The Reader Writes

Professor Roger Nicole Comments on R.B. Kuiper’s Article

I would like to express at this time my gratitude for Professor Kuiper’s excellent article “Professor Dekker on God’s Universal Love.” It appears to me that it is especially gracious in seeking to interpret the positions of Professor Dekker throughout in the most favorable way possible. The strictures against him are the more telling on that account.

Permit me to call your attention at this time to the fact that the type of views advocated by Professor Dekker is not really a theological novelty. Perhaps one of the clearest examples of this kind of approach may be found in the writings of Moses Amyraldus (1596–1664). This French theologian, mentioned by Berkhof in this connection, advocated a universal saving will of God, a universal saving design for the atonement, and a particular salvation for the elect only, for they alone receive repentance and faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. His presentation gave rise between 1634 and 1655 to a protracted controversy in which A. Rivet, F. Spanheim the elder, P. Dumoulin and later S. Maresius, P. Jurieu, F. TtuTettini, J. H. Heidegger and others took a lively part in support of the strict Reformed doctrine of definite atonement. A study of this history and of the baneful effects of Amyraldianism on the Reformed churches of France and subsequently of other countries shows very clearly, in my judgment, the danger inherent in Professor Dekker’s approach.

I have written a brief letter to the Editor of The Reformed Journal in this sense and I hope, the Lord willing, to submit to that same publication a somewhat more extensive treatment in the form of an article. My concern stems from the fact that history seems to prove that when people begin to tamper with the Reformed concept of the extent of the atonement, in due course of time the nature of the atonement becomes seriously modified, away from penal substitution. When this happens, it is the core of the Christian faith that is in jeopardy. May it be that nothing of the kind will happen in the Christian Reformed Church. This is my earnest prayer.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

ROGER NICOLE Gordon Divinity School Beverly Farms, Massachusetts


We are deeply grateful to the Professor of Theology at Gordon Divinity School for this significant letter. We thank him for permission to publish it.


Hofland vs. Heerema on the Church Order

At the end of Heerema’s article (see TORCH AND TRUMPET, March 1963, pp.10ff). I read, “Questions such as these press themselves upon me as I study the proposed revision of the Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church.” This question presses itself upon me: why did Heerema study the proposed revision so late and after the study committee labored for more than ten years and solicited criticism for a long time? And in addition this question: is it proper not to respond to the many requests for remarks and never to address either synod or the committee, and then, a few months before synod has to make the final decision, to raise the crucial question whether “the time is ripe for adoption of the proposed document?”

I submit that Heerema studied the proposed revision rather late and rather superficially. As to his superficial study I follow his three observations.

1. Heerema is of the opinion that a Church Order referring continuously to “synodical regulations” proves that the proposed revision is not a “primary document” or a “constitution,” but is rather a document subordinate to a body of higher ordinances. Is this observation not a bit hasty and superficial? When one observes the old Church Order he also finds such references (cf. Articles 4, 5, 8, 13, etc.). That there are more references to synodical regulations in the proposed Church Order is caused by the fact that the activities of the church have multiplied during the last centuries and decades. Furthermore, I like to reverse Heerema’s first observation. The Church Order as a primary document, containing the basic principles and practices of the church, refers to rules regulating these principles and practices. Such rules and ordinances are secondary in this respect that they are subject to change as the time demands and for that reason are not incorporated in the Church Order.

2. Heerema is offended by all such references to synodical regulations because office-bearers (is the Church Order for office-bearers only?) are treated like children. He suggests that a set of by-laws be made with reference to the respective articles. I ask: does such a set of by-laws not treat office-bearers like children? And do our doctrinal standards not treat them like immature men? Then give them nothing but the Bible and let them find their own way. I don’t understand this second observation. What is the difference between a set of by-laws referring to the Church Order or a Church Order referring to regulations? For me the latter is more logical and profitable.

3. Heerema calls his last observation a fundamental one. He submits that the proposed revision fails to inform regarding the principles of church government.

My fundamental question here is: is Heerema aware of the difference between Church Order and Church Polity? The Church Order is not and never was a handbook for Reformed Church government. The Church Order. being based upon the Reformed principles of church government. consists of rules and regulations mutually agreed upon and that by common consent (Article 86 of Church Order of Dort). In this respect there is no difference whatsoever between the old Church Order and the proposed revision. Heerema quotes Article 29b of the proposed revision. But this is the same as that which we find in Article 36 of the old Church Order. In both instances one can ask “just what is this authority,” and “just what is the philosophy of church government.” However such questions are to be answered by Reformed church polity and not by the Church Order.

