The country in which we live is called a Christian country. About 65% of the population belongs to some church while the remainder of the population has, at one time or another, been connected with the Church. There are many denominations in the country, some very large, numbering better than 10,000,000 members. There are others which are very small, not much larger than our own. Within this vast conglomeration of churches if sound the Protestant Reformed Churches, a denomination which totals 19 congregations, 663 families, 2,906 members—if baptized members are included. This is little more than a spot on the ecclesiastical map.
The question inevitably arises: What justification can a denomination of such smallness offer for its separate existence within the ecclesiastical world?
This is a question which needs answering from more than one point of view. It needs answering because the existence of the Protestant Reformed Churches must be justified in distinction from all the other denominations within the country—some of which are large and some small. It needs answering to explain why it exists separately from the Christian Reformed denomination from which it came out. It needs answering because there are those outside the denomination who cannot possibly imagine what business this little denomination has continuing its separate existence—especially when swift-moving ecumenical currents engulf many others. It needs answering because we who are members of this denomination need to know for ourselves why we continue when we are so small, and why we insist on continuing in the future.
In the final analysis the answer to this question is simply that we fervently and passionately believe that the truth which we confess is the truth of God’s Word. And this answer is made without apology and in the clear consciousness of the fact that there are many other denominations who claim the same thing. In making this answer, therefore, we insist without equivocation, that it can be clearly shown from Scripture itself to anyone who is willing to listen and will take the time to examine the matter honestly that this truth which we love and confess is the truth which God has revealed on the pages of Holy Writ.
And along with this assertion, we insist (and shall continue to insist) that it is our undisputed calling to preserve this truth with every means at our disposal as long as the Lord calls us to remain in the church militant.
God’s Word is the ultimate determining factor, the final standard, the most basic rule of our faith and life. Before it we must bow, and no one shall swerve us from this calling. All the other circumstances in the world cannot alter this.
But there is here another consideration. This consideration must not be divorced from our calling to submit without reservation to the Word of God. I am not going to say something which undermines what I have just said. It is a consideration which flows forth from the all-encompassing authority of God’s Word.
It can be conclusively shown (to our own personal satisfaction not only, but objectively as well) that the Protestant Reformed Churches stand in the line of the Reformed tradition. This Reformed tradition began with the Calvin Reformation. It continued through the Reformation in the Netherlands. It came over the sea to this country with our forbearers. It was preserved in this country through the history of the Christian Reformed Church and our own Churches since 1924 up to the present. Compare what we believe today with the teachings of Calvin. Weigh in the balances what we confess with what our fathers wrote own in the great creeds of the Post-Reformation times. Examine our faith in the light of the faith of our fathers. And the conclusion is absolutely inescapable: We confess what has always been Calvinistically, Confessonally, and Historically Reformed.
This is not to say that the truth of Calvinism was not preserved in other denominations in other countries from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. There were Calvinists in France, in England, in Scotland, in Germany, and elsewhere. The Calvinism which came from these places to these shores was a thorough Calvinism which was represented also at Dordt and which put its stamp of approval on what Dordt decided. But this Calvinism, to a considerable degree, has been lost in one way or another as the Church has gone its dreary way through the decades of the history of the Unites States. Especially Arminianism has erased much of this Calvinism; while it was precisely this Arminianism which was condemned by all the Churches of the Calvin Reformation (not only in the Netherlands, but also in all the countries of the continent of Europe) now some 350 years ago.
And the point is that the reason why we exist separately as churches, why we shall insist on continuing this separate existence, why we shall, by God’s grace persevere in this confession which we make—the reason is our calling to be faithful to “the faith of our fathers.”
This is said without apology. Indeed we are small. And there is no point in trying to ignore the fact. But smallness is an insignificant price to pay in the fulfillment of such a noble and blessed calling.
This is said without a grain of pride, for it arises out of firm conviction. There is no reason for pride anyway when we know so well and experience each day anew that the reality of this preservation is caused by the power of God’s mercy and grace.
But this conviction is necessary, for on it hinges the well-being of our denomination.
When this is said, we have not ignored Scripture. No, the Reformed faith coming down to us along the lines of Dordt and 1924 is the truth of Scripture. We are saying that there is a tradition of the truth of Scripture handed down over the years by valiant defenders of the faith—a Scriptural tradition which has now been entrusted to our care by our fathers who precede us to glory. In this tradition we stand. Nothing else really makes any difference.
In maintaining this, we are obligated to raise our voices loudly and clearly in defense of our position. We register our protests against the current deformation of Calvin’s teachings. We complain that the decisions of Dordt have been ignored or effaced. We decline invitations to participate in movements of church union on the grounds that our heritage is sacrificed by these unions. We raise our voice in anguish and condemnation over the loud cries on every side that we must forget our past, “get with it,” “go back to Dordt to change it” and make the gospel relevant to the needs of the 20th Century. We shout loudly that the creeds are ignored, contradicted, and bypassed in favor of something more palatable to a man who knows not what he want and cares less. We cannot substitute the milk of God’s Word for a tasteless and weak gruel.
This is our heritage; this is our calling.
With showing this as it touches upon our existence today as Protestant Reformed Churches, we shall bring this series to its close.