Many people, in our Protestant Reformed circles feel that discussion on certain matters pertaining to the church, should be held at minimum. They also think that opinions on such matters are out of place. Is this the right attitude? Does an individual have the freedom to speak his mind on any matter concerning the church? The Hope Protestant Reformed Young People’s Society came to the following conclusions:
First, that Freedom of Speech, as applied in our nation, is the right of every individual to express his own opinion on any matter, with no fear of interference from the government that might deprive him of his liberty or his life. This is not fully allowed in our church circles today.
On certain church matters this freedom is granted but on others it is not. On certain matters, differing opinions are welcome, while on others opinion may not differ. There are two kind: practical and doctrinal.
Practical questions, such as the following: Should hymns be sung in the church, should women be allowed to take part in church or national politics, what is the relation of church and state, and any other question which might come up concerning the life of the church may be freely discussed and differing opinions may be formed. Every person of our denomination has perfect freedom of speech regarding any question of this sort.
Doctrinal truths such as, Virgin Birth, the Infallibility of Scripture, the Natures of Christ, the Trinity, and others subscribed to by the church are not to be questioned. One may discuss these truths but no one has the right to propagate any views which he may have that are contrary to the doctrinal standards of the church.
The confessions, therefore, are the standard of determination. They set forth logically and systematically the true doctrines of the church and may not be questioned. These confessions are the foundation of the church. If they are questioned the whole structure of the church will be shaken; it will cause it eventually to collapse. Article thirty of the Belgic Confessions orders the church to,
. . . institute and establish certain ordinances among themselves for maintaining the body of the church: yet they ought studiously to take care, that they do not depart from those things which Christ our only Master, hath instituted. And therefore, we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord, and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God.
Therefore, the church must restrict freedom of speech on doctrinal truths.
If, however, a doctrine is seriously disputed as to its contents the consistory of the congregation, in which the dispute arose, must carefully consider this doctrine Pro and Con, and then make clear the correct interpretation thereof. If this decision is unsatisfactory to the protestants they may take it to Classis: from there they may appeal it to the Synod. If both Classis and Synod uphold the decision of that consistory, the protestants involved must submit to this decision. They may not propagate their views neither may they agitate against the doctrine in question. It is their moral obligation to the church to remain silent.
Practical matters may be questioned, but doctrinal truths must be closely guarded.