Viewpoint… A Fine Voice from Free University

The Free University in Amsterdam is held in high esteem by many in the Christian Reformed Church. Several of our ministers have received their entire theological training there and many others have attended that institution for the pursuance of doctoral studies. Through these men who have studied there and also through the many scholarly publications of its professors, the Free University has exerted a molding influence on the thinking of thousands in the denomination.

This influence which that School has had is deeply appreciated by many in our churches. This gratefulness stems from what it has always stood for. The name Free University has become almost synonymous with distinctive Reformed scholarship. Through the years we have looked to that institution as a school firmly committed to the inerrant Word of God and as a source of learning based upon and permeated by that Word.

In view of this appreciation it was painful to read in an issue of Centraal Weekblad (Oct. 22, 1966) that one of the members of its theological faculty, Dr. H. M. Kuitert, openly espouses a view of the first chapters of Genesis which leaves no room for accepting the historicity of Adam and Eve, their fall into sin, and their expulsion from the garden of Eden. Kuitert is of the opinion thai what is related there in Genesis should not be interpreted as an objective description of genuine facts. The consequences of this view are that the series “creation-fall into sin-redemption” is not to be looked upon as a chronological order.

This exegesis—if it deserves that name—should not be regarded as an innocent exegetical preference of a theologian. If accepted—as Dr. Kuitert realizes—it demands a radical altering of some of the basic components of our doctrinal beliefs. Behind this view—and its author seems to be aware of that too—lies a view of Scripture that no longer accepts the Bible as the inerrant Word of God in the traditional sense of that term.

In the December 1966 issue of Mededelingen van de Vereniging voor Calvinistische Wiisbegeerte Dr. H. Van Riessen, Professor of Philosophy at the Free University, expresses his dissatisfaction with the views expressed by Kuitert. Since Reformed theologians have always maintained that the Bible must be its own interpreter and since Kuitert also holds to that, Van Riessen puts him the question how he can substantiate his views from the Scriptures. If Genesis 1 is only saga, then this has to be clear from the Bible itself. Van Riessen unwaveringly declares that this can not be proven from the Bible; on the contrary, from the Bible it is evident that what is recorded in Genesis actually happened. For him this testimony of the Bible is the end of all argumentation and doubt.

Van Riessen shows his awareness that for some this may be no more than a rather cheap solution to an enormous problem. Very aptly he counters by referring to the words of Jesus that unless one becomes like children, one will never enter the kingdom of heaven. He confesses that his ultimate foundation is not science but the Word of God, and he urges Kuitert to accept the same stance. As for himself, he desires to live and to die with the conviction that the Lord God does not fool us in his Word.

This belief and these words of Professor Van Riessen arc most encouraging; they are a fine voice of a much-respected faculty member of the Free University. This writer fervently hopes that Dr. Kuitert will heed the admonition of his older colleague at the V.U. Dr. Kuitert is a wonderfully-gifted man; he has shown this in his doctoral dissertation and in his other publications. But brilliant theologians too can fall into error. His views on the first chapters of Genesis seem to betray a predilection for modern science that tends to make science the judge of God’s Word. Dr. Van Riessen utters his concern for the students of Kuitert who are led astray to find in science the criterion for determining which parts of Scripture can be accepted precisely as it is recorded by the biblical writers and which parts cannot be so accepted. It is to be hoped that Van Riessen’s article will induce Dr. Kuitert, and others who are like-minded with him, to reverse their steps and to re-give to the Bible the crucial place it ought to have as the Word of God. Van Riessen is correct: “Not we may judge the Word of God according to our insights, not even in seemingly peripheral matters, but that Word determines what we should believe.”

We have learned much from the men at the Free University. Dr. Kuitert’s contributions to Reformed theology have not gone unnoticed on this side of the Atlantic Ocean either. For what he has given us in some of his writings we are grateful indeed. May the Free University remain what its founder, Abraham Kuyper, intended it to be and what it has since become: a stronghold of learning based upon the inerrant Word of God. Provided he remains true to his Reformed heritage, Dr. Kuitert is one of the men who can do much to preserve the historical character of this University to which many owe so much. We are profoundly grateful for Professor Van Riessen’s words. May this fine voice not go unheeded.