Letter to the Editor
I want to thank you for your answer to Jeff Andringa in the ”Letters” of the October issue of the Beacon Lights. I agree with you that the decision of Synod 2018 requires further study because differences linger in the churches.
You quote a small part of the decision of synod, which reads, “The experience and assurance of justification in one’s consciousness is justification, and justification is by faith alone in Christ alone.” The very next sentence in the decision continues with, “Good works…do not function as helps for finding and maintaining assurance of our justification” (Acts of Synod 2018, p. 69).
In his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Ursinus answers the rhetorical question posed in the decision itself, “How could works help add to that assurance?” when he answers the question of why good works are necessary (part two of Lord’s Day 33). He explains in very simple and understandable sentences: 1. That we may thereby testify our faith and be assured of its existence in us by the fruits which we produce in our lives. 2. That we may be assured of the fact that we have obtained the forgiveness of sins through Christ and that we are justified for his sake. 3. That we may be assured of our election and salvation. 4. That our faith may be exercised, nourished, strengthened, and increased by good works. 5. That we may adorn and commend our profession, life, and calling by our good works. 6. That we may escape temporal and eternal punishment. 7. That we may obtain from God those temporal and spiritual rewards which, according to the divine promise, accompany good works both in this and in a future life (http://www.rcus.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/UrsinusZ_HC-Commentary-17-NEW-HC.pdf).
Some of us remember when these things were taught in our churches and explained thoroughly as being all of God; for example, the 34th chapter, Assurance Through Diligence, of Herman Hoeksema’s book Communion With God. The statement made by synod seems to disagree with what Ursinus and Herman Hoeksema taught in their explanations concerning assurance. If this ancient landmark of Ursinus’s teaching needs to be removed, then I believe our leaders need carefully to explain and show why. If I must believe that Ursinus is wrong with his statements, it may cast doubt on the whole Catechism for myself and possibly others. Maybe this just appears to be two opposing views and there is a way to harmonize them. Perhaps myself and possibly others are just not seeing how they are not different. Any light you can shed on this would be appreciated and helpful.