If the Shoe Fits . . .

The following is an excerpt translated from an article published in The Netherlands over the signature R.V.R. (pen name for Van Spronsen) under the title Reisindrukken VII (Travel-impressions) in De Reformatie of August 8, 1971. It should be of interest to know how others see us; and, if the shoe fit’s . . . well, read and judge for yourself.

“What docs happen is that all these churches (CRC and others) undergo a certain Americanization. They do not impregnate American life but American life docs impregnate these churches. The American philosophy of pragmatism, together with a spirit of great superficiality, is encountered everywhere.

“The ignorance is so great as to be alarming; and you ask yourself, what have they learned at catechism and at the Christian schools? What do they know about church history and about the origin of the creeds? Yes, what do they know about their own brief history that began with Van Raalte and Scholte?

“I asked different young people what they know of the origin of Pella, what they knew of the struggle and the affliction that Van Raalte and his colonists at one time suffered in the primitive forests of what is now called Holland [Michiganl. They know nothing of this. All attention is fastened on the present, a car, sport, and a job.

“The church is a social manifestation. One should belong to it, and the worship services are designated to make this social communication as pleasant as possible. A great deal of liturgy and short, superficial little sermons that require no brain work.

“As a result the sermon is no longer the subject of discussion when folks fellowship around the richly furnished coffee table. It means nothing to people. I think this to be the explanation for the fact that there are a lot of young people of the Christian Reformed Church also who, due to a reaction to superficiality and emptiness, are searching for what they want in movements that we in The Netherlands call Pentecost movements.

“The young people say: we need nothing more than the Bible and we must return to the condition of the first Christian congregations. At that time there was prayer-healing, each one personally had the Holy Spirit and could speak in strange tongues. We must once again have a burning love for our neighbor, be ready to help each other, and we must go through life with the Bible in hand and always he prepared to testify as to what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives.

“There are consistories at a loss as to what to do about this. Although this is said to be non-Reformed, I fear that this merely negative reaction over against this movement will not help very much. What is the church placing over against this?

“Must the church not begin by requiring something more of the minister than he is now giving? Isn’t it time that the church stops trying to make some sort of a society-man of the minister, someone who must make provisions for Christian entertainment? Isn’t it time that the church should demand something else of the minister? For example: that he spend more time in his study; that he discontinue delivering illustrative little sermons that only amount to cheap moralizing; that he really get to opening the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation; that he proclaim the whole counsel of Cod as the Old and New Testaments show forth the riches of Christ . . . ; and also give a weekly Catechism sermon and not merely say something for which the Catechism gives occasion [naar aanleiding van de catechismus].

“If anything of Reformed life is to survive also in America in the midst of the terrible confusion of spirits and the powerful grip of the vain philosophy of pragmatism, then this will have to be brought about by preaching true to the Word. It is to this that God has bound the working of His Spirit. Only in this way can the church be the place where the Spirit works. This holds for The Netherlands, this holds for Canada, and this holds for North America also.”