacraments, and seek: to make and nurture disciples of Jesus Christ.
We believe that the basis for all that the church believes and teaches both in faith and in practice is the infallible and inerrant Holy Bible.
We believe that Scripture’s authority extends to all that it teaches and binds our consciences, theories and behavior.
We believe that to set aside God’s Word invalidates the church’s total witness to the world and makes obedient adherence to the Great Commission impossible.
We believe that Synod 1993 of the Christian Reformed Church acted in direct contradiction to the clear teaching of Scripture in I Timothy 2 & 3, Titus I, and I Corinthians 14 when it decided to allow women to hold the office of elder and minister in the church.
In the following statement, to which we have subscribed our names, we wish to explain our position on a related number of issues facing the church, and distance ourselves from those actions of Synod 1993 which we consider to be contrary to the Scriptures.
As members of the council of First Christian Reformed Church of Chino, California, we take seriously our commission from Christ both to contend for and to promote the truth of the gospel as expressed in the Reformed faith. Jude 3 urges us “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” In Matthew 28 Christ commands the church, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This dual commission, to contend for and promote the faith, we have promised, by way of our oath of office and now promise with new urgency, to fulfill to the best of our abilities.
We believe that we can only preach the gospel and carry out the Great Commission in our community and world if we stand firmly on the clear teachings of Scripture. The Lord will not bless a people or church that disobeys His will. At the same time we find ourselves in a denomination, which by its official decisions and practices, has begun to change its view of the Word of God and the Word’s place of authority in the life of the church. Disastrous results have begun to set in: some congregations have left the denomination or are contemplating doing so; churches are filled with tensions; confusion abounds; the public witnesses a divided church. In short, because of the questions raised about God’s Word and its functioning in the life of the church, our witness is being hindered. When a denomination becomes disobedient to the Scripture, this action undermines the local church’s main mission, which is to proclaim and live by the Word until Christ returns.
Synod 1993’s decision to allow women to serve as elders and ministers in the church is one major symptom of this trend in the CRC, where the Word no longer functions authoritatively. To be sure this is only one symptom among many. The major problem, as we see it, is what this decision does to the Bible. If the Bible can no longer be trusted to speak authoritatively on the issue of women in office, it cannot function as the basis for our salvation, for God cannot lie. If at any point we set aside God’s Word, we invalidate our witness. In the past 2,000 years the church has listened to the Word and prohibited women from holding these offices. While we must do everything legitimate to use all the gifts of our members, we are also commanded to obey everything the Lord commands. While in past history we may not have adequately done the former, this does not give us permission to now disobey the pattern of authority found in the Bible. A church that ignores the Biblical pattern for ecclesiastical authority is, in fact, a church that has lost its Biblical authority, including its authority to call people to faith in Christ.
The proposal to open the offices to women has been rejected on Biblical grounds again and again during the last 20 plus years. Article 31 of our Church Order requires that a request to change a decision of synod “be honored only if sufficient and new grounds for reconsideration are presented.” And Article 29 says that “decisions of the assemblies shall be considered settled and binding, unless it is proved that they conflict with the Word. of God or the Church Order.” And yet, though such proof has never been presented, and no new and sufficient grounds have been put forward. Synod 1993 opened these offices anyway, in violation of its own rules. The synod said with respect to opening these offices, “This action is permitted by Scripture” (Acts of Synod, 1993, p. 596). And as grounds for this decision, all the old arguments are presented. Nothing new. Certainly nothing sufficient.
Those who wish to ordain women to church office can only do so by trying to explain away the teaching of the Bible. We believe that the Bible as a whole simply does not allow for the ordination of women to church office. We do not believe the Bible was written just for a specific time, as if it does not apply today. We believe the Bible’s teaching prohibiting women from office is not a fault or flaw in the Bible. Specific passages, as well as the Bible as a whole, simply do not allow this. We take the Bible to mean what it says. We believe that the Bible is our only authority on this issue and that we must submit to it and live according to it. We take seriously what is clearly taught in the whole flow of Biblical teaching and especially such passages as I Timothy 2 and 3, Titus 1, I Corinthians 14 and Acts 6 which demonstrate that God does not allow for women to be ordained to ecclesiastical office.
We believe, in the words of Synod 1984, “that the headship principle, which means that the man should exercise primary leadership and direction-setting in the home and in the church, is a Biblical teaching recognized in both the Old and the New Testament” (Acts of Synod, 1984, p. 623), and that this headship of man in the church implies that women should not be admitted to church office.
On the other side of the issue, as Norman Shepherd has well argued in his fine booklet dealing with this issue, Women In The Service of Christ.
Although Galatians 3:28 has emerged as the principle text on which the case for women in office rests, the fact is that this text has nothing to do with that issue. The verse teaches oneness in Christ with respect to salvation. Without any warrant from the text or the context, this oneness is transformed into a social theory of equality, and equality is assumed to mean equal access to the special offices, though Paul does not draw this conclusion, nor is he dealing with this subject in the narrower context or in the letter as a whole.
In fact, the Synod of 1991 set up a special committee to gather from twenty years of discussion the Biblical grounds for opening ecclesiastical office to women. At its conclusion the committee, in effect, reports that there are none. By the church’s own admission, none of the arguments put forward give us warrant to open the offices to women. And those who insist that we should do so anyway should learn from past history that the Lord’s blessing will not rest on those who disobey His Word. Our sister church, the GKN in the Netherlands, which accepted these changes some 20 years ago, is today a mere shell of its former self. Many of our own country’s liberal denominations which have bought into a faulty view of God’s Word, have ceased to be salt and light in our world. Ignoring the Word results in a forfeiture of one’s witness to the truth.
