A sincere thank you to the editors of The Outlook for the invitation to respond to the comments of the editors themselves, and to the observations of Derrick Vander Meulen contained in the article of October 1993 “CRC SYNOD 1993 THE FIRST DAY: What the Acts of Synod Won’t Tell You” by Derrick Vander Meulen and the editors. We believe that the readers of The Outlook are entitled to hear directly from those responsible for the events described.
The suggestion that Synod 1993 engaged in exercises which promoted “blatant relativism” is a serious charge indeed. The charge is all the more serious because it is untrue and at best a significant misunderstanding of the exercise and our intent. Let me assure all who read this that relativism is as abominable to us as it clearly is to the editors and Derrick Vander Meulen. Revelational statements such as, “God’s Word is truth,” “Jesus is Lord,” “God created the heavens and the earth” and many others are the absolutes we accept and affirm. Such absolutes are clearly confessed in the ecumenical creeds and our Reformed confessions. These absolutes were neither questioned nor examined in the exercise referred to in the article.
It is possible that Derrick Vander Meulen (who was present) and the editors (who were not) misunderstood our intent or the thrust of the exercise. If that is what happened, and we think that is what happened, then we assume responsibility for not being sufficiently clear in our communication and apologize for it. In retrospect we also acknowledge that the particular piece of modem sculpture used in the exercise may have contributed to that misunderstanding. By its very nature the sculpture required more subjectivism for interpretation than was helpful for the exercise. We are no longer using that object as the metaphor for the discussion.
The point of the sculpture exercise was to distinguish between the absolutes of God’s revelation on the one hand, and our understanding of the meaning of those absolutes on the other. The Reformed community has always believed that our interpretation ofGod’s revelation is done in community. Neither the Bible itself, nor any other form of God’s revelation is for private interpretation alone. We are instructed “to test the spirits” together “to see whether they are of God.” The exercise was designed to bring that activity to the fore as the delegates of Synod 1993 were preparing together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to address the specific issues in focus that first day.
Admittedly, not all delegates enjoyed the exercise. Some told us how we could have improved it. Others told us that it was not meaningful for them. About 80% of the delegates told us that the experience as a whole was very positive for them—but that was their evaluation of the whole afternoon’s and evening’s activity. It is indeed regrettable that neither the editors nor Derrick Vander Meulen could perceive the “deliberative” nature of the dialogue—an exercise which has deep roots and an honorable history in our Reformed tradition.
We long for the day when differences of perspective in the church can again be discussed in a spirit of trust and mutual respect. We long for the day when public dialogue will no longer be based on innuendo and false assertions about people’s positions-theological, biblical, or otherwise. We long for the day when the concern and energy of the church’s membership will be enthusiastically directed at how we may serve the cause of Jesus Christ best, and announce the Good News of His coming with conviction and power. May God grant that soon!
Peter Borgdorff is Executive Director of Ministries for the Christian Reformed Church