“I Am the Fourth Minister…”

“I am the Fourth Doctor…” was the title of an article which appeared in a leading national magazine a few years ago. Sellers of certain drugs, said the writer, hawk their products by means of dramatic television commercials which declare, “Three out of four doctors recommend…” Obviously the fourth doctor is way out of line! The author identified himself with this minority figure, and objected to the dishonesty of such advertising methods.

Advertisers aren’t the only ones which use the “three out of four” technique, however! Preachers do, too, and so we are told that the majority think this and that three out of four do something else. At the risk of being labelled as “isolationistic,” “old-fashioned,” or “narrow-minded,” I would like to say that there are a few points at which I’d like to be known as “the fourth minister.”



The Christian Reformed Church is now living in the second century of its existence, When we reached this milestone a few years ago, we rededicated ourselves to our distinctive and historical calling as a Christian church, saying that we would continue in boldness to proclaim the whole counsel of God to saints and sinners everywhere. Our missionary efforts at home and abroad are being intensified. Summer Workshop in Missions (S. W. I. M.) has become a regular and expanding program of youth participation; the Back to God Hour reaches from coast to coast and beyond; Minute Men for Missions is gaining momentum. We have found a “new frontier,” and we are experiencing a new awakening in missions interest.

The late Pope John XXIII was Time’s “Man of the Year,” but this does not deter us as we seek to maintain a right kind of isolation in the face of all kinds of councils: Vatican, World, Christian, etc. We are pledged to work for a Reformed theological seminary in Nigeria. We are renewed in our zeal to stand together on the solid rock of God’s infallible Word. Ours is a union cemented by the common conviction that our creeds truly confess that Word. We celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism regardless of the fact that such creeds are quite unfamiliar to the hosts around us. In a world marked by doctrinal compromise and instability we are going to dare to stand alone, if need be.

Isn’t that the symphony of the Christian Reformed Church?

Surely, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, and we require forgiveness every day! But our desire is to serve the Lord from the heart. Our resolve is to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the way in which I read the score of synodical decisions on key-issues in recent years. At all costs, we are going to stay with the historic, Reformed Christian faith!


There are a few items which clash rather than blend with this symphonic pattern.

What must we do if a Billy Graham type evangelistic campaign comes to our city? Some one wrote in our church papers recently that we ought to cooperate “just for once.” Another writer posed the question in connection with a Leighton Ford crusade in a Canadian city. What to do? Cooperate fully, said this adviser, for we simply cannot afford to do anything else. The rather widely-circulated Missianary Monthly chided the attitude of Classis Chicago South of the Christian Reformed Church for its unreadiness to go along with Graham’s great Chicago effort. It argued that the Spirit of God was manifestly present at these meetings, and we ought not to be absent when the Spirit is present.

Now here is my difficulty: Within the very bosom of the church which has made so many solemn and official pronouncements regarding its integrity as a confessionally Reformed Church such statements go unchallenged! I would like to think that this is because they are so exceptional as to go unnoticed, but I’m rather of the opinion that the effect of such articles is not minimal.

“I am the fourth minister…” I believe that we cannot say Yes to the Reformed Faith and to positions and persons that are in opposition to it.


Three out of four Christian Reformed ministers, I am told, belong to the ministerial associations in their communities. If this is true, let me identify myself again as the “fourth minister.” Why? Because I believe that membership in such organizations must involve us in things which can only distort our ecclesiastical symphony into a weird and distasteful cacophony.

During 1962 one of our younger pastors resigned his office due to lack of agreement with doctrines expressed in our creeds. This was a sad moment in our history, giving much pain to the congregation involved and to those called to adjudicate the matter. But, we might say, this man did the right thing when he acknowledged his deviation from the creeds and gave up his office. Had he not done so, he should have been disciplined and ultimately deposed.

Yes, but are we entitled to such attitudes jf. on the other hand, we promote fellowship and cooperation as ministers and as churches on a broad ecumenical basis in ministerial associations, Gospel crusades and inter-denominational prayer meetings? As an office-bearer the Church requires of its elders, deacons and pastors (not to mention professors of theology and even teachers in Calvin College) that they teach and defend the doctrines of the Reformed Faith without the slightest mental reservation. To that end we require official and repeated signing of the Form of Subscription. And in our Church Order we pledge ourselves to abide by synodical decisions unless we can show that they conflict with God’s Word.

What kind of an example to the flock is the minister, then, if the sheep see the strange spectacle of a kind of “world council” of clergymen on the level of the local ministerial association?

Again: I am the fourth minister. I think the church ought to be a harmonious symphony of tribute to God and his Christ. I don’t hear that kind of music when everyone may play his part according to a different score.