What is “Progress”? (I)

Progress” can be defined as the process of advancing toward a specific goal. There have been sharp differences of opinion on what constitutes progress in various areas of human endeavor.

In the area of environment control, some view progress as the development of new shopping plazas and housing developments.

Conservationists see these projects not as progress but rather as a threat to the preservation of our natural resources.

In the area of education, some educators maintain that permissiveness and uncontrolled self-expression in the creative arts constitutes progress. Other educators deny this and claim that discipline and structured education is the route we should go.

In the area of homemaking, time-saving devices, prepackaged meals and quick mix baking products are advertised as real progress for the busy homemaker and I must admit that some of these products have rescued me from many an embarrassing situation. But others insist that this so-called “progress,” has robbed homemaking of its creativity and released more time for women which in tum has created problems such as an overloaded job market and working mothers shirking family responsibilities.

And so we could go on and on. Experts within any given area can differ widely on what constitutes “progress” within that area.

What is true in the physical realm is also true in the ecclesiastical realm. Even within our own e Re , there are increasing and sharp differences on the issue of progress. Some see a relaxing of strictures on lodge membership, marriage, divorce, homosexuality and women in ecclesiastical office as real “progress” in the CRC. Others see such relaxing of regulations as alarming regress.

Is there anyone factor that is responsible for such differences of opinion even among experts in every area of human activity? Yes there is and that is the factor of goal.


For the land developer, the goal is pleasant and convenient living. How can he achieve this? Build lovely homes and convenient shopping areas. For the conservationist however, the goal is protection of the natural environment. How can he achieve this? Oppose intrusions of land developers and improve methods for the conservation of minerals, energy, wildlife, forests, air, plants, soil and water.

For the permissive educator, the goal is self-expression. For the structured educator, the goal is self-discipline.

For the pre-fab homemaker, the goal is convenience. For the full-time homemaker, the goal is creativity, industry and frugality.

These groups clash with one another because their goals are different.

But what about goals in the ecclesiastical realm, particularly the CRC? Don’t we all have the same goals? An observer at this year’s Synod would tell you that both sides of the controversial issues claimed to have the Spirit’s guidance. They both expressed the desire to do the will of God.

The crux of the problem lies in what those holding each side of the issues consider to be the will of God. Both sides agree that the will of God is expressed in the Word of God. But the problem is—they differ on what that Word is and what it says.

One side says the authority of that Word is derived from the contents. The other side says it is derived from its Author—God Himself. This difference is basic and has very serious consequences, as we shall see.

One side says that God’s Word is infallible only as to what it intends to teach. What does it intend to teach? It intends to teach the way of salvation. Thus, the message of sin and salvation is infallibly recorded in the Scriptures, but the details of Scripture in which the message occurs need not necessarily be accurate. For example, the fact that sin entered the world the Bible clearly teaches infallibly. But whether or not sin entered by way of a literal serpent, a factual tree, a factual Eve or Adam is at best an open question for some. The people of this opinion in the CRC apply this same hermeneutical principle to all parts of Scripture in a variety of ways. They will speak of an “infallible” Bible and even an “inerrant” Bible, but they mean something entirely different from what the CRC has taught since its beginning. They mean that this Bible is infallible and inerrant only in its central message, not in the details of the context in which that general message occurs. To know where they really stand, one must ask them if they believe in the absolute FACTICITY of all the details of the records of historical events in Scripture. Then the truth comes out. They do not. This position on the Scriptures, held by too many leaders in the CRC, was called “Position B” by Dr. De Koster in his keen and accurate editorial of April 28, 1972.

Position A” (as Dr. De Koster labeled it) is the position of historic Christianity, of the tradition of the CRC, of this periodical and of this column. “Position A” insists that the authority of the Bible rests upon its Author—who is God Himself. This divine authority extends to the very words of Scripture so that all of Scripture is inerrant; historical passages are accurate in every detail and are binding in everything they teach.

These two opposing views of Scripture are the root cause of the problems which plague the CRC. For example, in the current debate concerning women in eccleSiastical office, “Position A” takes seriously all the restrictions laid down in the New Testament for office-bearers while “Position B” dismisses them as “time-bound,” “culturally-conditioned,” not pertinent to the central message of salvation contained in Scripture and therefore, irrelevant.

Many people in the eRe have not gotten too excited about or involved in the debate on Scripture which has been going on in the eRC for a number of years. They have considered it to be a theologians’ battleground which had very little to do with their own spiritual life or that of their church.

But suddenly, now that they are confronted with the practical issue of women in ecclesiastical office, when they are faced with the reality of having women deacons, elders and even preachers (we just about had one this year), they ask, “How did we in the CRC ever come to this point?” They feel that this is a sudden and threatening intrusion on the convictions they have cherished for a lifetime.

Actually, this decision for women in ecclesiastical office is not sudden at all. We have tolerated these two opposing positions on Scripture in the CRC despite the efforts of several churches to expose and root out “Position B.” Unbiblical decisions are the natural result of such tolerance. Until the constituency of our beloved denomination, comes to grips with this basic conflict regarding the Scriptures, we will continue to be bombarded with new stands and policies with which we do not agree.

(to be continued)