Events and trends in the CRC in Canada during the past twenty-five years

This being the twentyfifth anniversary issue of THE OUTLOOK (formerly TOJlCH AND TRUMPET) three articles on events and trends in church life during the past twenty-five years are being published at this time. Dr. Louis Praamsma (emeritus) of Hamilton, Ontario, writes on Events and Trends in are Christian Reformed Church in Canada During the Past Twenty-five years.

What happened in the past quarter of a century to the Christian Reformed Churches in Canada; how did they live and work; how can they be characterized?

It would be overly pretentious if this article would claim to answer these questions in any sufficient measure; its only purpose is to give a thumbnail sketch, some personal glimpses and impressions. The future historian possessing all the data can better assess the merits and demerits of this period.

Count your many blessings! – The only proper thing to do is to praise the Lord for His many blessings in the first place.

Let us listen to the language of the statistics; in 1945 there were 455 Christian Reformed families in Canada and 14 congregations; in 1955 the number of families was 7,007 to be found in 114 congregations; in 1975 there were 15,510 families and 161 congregations.

On December 3, 1952, the first three Canadian classes were instituted (Hamilton, Chatham, and Eastern Ontario; there are now nine classes in Canada while seven Canadian churches are incorporated in Classis Minnesota North; these classes send their delegates not only to the annual Synod of our churches, but also to the Canadian Council of Christian Reformed Churches; one of the last acts of that council has been the appointment of a missionary to Indians and Metis in Canada – Rev. H. De Bruyn of Winnipeg).

In the same period of time there has been a wonderful growth in the number of Christian schools in Canada; it is true that these schools are not church schools, but free Christian schools; it is equally true that by far most members of the Christian School societies belong to Christian Reformed Churches. Twenty-five years ago there were only a handful of them; now there are 77 Christian schools in Canada, ten of which are Christian High Schools.

Most of the Dutch immigrants on arriving in this country had to work on farms or perform low paying menial jobs; that picture has changed in many ways; but we should think of it considering the figures mentioned above; they illustrate the real sacrifices which have been made to serve the Lord and keep His covenant.

Also the struggle of the Christian Labor Movement should be mentioned, it was often a very hard struggle; and also the enthusiasm of the ARSS, which later changed into the AACS, the Institute for Higher Learning in Toronto; also the Christian Farmers Union; and also the considerable influence of the weekly paper Calvinist Contact.

The picture given is far from complete, and I bypassed many bones of contention; but it may be gratefully stated that the Lord raised, protected, and increased His people belonging to our denomination in Canada and made them faithful in many ways.

Second Generation – In the centennial year of the Christian Reformed Church (1957) President John H. Kromminga of Calvin Seminary wrote the following words concerning the CRC in Canada: “What is found there in the main is a Dutch tradition which has been transplanted but not fully translated, It is on Canadian soil, but has only begun the process of being Canadianized.”1

In the same vein Rev, Tenis C, Van Kooten wrote in 1959 about three generations of immigrants; the first one “retains the old particularly in their thinking and reactions”; the second one is “the generation of conflict,” conflict between the old and new situation; the third one “grows up in a home whose parents are native Canadians, hence they will not have to contend with a dualism in the home.”2

These observations are true to fact, although a straight line between the second and third generations can hardly be drawn; it can be safely stated, however, that the days of the 6rst generation of immigrants are over. Whereas there were 17 American home missionaries working in Canada 25 years ago—missionaries whose paternal care is gratefully remembered the situation has changed completely and no American home missionary is working in Canada any more.

The same is true as far as the relation to the churches in the Netherlands is concerned; until about 1960 the majority of the Canadian ministers were called from Holland; since then the Dutch immigration has virtually stopped and also the “import” of Dutch ministers has stopped; as a matter of fact several of them have returned to the old country; and in most cases the supply for the ministry is provided by sons of immigrants who have studied in Grand Rapids.

In public meetings the Dutch language is rarely spoken; services in the Dutch language are still held in some places and sparsely attended; the language of the regular services has completely changed over to English.

Does this mean a period of conflict? No, the time of conflict concerning language and tradition is largely passed.

Does it mean a period of Canadianization? Yes, to a certain extent; most of our members love their country and are interested in several aspects of the life of that country, they want to be good and loyal citizens, Yet they sometimes still have the feeling of being one of the many “ethnic” entities of the land; and the question, “how to be a blessing to this country,” is still a very difficult one to answer.


Trends of the time – Our time is marked by a good deal of rationalism and by a reaction of irrationalism; by an overdose of intellectualism and by a reaction of emotionalism.

Both ways of thinking are subjectivistic, man-centered; and the Bible, the objective truth of God which He applies by His Holy Spirit to the human heart, is consequently discredited.

