Overture to Reject Report 44

This overture asking for the rejection of the familiar Report 44 on “The Nature and Extent of Biblical Authority” does not appear in the Agenda for Synod. The writer, Mr. Tom Spriensma, is an elder at the Christian Reformed Church of Jamestown, Michigan.

Having studied the 1972 Synod decision to adopt Report 44 on “The Nature and Extent of Biblical Authority,” I respectfully overture Synod to reverse that decision and reject this report.

Ground: Report 44 violates the holiness of our Sovereign God by infringing upon the authority of His Word and thereby undermines the foundation of the Church. It does this in the following ways:

A. While it rightly states that “The Entire Scripture – its whole extent, all its parts, its very words is the inspired authoritative Word of God” (p. 506, Acts of Synod 1972) it immediately thereafter wrongly qualifies this statement by adding, “While the entire Scripture speaks with divine authority, this divine authority is understood concretely and specifically only when one takes account of what God said, how He spoke, to whom He spoke, etc. Thus a description of biblical authority requires an understanding of the content and purpose of the divine message as well as the acknowledgment of the authority of the divine author of Scripture.” These qualifying statements really make the authority of the Bible depend on its contents and on men‘s understanding of it. The authority of the Bible is neither derived from nor dependent on its content. It is derived from and depends only on its Author, the Holy God. Even less is it conditioned by the way men understand or apply it. Whether we accept or reject Scripture, its authority as God’s Word remains unchanged and eternal.

B. Report 44 improperly curtails the authority of Scripture by insisting that it is solely and exclusively redemptive in character (p. 537). This claim is incorrect. The Bible teaches that it transforms and hardens, brings life and death, redemption and judgment (Isa. 6:9 if., Matt. 13, Acts 27:24 ff., II Cor. 2:14–16). The Heidelberg Catechism also teaches this in Lord’s Day 31, question and answer 84.

C. Under its guidelines and pastoral advice Report 44 allows a variety of views on such Scripture passages as Genesis 1–11. It states, “Anyone who claims that other details involved in the biblical description of these great events are figurative expressions, will have to present his position by means of careful exegesis and sound biblical exposition” (p. 528). This statement, despite its qualifications, is opening the door for false teachings for it may be understood to imply that they are legitimate if they are only backed by sufficient arguments. Some of the present problems of our denomination result from or are aggravated by the weakness of the guidelines of Report 44. The views of Dr. Verhey, denying that the serpent spoke to Eve and that the earthquake in Matthew 28 was necessarily real, were defended by the Neland Ave. Consistory’s letter to our last Synod, as permissible under the guidelines of Report 44. Dr. Harry Boer appealed to Report 44 to justify his use of higher criticism in interpreting the Bible and in attacking the doctrine of its infallibility ( Reformed Journal, Feb. 1976, p. 18). When Report 44 can be used to defend such views, is it not in fact nullifying our Form of Subscription and confessions? We must bow in subjection to God’s Holy Word and may never become judges of Holy Scripture. In Report 44 there is a compromise of God’s Word and such compromise we may never accept.

D. Report 44 confuses rather than enlightens the reader. The difficulty encountered in reading the report arises not so much out of the scholarly style as out of the contradictory positions it advocates. Throughout the argument, “authority” is often confused with “interpretation.” Whereas God’s Word is “a lamp” and “a light” (Psalm 119:105) the report makes Scripture dark, difficult and confusing.

E. Report 44 is disturbing our relationships with some other orthodox denominations. Because of it they distrust our faithfulness to the Word of God. The Free Reformed Church (formerly the Old Christian Reformed Church) has removed its students from our seminary. Our correspondence with the Canadian Reformed Church (“Art. 31”) has stopped and our relationship with the Orthodox Presbyterians has also been shaken.

F. Our unity as a denomination is in danger and it appears that we are approaching a split because of the differences which Report 44 was supposed to resolve, which it has actually increased.

Brethren. let us wake up and take corrective measures before it is too late, before the candlestick will be removed from our denomination. May the Almighty God lead you in dealing with this important matter.