The CRC Under a Cloud

Beginning in 1857, the Christian Reformed Church is now 120 years old. Throughout all those years, there is no reason to believe that until recently the unqualified allegiance of the CRC to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture in toto has ever called into question.

Admittedly there were other faults to which attention may have been directed, and probably rightly so. But that the CRC and her leaders were adamant in their commitment to the whole Bible, in all its parts, as the Word of God has been something beyond dispute.

To illustrate.

In his book, The Christian Reformed Tradition, the late Professor Diedrich H. Kromminga (father of Drs. John and Carl Kromminga), Professor in Church History at Calvin Seminary, has written the following about the e RC and the Bible: “The churches were particularly watchful against the dangers which threatened from the side of liberalism and did not allow even a suspicion of a doubt to be thrown on the authority of Holy Writ” (p. 144). That has indeed been the historic position of the CRC. It comes therefore as a jolt to many of us in the CRC to discover that we no longer enjoy this reputation as a denomination and that there are those of other communions who are beginning to look at us somewhat askance on this score due to recent developments among us. Once in the forefront among those who accepted the authenticity of the whole Bible, we are now becoming painfully aware that the CRC is no longer on the honor roll in this regard.

1. Recently when Dr. Harold Lindsell, editor of Christianity Today and author of The Battle for the Bible (Zondervan, 1976) and Dr. Lester De Koster, Editor of The Banner, met in debate before a full house in the large Third Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, Michigan, it was of special interest to members of the CRC present to have Lindsell hold up a book he said his wife had studied in her days at school and to hear him read from it what he said he himself believes about the Bible. “That statement,” Lindsell told his largely CRC audience, is “by your man, Louis Berkhof.” He was reading from Manual of Reformed Doctrine by the late Professor Louis Berkhof of blessed memory. once a giant among us, one whose large and impressive physique went hand in hand with his outstanding achievements in CRC pulpits, in the classroom at Calvin Seminary where he taught for 36 years, and also by means of his books and others writings—all for the exposition and defense of the Reformed faith.

However, Lindsell—as well as others—is not blind to the fact that this heritage is no longer held in honor among us as it once was. On page 136 of his The Battle for the Bible, Lindsell refers to Dr. H. M. Kuitert of the Free University of Amsterdam and then adds the following:

“And incidentally it was Kuitert who was a major speaker at a Minister‘s Colloquium of the Christian Reformed Church just a few years ago. I happened to follow him the year after he had been there, and it was plain from the reaction that my own adherence to infallibility was accorded a mixed reception: those who held it were delighted; those who were opposed to it were unhappy. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I was not aware that Kuitert had been there the year before me, but it was apparent that within its leadership the Christian Reformed Church is also struggling with the inerrancy issue.”

So, let’s face it: the CRC is under a cloud.

2. Lindsell observed a disturbing state of affairs among CRC ministers at their annual institute when he was there to address them. Since that time the cloud hanging over the CRC became even more ominous when recently Classis Grand Rapids East, the largest Classis in the denomination, approved the ordination of a candidate for the ministry who was reportedly (without any contradiction or denial) to have “plainly stated in his examination that he did not helieve 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.”

Serious as this action was, it was aggravated even further when the following CRC Synod (1976) refused to sustain an appeal against the decision of Classis Grand Rapids East and decided, instead, to “approve the work of the synodical deputies from Classis Grand Rapids North, Kalamazoo. and Zeeland in concurring in the decision made by Classis Grand Rapids East to grant approval to the Neland Avenue Consistory to issue a call to Candidate A. Verhey to serve in the Department of Bible and Religion at Hope College . . . and in its affirmative decision to admit brother Verhey to the ministry of the Word and sacraments in the Christian Reformed Church” (1976 Acts of Synod, pp. 95, 96).

Obviously, the CRC is no longer the same denomination it was in 1943 when Professor D. H. Kromminga wrote: “The churches were particularly watchful against the dangers which threatened from the side of liberalism and did not allow even a suspicion I of a doubt to be thrown on the authority of Holy Writ.”

This cloud has now also come to the attention of others.

For example, the recently organized PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) held its 4th General Assembly this past September in Greenville. South Carolina. It should be of special interest and also of real concern to CRC members that our denomination was also under consideration there. Reporting on this as a fraternal delegate from the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Lester E. Kilpatrick states the following:

“When it was moved that the Assembly petition NAPARC (National Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches) to investigate the matter of the Christian Reformed Church in its ordaining a man to the ministry who questioned the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis, there was considerable spirited discussion, but they delayed taking this action on the plea that they not interfere with another denomination‘s business until it can be seen whether they will deal with it themselves” (italics added). This report appeared in the January 12, 1977 issue of Covenanter Witness.

You see, there was a day when we of the CRC talked about other churches and were critical of them—and often with good reason. But now the shoe is on the other foot and we are under a cloud and the Presbyterian Church in America is now watching us to see what we arc going to do about it.

So, now it‘s up to you and me and time is running out. Do we as a cnc still have what it takes to face up to this situation and to hold fast our heritage or are we so taken up with our affluence and passing things that we will be content, by default, to lose that which is eternal? May our gracious Lord forbid that also our name will go down in church history as lchabod—the glory has departed!

Overtures, protests, and appeals addressed to Consistories, Classes, and Synod should now be forthcoming if we are honestly concerned about assuming and discharging the corporate responsibility that rests upon us also in this crucial matter.