After reading Heerema’s note my conclusion is: rather late and rather hasty.



The Rev. Hofland states that I have been “late,” “hasty,” and “superficial” Then, let me add. Professor M. Monsma observes in De Wachter of March 26 (page 3) that my “Note” suffers from “misunderstanding.” I here offer a comment in reply to each charge.

Late. Brother Hofland alleges that I studied the proposed revision “so late.” In this he is wrong. He states further that I am late with my criticism. In this he is right, and I regret it. There are reasons for this that need not detain us here. But if the point of my concern is at all justified, then it would seem to be correct to say, “better late than never.”

Hasty. My distress over the many references to “synodical regulations” is at least two years old.

Superficial. At the heart of this charge is probably the observation that Article 29b of the proposed revision is essentially the same as Article 36 of the present Church Order. and thus much of the point of my “Note” is blunted. In reply I would suggest that possibly the difference between 29b and 36 may have some significance in this context. But of more importance is the consideration that 29b of the proposed revision is of itself non-committal. It says: “The classis has the same authority over the consistory as the synod has over the classis.” Just what the nature of this authority is depends on the way in which it is spelled out or implemented by or implied in the rest of the Church Order. It is worthy of note that on counts other than the main burden of my “‘Note” at least two others feel that the proposed revised Church Order has a drift toward control from “the top.” I refer to Peter De Jong’s article “Is the Christian Reformed Church Moving Toward Hierarchism?” in the February issue of this magazine. and to Richard De Ridder’s article “Foreign Missions and the Proposed Revised Church Order” in the March issue.

Rev. Hofland suggests that I do not know the difference between church polity and a Church Order. I wonder whether the brother read these two sentences in my article: “Just what principles of church government inform this proposed Church Order?” and “Just what is the philosophy of church government coming to expression in the articles of the proposed revision?”

Misunderstanding. My reply to this charge is given partially in the first paragraph above pertaining to the allegation Superficial. In further rejoinder I refer to Professor Monsma’s assertion (also made by Rev. Hofland) that the greater complexity of church life today calls for more synodical regulations. This judgment may be correct. But I humbly submit that a careful reading of the “Note” and of this reply to these brethren should indicate that the observation is quite beside the point. At no time have I objected to synodical regulations as such.


Dahm vs. Huissen on the Origin of the Christian Ref. Church

To the Editors:

I am rather amazed by the comments made by Rev. C. Huissen in the last TORCH AND ThUMPET. Since when was it a sin to doubt actions taken by our church at any time? I for one have been convinced for the last 25 years that it was a mistake to separate in 1857. After reading the minutes of Classis Holland for the first ten years of their existence. and all the books written by both sides I came to that conclusion. Is that denominational disloyalty? I think not. Must we not love the truth above our church? I for one would be in favor of sending an apology to the Reformed Church for our rash departure. I have just read Calvin in his Institutes about the marks of the true church and when there should be a secession. I was amazed how lenient he was.

Does this all mean we should ask to be taken back into their communion? I think not. In God’s providence he has led us in different paths. Neither one of us is the same church any more as we were in 1857. I believe we have a sounder, more conservative church than our Reformed brethren. I would urge that we cease our religious warfare which we have been engaged in more or less in the last century.

Yours for God’s cause,

JACOB DAHM Pella, Iowa


In reply to brother Dahm I would like to agree first of all that it is not a sin to doubt actions taken by one’s church, and that we must surely love the both above our own church.

It is apparent that we disagree on the secession of 1857. There isn’t much I can do about that. My study of all the facts in the matter tells me that the action was necessary and therefore justified. And I sincerely believe that the subsequent history of the church from which we seceded amply demonstrates the propriety and wisdom of the ac

tion taken by our devoted fathers. It is this evaluation of 1857 and subsequent history that prompted me to make the paint originally in connection with our centennial in 1957 that our seminary graduates can hardly inspire denominational loyalty when they question the action by our fathers in 1857.

I do not think it is profitable to enter into the other matters raised by Brother Dahm. Let us rather pray that the church may ever return to her moorings and humbly submit to the authority of God’s Word. Then and only then is there room for ecumenical conversation. For this true fellowship in Christ the church should always labor and pray. This applies not only to the Reformed Church in America, but also to the Christian Reformed Church. I discern trends in the Christian Reformed Church which surely allow for no “holier-than-thou” attitude toward the Reformed Church in America.