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Synod ‘95: Cultural Accommodation by Majority Vote

As many readers know by now, CRC Synod ‘95 chose to continue ecclesiastical relations with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (the GKN). This decision was made on the heels of a flagrantly ungodly speech by the GKN fraternal delegate to synod, who offered the GKN’s stance on homosexuality: Just as in Christ people are neither slave nor free, neither Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, so they are “neither hetero nor homo.” Monogamous homosexuality is Biblically permissible in the eyes of the GKN. Apparently it is Biblically tolerable in the eyes of the CRC, at least according to Synod ‘95. (See article in this issue, pp. 9–10.)

Synod had a responsibility to exercise ecclesiastical discipline toward the GKN, but opted to continue a fruitless dialogue that is already twelve years old. What. really now, is there left to talk about? Is there a debatable point here? Or is homosexuality a murky point of doctrine too (as goes the claim about women in ecclesiastical office)?

       

       

In Roman 1, homosexuality is seen not merely asa violation of some Jewish or Christian code, but as a transgression of the basic moral law of God known to all cultures. In verses 24–28, three times we come to the refrain: God gave them up. Those who suppressed the moral truth about homosexuality in unrighteousness, God gave up to themselves. He gave them up to their perverse lusts and depraved desires. He gave them up because they refused to listen to His voice as it comes to them (and to all of us) in the moonlight, in the twinkling stars and in the depth of our being as creatures made in the image of God. They have heard God’s irrepressible testimony. Everyone has. God has made it plain. But they refused to listen. Therefore, come judgment day, “… they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20; also see Lev. 18:22; 20:13; I Cor. 6:9–10).

However, according to the GKN (with CRC complicity) sinners need not fear. They may be at ease. God may reject. We Will welcome. God may condemn. We will justity. God legislates. We veto God’s legislation. This is what Synod ‘95 did. Through our synod, we overruled the Word of the Lord.

From God’s Word we know that only the gospel can liberate depraved sinners, even those given over to homosexuality. Only the Word of God, which is the truth, can call to repentance and heal lost souls. If, however, that gospel is compromised, if the discipline of the gospel is muted or ignored, if we jump in bed with ecclesiastical perversity, how long till God gives us over?

Francis Schaeffer once said that Christians must practice the holiness of God and the love of God simultaneously. Together these form the heart of church discipline. For church discipline has within its scope a threefold aim: (1) with respect to God—to maintain His honor; (2) with respect to the sinner—to bring him to repentance and restore him; (3) with respect to the church—to remove offense from the church of Christ. Obviously church neglects discipline at its own peril. Does the church have a future without discipline? One is reminded of the words of Hosea to ancient Israel: “They sow the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). Truly, the church sows the wind today when it neglects discipline and fails to speak plainly to the lost in our culture and to the lost playing church across the ocean. Tomorrow we shall reap the whirlwind.

Long ago God’s covenant people played church and made ecclesiastical decisions that pleased themselves. They assumed God was pleased too. He wasn’t, They erected their idol-altars and practiced their renewed liturgy. They sang and clapped, chanted and danced. They enjoyed themselves on Sabbath morning. But it was corruption and depravity. They did not obey God’s Word. They practiced piety while they spurned truth. All very religious and ecclesiastical, understand! All very official and promoted by the right people. But God’s verdict was inescapable: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies” (Amos 5:21). Through His prophet the Lord makes plain that He will not accept their offerings. He hates the noise of their songs. He refuses to listen to their talented instrumentals (d. vv. 22–23). The worship glittered and the people gloated in self-congratulation. The Lord, however, likened them to summer fruit, ripe and ready to be devoured. Indeed, famine would come upon the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but a famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).

Thus the church is warned today. Scripture no longer dictates practice in the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Instead the philosophy of pragmatism reigns supreme. Pragmatism is a standard of thought in which practical results become the criteria for what is meaningful, true or valuable. In other words, for a pragmatist, “What works?” is a better question than “What is Biblical?” “What will keep the peace (while still allowing us to do what we want)?” is a better question than “What is right?” Many words were spoken at Synod ‘95. But in its official conclusions regarding women in office, child-communion, sanctifying the Lord’s Day and brotherhood with the GKN, there was a famine of the Word of God. Consequently, the churches must not stand with or for these conclusions whatsoever. It would be dishonoring to God to do so.

Synod ‘95 has spoken and now the churches will live (and die) with the consequences. Within the CRC, cultural accommodation continues by majority vote. Therefore the minority must make a stand and zealously seek to safeguard the purity of the church. Being in the minority is unpleasant. But remember: Elijah and Isaiah, Amos and Hosea, Joel and Jeremiah, even Jesus and the disciples, not to mention all our Protestant forefathers, were also minority voices in times of ecclesiastical corruption. If there is to be a church that loves and honors the Word of God, a healthy church which the Lord may use to pass the faith to another generation, then the minority must resist the evil of pragmatism (now running rampant in the CRC) with all her might. God’s honor demands it. The church’s well-being requires it. Holiness and love summons us to fight for the church’s future.

Rev. Mark Beach, who also wrote the first article in this magazine, is pastor of First Christian Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.