In the era preceding World War I, there was a spirit of change. New ideas were springing up in science, culture, medicine and ideals. Liberal thought and morals had gained prominence over the more conservative thought of the last century. Unfortunately, the church was also affected by this spirit of change. The catalyst for the upheaval in the Christian Reformed Church was the views of Dr. Ralph Janssen and his defense of common grace.
Ralph Janssen was born and raised in the Zeeland and Holland area. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1898, and a Ph.D. in 1902. After serving for several years in the Calvin Seminary as Professor of Old and New Testament, he went back to school and earned a Th.D. in 1908. Then in the year 1914, he was again appointed as Calvin Seminary’s Professor of Old Testament. At first the students and faculty liked him because of his dynamic style and new perspective on Scripture. But soon, they started to notice serious discrepancies between Janssen’s views and the truth of Scripture.
What were these views? Put simply, Dr. Ralph Janssen believed in “higher criticism” and an incorrect view of the inspiration of the Scriptures. “Higher criticism” is the idea that since God used men to write the Scriptures, there may be the possibility of error. They refer to this as the “human element.” They contend that we must be critical of the Scriptures and discern which part of Scripture is God’s Word and which part is man’s speculation and opinion.
How could Dr. Ralph Janssen hold to these views, and still claim that the Bible was the infallible Word of God? Dr. Janssen time and time again heralded his belief that the Scriptures were the infallible Word of God. But Dr. Janssen contended that we would be denying the sovereignty of God if we said that God could and did not use “folk lore” in the Scriptures. He looked at the Scriptures from a scientific viewpoint. He contended that the historical information that influenced the origin of the Scriptures should be studied. Therefore, the law that is set forth in Deuteronomy was taken from Hammarabi’s Code; the historical facts of the life of Samson are not verifiably true; and that Israel borrowed much of its culture, laws, and traditions from the surrounding countries of Egypt, Babylon, and other pagan nations. Janssen believed in what is called “organic inspiration.” This is the belief that you can hold to the infallibility of the Scriptures, but still admit that the whole of Scripture may not be infallible.
How could Dr. Janssen prove these beliefs? He defended his beliefs using the doctrine of common grace. It should be noted that common grace was not a new idea. It was an undercurrent in the churches for quite some time. But it was ignored, up until this time. There are some people that say that Dr. Janssen used the issue of common grace as a “red herring” to move the spotlight away from his ideas. This may be true, but it cannot be denied that throughout the controversy, Dr. Janssen claimed that common grace was the true Reformed tradition, and therefore the proof for his views.
Clearly, Janssen’s beliefs were heresy. II Peter 1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” II Timothy 3:16, 17, “All (emphasis-PVB) scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works,” Throughout the whole of Scripture, this truth is expressed. Once one starts to pick apart the Word of God, and decide for himself what is truth and what is not, the church is open to all sorts of heresy and false doctrine. On this premise, evolution can take the place of creation; homosexual behavior can be deemed permissible in the church; women can take office of elder, deacon, and minister. God’s Word is a unit, every part complementing every other part. But once one part is severed, it losses its strength. “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:19).
Even though Dr. Janssen was deposed from his position on the Seminary staff by the Synod in 1922, the chain reaction had begun. The common grace issue had been voiced, and it had to be dealt with.
We as young people and adults should defend the unity and infallibility of God’s Word with every fiber of our being. It is a sacred Word. It is a complete Word. It is an infallible Word.
Herman Hanko, A Study of the Relation Between the Views of Prof R. Janssen and Common Grace (unpublished dissertation, 1988).
Gertrude Hoeksema, A Watered Garden, RFPA 1992
Phil is a member of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illinois.
Mormonism is considered to be one of the four major cults. But what makes it a cult? On the surface, it seems that these are pretty valid religions and that they could be considered Christian. But when you look deeper you see how very far from Christianity they really are. Cults disagree with the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, such as salvation by grace alone. They also claim to have another authority other than the Bible (e.g. the Book of Mormon.) Cults consider theirs to be the only true religion, and all others are false. Lastly, the cults believe that they have a central role in the end times. As you read this it will become plain to you why Mormonism is a cult.
