There still exists in our circles a calamitous underestimation of the gravity of the problem with which our churches are now contending as regards the confessional standards upon which our churches are grounded and in which lies the future of the true church of Christ upon this earth. Just now, without a doubt, our churches stand at the crossroads. Our people must wake up to this fact.
At the time the December editorial, entitled “Speaking Plainly”, was written we dared to hope that the dark appraisal of the present state of affairs within our denomination which we gave just possibly might not have been as severe as it appeared to us. Now I am convinced the sober truth is many of our people still have not come to the realization that reluctance to become vitally concerned with the issues of the day could easily spell out DEFAULT in the struggle to maintain the purest interpretation of the Word of God.
Ask yourself the question, friend. Are you genuinely aware that at this very time several primary principles of our doctrinal concepts have been brought under a cloud of uncertainty and doubt in the attempt to develop a conditional theology and a presentation of the gospel which would be more widely acceptable? Face squarely, if you will, the fact, too, that within our fellowship now there are those who unhesitatingly challenge the Protestant Reformed conception of the covenant and who consider themselves at liberty to make propaganda for a Liberated view which we as churches long ago repudiated as adverse to our own confessions.
Recent developments have further served to complicate things. In the latest issue of the Standard Bearer the Rev. Vos, and with him the Reverends Hoeksema and Ophoff and others also, are by implication accused of harboring the ‘prevalent sin of a loveless orthodoxy and a heresy-hunting dictatorial spirit’. Our last Synod, in the February 1st issue of Concordia, is charged with having breached the principles of the Church Order, of following a disorderly and unethical procedure and of neglecting its sacred trust. The Synod of 1950 is labeled hierarchical.
The fact is Synod did not in the least evidence any such hierarchical motives or grievous malfeasance. We are happy and thankful to God that the Reverend Ophoff has been able to completely dishonor such unwarranted allegations. For our part we deprecate any attempt by anyone to cloak the warm-hearted, zealous Reverend Vos in a mantle of ‘loveless orthodoxy’. Such a distortion of the spiritual character of Rev. Vos would be an absolute injustice to his record of consecrated service in our churches. This applies equally as well to the Reverends Ophoff and Hoeksema. I know these men well and am convinced of their deep concern for the truth and for the welfare of the church of Jesus Christ. I know them to be preachers of “the word of truth, by the power of God by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”
They are the men who, from the very beginning of our existence as churches, have been the staunchest defenders of the heritage which we as churches dearly love and intend to hold on to as a distinctive Reformed body. These are the men who want no amalgamation with those who would corrupt our peculiar profession as the truest manifestation of the church of Christ.
These are the men who do, however, seek the fellowship and communion of every child of God in this world who confesses the Name of Jesus Christ and who is willing to be completely subject to the absolute sovereign grace and power of the Almighty God. As Protestant Reformed churches we earnestly attempt the carrying out of the mandate of Christ to preach and to teach to all who hear what Christ has commanded concerning all things. It is the truth that in Canada the Liberated immigrants by and large do not embrace our truth in all its fullness and beauty. We must remain firm in the conviction that their conception of the covenant is tainted with Heynsianism and therefore militates against the Scriptures and our Confessions. The Liberated, of course, disagree with this contention. It thus remains our Christian obligation and privilege to persuade them of their error.
But we are very much misunderstood by them in this and even by some of our own people who have become afflicted with what I choose to call a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude towards doctrinal purity. Firmness and loyalty to principle on our part has been construed by them to be evidence of spiritual coldness and lack of Christian love. Our honest hesitation to readily admit the Liberated into full communion without properly safeguarding our spiritual welfare is to them derisible, and is given support within by such charges as ‘loveless orthodoxy’.
Is it not the truth, however, that accusations of this nature have often been applied more or less generally to those who preach a distinctive Protestant Reformed approach to the word of Truth? And although we readily admit the sin of a ‘loveless orthodoxy’ does at times threaten the church we cannot permit any such inference to be drawn against the pastors we have mentioned without speaking up to deny it.
The sin of dead orthodoxy, on the other hand—the legalistic piety which arises out of formalism born of adherence to traditionalism,—is a preponderant problem in our churches today as well as in every other Reformed church group. Dead orthodoxy breeds well on the reactionary effects of distortion and misunderstanding of the doctrinal tenets of our faith which are found to arise when the line between truth and error becomes finely drawn and difficult to discern. Those who are unwilling to see the cause and effect of the struggle for the retention of the truth become disinterested and half-hearted. Let us become aware of this and guard ourselves against it.
Thus let us view the Declaration of Principles, with its highlighting of the peculiarities of the Protestant Reformed truth, while serving its primary function as a guide to further missionary endeavor, as rendering also a beneficent effect among ourselves towards the revitalization of our approach to the principles of our faith. Any such forward step as this which offers to promote a clearer insight into the riches of our heritage should he welcomed and embraced with joy and gratitude. Let us accept it for what it is: a guide to the believer in his office as minister, missionary and individual in the pursuit of the goal of living out the commands of God to keep ourselves unspotted of the world and in all things seeking out the glory of God and His Name and our salvation in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.