The reasonable man talks and talks; he talks much about the Bible, about its origin and the possible origin of its origin; he organizes and organizes; the one committee after the other committee, all for in depth studies; the world will be reformed by intelligence.

The emotional man walks and walks; he walks from the one full-gospel meeting to the other one; from the one faith healer to the other one; he likes ecstasy, rapture; he lives in another world of perfect holiness.

One battlefield – At times the idea is being advocated that there is, in the CRC, a Canadian point of view to be contrasted with an American point of view.

This is simply not true; on both sides of the long borderline we are exposed to the same trends of the time; on both sides there are similar differences of opinion; perhaps the Canadians have some closer ties with Holland, but works of Kuitert were translated by an American; perhaps the Americans have been confronted more often with some excesses of revivalism of perfectionism, but a Canadian classis brought the problems of Pentecostalism to the attention of Synod.

I would like to mention some common problems; space does not allow me to elaborate.

1. In the first place, the authority and infallibility of Holy Scripture is at stake. The New Theology which is rampant in Holland made its inroads also in Canada and the U.S, It stresses first the humanity of the written Word of God; then it tells us many things about its supposed sources (oral traditions, folklore, legends, tales of rabbi’s, etc.); then it picks its choice of what is time-bound and what is real thing; without blushing it declares that we know more than the apostle Paul.

This theology usually has a blind belief in the theory of evolution which first discredits the first chapters of the Bible and does not stop before having changed the last pages of this book into a picture of a great society to come in the way of kingdom-development.

It would be a great comfort to the people of God if all our men of science, both in Grand Rapids and in Toronto, would clearly show that they realize the viciousness of the attacks on the written Word of God and that they are defending it with all the power of their thinking and speaking.

2. In the second place: the central place of justification by faith only, that foundation-stone of the believer, rediscovered in the time of the great Reformation, is at stake.

That justification is removed from its predominant place by those holiness-movements which claim that a Christian should be perfect and therefore can be perfect in this life; that he does not need, therefore, every day and to his last moment the cleansing blood of the Lord Jesus in the first place.

There is also the possibility of a similar shifting of emphasis elsewhere, and I would like to quote the following words of Dr. S. J. Ridderbos: “In their continuation of Kuyper’s struggle for a Christian culture his followers should be on their guard against much overboldness an overrating of the ‘small beginnings.’ The only possible way to do it is to live, not only in the church but also in the broad area of culture, from justification by faith only, and not to put forward the renewed character of a Christian culture in a one-sided manner.”3

We should appreciate and promote Christian action in all areas of life; but the question is sometimes asked among us: is not the work of Christ the Priest overshadowed by that of Christ the King? Does not the loss of the right balance show itself in some kind of legalism and in a type of social-preaching without comfort? Is it not sometimes forgotten that we have only small beginnings of the new obedience and that our Christian action even in its best representatives and representations needs the cleansing blood of our Savior?

3. I would mention in the third place a sometimes immature and uncharitable criticism of the organized church. On the one hand we find that merciless criticism often among people with pentecostal leanings; on the other hand we find it in a very outspoken manner among people who claim to speak “out of concern for the Church.” We do not doubt the seriousness of that claim but what we really doubt is whether it is helpful when it is written that “our deepest drives (in the CRC) are marked by hypocrisy” and that we seek our refuge in “a verbalized doctrinal, theological faith, a brainfaith, a mouth-faith, a paperfaith”; and all this because we miss in our churches the one thing needful, i.e., the kingdom-vision. I called these words uncharitable and as far as Canada is concerned we have experienced in the period of the last 25 years many uncharitable discussions and situations. Is this perhaps one of the reasons why so often a minister complains about his frustrations?

Our task – I realize that I could continue and that I have been very incomplete.

This article is already too long, however, and I can only point in some words to our task.

Our common task in the U.S. and Canada is that the CRC, founded on the Word of God and enriched by the invaluable heritage of its classic Reformed confessions, should be what is claims to be: a witness of God‘s unchangeable truth, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the midst of a changing world.

We need the grace of God in our personal life and in our family life; we need knowledge of the truth and application of that truths in our contact with our neighbors and in our struggle against secularization, against the increasing godlessness of society.

We need study of the Word of God and prayer for the Holy Spirit; we need the fruits of the Spirit so that our light may shine before men, and they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.

1. J. H. Kromminga. In the Mirror. Hamilton, 1957, p. 79.

2. Tenis C. Van Kooten, Living in a New Country. Hamilton, 1959, pp. 90.

3. S. J. Ridderbos. De Theoiogische Cultvvrbeschouwing van Abraham Kuyper, 1947, p. 321.