Mormonism is considered to be one of the fastest growing cults in the world. In 1983 they claimed to have over 5.1 million members world-wide. We can assume that that number has increased substantially over the last nine years. Although today the Mormon church is prosperous, 150 years ago, this was not the case. The founder of this new “American” religion was Joseph Smith, a resident of Palmyra, New York. According to Joseph, at the age of 14 he received a vision from “two personages” which told him that all other religions where false and that he was the one chosen to become the prophet of the Lord. He met often with a spirit named Moroni, the son of the prophet and author of most of the Book of Mormon. Over the next several years Moroni supplied Joseph with the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written, and a set of huge spectacles, the Urim and Thummim, to translate them with. The Book of Mormon was written in what Joseph described as “reformed Egyptian.” This language is refuted by scholars world-wide. Joseph soon obtained a rather large gathering of followers, which he moved to Navoo, Illinois. Then in 1844, Joseph entered “martyrdom” when a group of lawless men hung him.
The leadership them fell on Brigham Young, one of Joseph Smith’s closest followers. He moved the people out to Salt Lake City, Utah and built a community there. The Mormons were resented by many people in America. One of the main reasons was that the Mormons are communal. And, to their neighbors’ dismay, they were very successful. That is one reason they were persecuted when they started as a religious group.
Mormonism has two sacred texts which are, according to them, God inspired. The first is the King James Version of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is God given, and that the KJV is one of the best translations. But the Mormons have a sequel to the Bible, the Book of Mormon. It is very confusing and difficult to understand. Basically the book is about a tribe of Israelites that leave Israel before Christ’s birth. This tribe journeyed to the place we would call North and South America. Over many years, two tribes were formed: the Jaredites and the Nephites. The Jaredites were cursed and destroyed by God, leaving the Nephites. The Lamanites (or to use modem terms, the Indians) broke away from the Nephites and later destroyed the peace-loving Nephites. Mormon wrote down all that had happened and abridged the material before he died. His son Moroni, the last Nephite, hid the golden tablets on which this history is written until Joseph Smith was able to retrieve them.
As I noted before, the Book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian. Amazingly, Joseph Smith is the only person alive to have seen this new ancient language. Not one other article of literature has ever been found with this type of writing on it. So it is doubtful that Joseph was telling the truth about this so called language. This also makes the authenticity of the Book of Mormon very doubtful.
There are two other texts that Mormons consider to be sacred texts. They are: The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants. These are even more difficult to understand than the Book of Mormon and it seems that not as much emphasis is placed on these as is on the Book of Mormon.
Mormons have a very different theology from ours when it comes to the relationship between God and man. It can be summed up in a very few words. What man is, God once was. What God is, man must strive to become. This is not the only startling contradiction. According to the Mormons, there are many gods! If you are a good Mormon all of your life, you will become a god over some world in the universe! Not only will we be gods, but we will have many wives which will bear us spirit-children. These spirit-children then are put into bodies of the babies born of Mormon parents.
Our doctrine of the virgin birth is different than the Mormons. In Luke 1:35a we read, “And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall over shadow thee…’ ” Yet the Mormons hold to the belief that God the Father came down to Mary and caused her to conceive Jesus. They change the wonderful miracle of the virgin birth to the filthy pagan belief of the Greeks and Romans which had lustful gods going after the women of the earth. In Luke 1:35 it clearly says that “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee…” I don’t know where the Mormons get the idea of the Father coming down to conceive Jesus.
The Mormons also hold the belief that the Holy Ghost is an “it.” The Holy Ghost is non-gender, He is neuter. The Holy Ghost is nothing more than the actions of God on this earth. This teaching rips apart the doctrine of the Trinity. For if the Holy Ghost is nothing more than God’s actions, he can’t be a part of God. Yet, strangely, the Mormons say they hold to the doctrine of the Trinity. Clearly, it is obvious that they do not.
The Mormons concept of heaven is also very unique. Mormons say that there are three places where men’s souls will go. The lowest is hell, the place where unbelievers go when they die. The second level is midway between heaven and hell. The people that believed in God, but didn’t hold to Mormonism will come to this place. The people in this level have no chance of becoming “gods” of other worlds. The final and most glorious stage is that of heaven itself where the very perfect that were on earth become gods and the others live a life of bliss and happiness until they too can merit divinity themselves.
In closing I would like to point out one thing that I’m sure Joseph Smith didn’t remember or didn’t care about. That is the verse in Rev. 22:18 where the Holy Ghost, through John says, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.”
Kingdom of the Cults. Walter Martin
Bethany House Pub. 1985
The Teachings of Mormonism. John H. Gestner
Baker Book House. 1985
The Four Major Cults. Anthony Hoekema
Eerdman’s Printing Company. 1981
“The doctrine of election affords great comfort. Thy unworthiness may dismay thee, but remember that thy election depends not upon thy worthiness but upon the will of God.“
– Elnathan Parr