Once Again – The Most Important Issues at Synod

A year ago, I affirmed in these columns that, in my judgment, the most important issue at the CRC Synod was the question of what that Synod would say about the Bible. The question came up in connection with the approval by Classis Grand Rapids East of ordination for Candidate Allen Verhey, now an ordained minister in the CRC and on the faculty at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. The same issue is now on the Agenda of the 1977 CRC Synod and I wish to affirm emphatically that, once again, this is the most important issue at Synod. True, the entire 479-page 1977 Agenda is important—but I do not hesitate to affirm that this matter of the CRC and the Bible overshadows all others.

After Classis C. n. East had approved the request for the ordination of Candidate Verhey, the Dutton CRC consistory, on September 18, 1975, protested this decision in view of the fact that Dr. Verhey in his examination had “plainly stated in his examination that he did not believe that the serpent spoke to Eve as reported in Genesis 3 and that he believed that the earthquake reported in Matthew 28:2 should be understood as an eschatological symbol and not necessarily as a fact.”

The Dutton consistory received no satisfaction pertaining to this matter from Classis G. R. East, the Neland Ave. CRC consistory (Dr. Verhey’s ministerial credentials are at Neland) nor from the 1977 Synod to which it had appealed.

To the contrary, on June 1, 1976, Neland consistory in a letter to Synod stated as their conviction that “Allen Verhey was, at the time of his examination, and is now, firmly committed to the sound doctrine of the Scripture as set forth in the Reformed confessions and the doctrinal deliverances of the Synod of the CRC.” The Neland consistory alleged further that Classis “did judge that his exegesis, whatever else might be said about it, did not bring him into conflict with the teaching of Scripture and the confessions, and . . . that such conflict has not been demonstrated by the appeal of the Dutton consistory” (1976 Acts of Synod, p. 93).

Notice from the following how the matter stands now.

Heretofore, to the best of my knowledge, we did not have from Dr. Verhey a statement in writing in which he takes liberty with any plain statement of the Bible which he is reliably reported to have done at his classical examination.

But now, of his own accord, Dr. Verhey has sent THE OUTLOOK an article for publication (found elsewhere in this issue) in which he reveals beyond a doubt that he does take such liberty with the Bible. In his article, Dr. Verhey states the following (and it will be well to read and reread this carefully), Dr. Verhey writes:

“For one final example from [Rev. Peter] De Jong’s arsenal of misrepresentation, he asserts that I interpret ‘Behold, there was a great earthquake’ [Matt. 28:2] to mean ‘and there was not a great earthquake.’ This is a misrepresentation of my view. It is true that I think Behold, there was a great earthquake’ does not mean [the italics are Dr. Verhey’s] that an earthquake actually happened but rather means that the significance of the event of the empty tomb is the beginning of the new age. But I emphatically reject the suggestion that ‘Behold, there was a great earthquake’ means there was not a great earthquake.”

Obviously, we can’t have it both ways: 1. That there was a great earthquake, and 2. That there actually was not a great earthquake. Now to add to our difficulty, Dr. Verhey goes on to say:

“Perhaps there is no intentional misrepresentation; perhaps Rev. De Jong’s logic failed him. But he should know that to say, It rains in Spaindoes not mean ‘It snows in Buffalo,’ is not the same as to say, It rains in Spain means ‘It does not snow in Buffalo.’” Allow me to observe that at this point, I am by no means convinced that it was Rev. Peter De Jong whose logic failed him.

At any rate, by this time it is clear beyond the shadow of doubt that, when Scripture says plainly that there was a great earthquake at the time of Christ’s. resurrection Dr. Verhey wants us to believe that there actually was not a great earthquake. When anyone once begins to take this kind of liberty with the plain teaching of Scripture, where may we expect him to stop?

Allow me to observe that it is now time—high time! that the CRC must face up to this issue of whether or not Verhey’s method of handling Scripture is to be condoned in CRC pulpits or not. This issue is one that brooks no more delay.

The pure preaching of the Word is the first mark of the true church. Sow the wind in this matter of utmost importance and we will soon be reaping the whirlwind. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands is a glaring example of what happens when, in the face of false teaching, synods dawdle and refuse to act promptly, decisively, and responsibly.

Unless the CRC fearlessly comes to grips with this basic issue of Scripture and dares to let the chips fall where they may, our problems will mount and multiply and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

Please be assured, delegates to Synod, that we are remembering you in prayer fervently at the throne of grace that you may be given guidance and grace to decide only that which our Lord requires of you.