In order to keep our witness vibrant, we feel it necessary herewith to express openly our united stance on the Word of God, as well as our position on those difficult questions debated in our times, which are dearly connected to and derive from our stand on God’s Word. It is our prayer that this statement will help to strengthen the church in its witness to the world.
I.The Inerrancy of Scripture
1. That the Scripture is the very Word of God written. Since God can neither lie, be mistaken nor change, His Word cannot contain error. Therefore, Scripture is inerrant.
2. That Scripture’s authority extends to all that it actually teaches. The careful study of Scripture will sometimes require us to correct our traditional views of what it says. But once the actual teachings of Scripture are ascertained, they bind our consciences, our theories and our behavior. They take precedence over any rival claims to knowledge.
3. That God’s special revelation in the Bible is compatible in every respect with His general revelation in nature. Human interpretations of general revelation, however, must submit to the authority of special revelation.
4. That Scripture’s primary subject is the message of redemption from sin through Jesus Christ. But all Scripture’s subject matter is God’s Word and always true. When Scripture speaks to matters of history, science, ethics or anything else, it is true and authoritative, and it governs our thinking in these areas.
5. That the infallibility of Scripture necessarily implies the inerrancy of Scripture. II Timothy 3:16,17; II Peter 1:20,21; Mark 13:31; Revelation 22:18,19; Belgic Confession Articles 3 & 7
II. The Interpretation of Scripture
1. That since the Scripture is the Word of God, it is a unity and cannot contradict itself.
2. That the meaning of Scripture must be learned through the faithful and accurate interpretation of the text of Scripture. The meaning of Scripture is not established by tradition, by appeals to continuing revelation or simply by the decisions of church councils.
3. That in the process of interpretation, understanding the original intent of the human author. the literary character of a specific text, the need to compare one text with another, the role of specific texts in the progressive unfolding of revelation, and the Christ-centered dimension of all Scripture are essential.
4. That interpreters of Scripture must seek to recognize and overcome their own limitations of ignorance and sin. They need the illumination of the Holy Spirit for their work. Faithful interpreters always seek to stand under the Word of God, not over it.
5. That a scholarly study of the Bible does not and must not undermine the clarity of Scripture. Biblical examples of incorrect interpretations: Satan in Genesis 3:1–5; The man of Judah in I Kings 13, Satan again in Matthew 4:1.
Biblical interpretation teaching: Matthew 11:1; I Corinthians 2:13; Belgic Confession Articles 2 & 7
III. Genesis 1–3
1. That the Book of Genesis was written by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in all its parts is an accurate, historical presentation.
2. That Genesis 1 teaches that God created everything out of nothing and that He created it good.
3.That God created the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and the first woman, Eve, from that man. The first man was a unique creation of God, not descending from any previously existing creature. All human beings are descended from these first parents.
4. That at creation each creature was made according to its own kind, thus ruling out the notion that the various creatures evolved from one form of life (Genesis 1, I Corinthians 15:39).
Genesis 1–11; Hebrews 1:2,10; Hebrews 11:3; Mark 10:6;Belgic Confession 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 23
IV. The Ordination of Women
1. That men and women equally bear the image ofGod and are to serve Him with all their gifts according to His specific callings to them.
2. That from creation men were given authority and ultimate leadership in the family and in the church.
3. That Christ, as He makes clear in His Word, does not call women to the authoritative offices of teaching elder (minister) and ruling elder in the church and therefore the church may not ordain them to these offices.
4. That the purpose of the spiritual gifts given to men and women in Christ is not self-fulfillment but service to others, to the end that God receives all the glory. I Timothy 2 & 3; Titus 1; I Corinthians 14
V. Feminization of God
1. That each member of the Trinity receives a male reference in the Bible, not as a result of a cultural bias of a previous age, but because this is how God chooses to reveal and characterize Himself.
2. That God is indeed our Father, Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and that the Holy Spirit served in a male functional role in the conception of Jesus with the virgin Mary.
3. That any substitution of the term “goddess” for God, as is being done by “evangelical feminists” and New Age thinkers, is blasphemy.
4. That it is error to teach that the Bible should be changed to reflect gender neutral titles in its references to God. Matthew 6:9; Luke 1:34,35
1. That the unborn child from conception is a human being in the image of God.
2. That abortion as practiced today is a scandal and grievous sin.
3. That the Christian community must teach and exemplify Biblically responsible sexuality and reproduction and must seek to provide support services for pregnant women in order to facilitate the choice of a live birth.
4. That Christians must support all moral efforts to protect the life of the unborn in our land and throughout the world. Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5
1. That homosexual desires and actions are a result of the Fall and are sinful.
2. That homosexuals who give in to these desires and actions or who argue their legitimacy, like all sinners, must be clearly called to repentance and faith. The unrepentant must be disciplined by the church. Those who practice or advocate homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle must not be ordained to ecclesiastical office.
3. That Christians must provide loving support and care for those struggling against homosexual temptations, encouraging them to seek forgiveness and grace to overcome their temptations.
4. That the church acts contrary to love for God and its neighbor when it declares morally neutral anything which God has declared sinful. I Corinthians 6:9–11; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26–27; Genesis 19
Herewith we have set our names, this 8th day of November 1993, trusting God that He will bless our witness to the world and call all His elect children to Himself through the testimony of His Word and by His Spirit.
Signatures: All 24 Council Members
For many of the above statements we are indebted to the faculty and board of Westminster Theological Seminary of California which are currently considering some of these statements for their own purposes. On the other hand, our statement as is printed, is not intended to speak for the Westminster community.