Netherlands Reformed Congregations

The Netherlands Reformed Congregations, or NRC (not to be confused with Dutch Reformed), are a relatively small denomination professing to stand fast in the Reformed tradition. Located primarily in Ameri­ca, the NRC of this paper parallel an equivalent denomination back in the Netherlands. Netherlands Reformed Congregations are churches coming out of a strong Reformed heritage, yet have some shortcomings that are of serious consequences to the child of God.


NRC: Tracing the Roots

During the Reformation, a strong Reformed tradi­tion began to emerge in the Netherlands, as evidenced by the Synod of Dordt in the early 17th century. The Canons of Dordt, one of our Reformed confessions, surfaced in this period. But, gradually the church (then, the State Reformed Church of the Netherlands, or Hervomde Kerk) came to be operated by the state rather than church government. The state called and regulated synods, appropriated ministers, etc. No sep­arate church government was filling this role. The state controlled the church, and in many cases, was the church. By the mid-19th century, the state church and many associated with it displayed themselves as quite apostate. Heresy and greed infected the church in the Netherlands.

Despite persecution, a series of splits from the state church occurred. Most significant are these resulting groups:

1834 – Secession (Afscheiding) under Rev. De Cock

1839 – Churches Under the Cross

1841 – Ledeboerian Congregations

1886 – Doleantie under Dr. A. Kuyper

Incidentally, the Christian Reformed and Protes­tant Reformed Churches also determine their roots in the Afscheiding and the Doleantie.


The Founding of the NRC

Netherlands Reformed Congregations came out of the union of some of Rev. De. Cock’s Afscheiding, Rev. Scholte’s “Churches Under the Cross”, and Rev. VanDyke’s branch of Ledeboerian congregations. The join­ing of these was brought about by Rev. G. H. Kersten in 1907, and represents the official founding of the NRC. Since then, a portion has moved to the United States, Canada, even New Zealand, also calling itself Netherlands Reformed. Presently, Netherlands Reformed Congregations (outside of the Netherlands) have approximately 10,000 members compiling 25 congregations in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. The NRC 1992 yearbook reports of 6 minis­ters (plus one student and three emeriti) and a missionary. The NRC have also established 13 of their schools worldwide. Classes East, Midwest, and Far west comprise their synod.


A Troubling Confession

I myself have a certain relationship with a member of a Netherlands Reformed Church. Countless hours have been spent talking about spiritual matters with her, with ministers and my elders, as well as both pre­sent and former members of the NRC. The following is what I have gathered from this and troubles me.

The main distinction lies in the NRC view of the covenant. While NRC hold to the infallibility of Scrip­ture, the confessions of the truths of Scripture (Heidel­berg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt), and five-point Calvinism, there is significant disparity with respect to Protestant Reformed beliefs.

To understand this, we should look at the truths of total depravity and regeneration. We must see how this affects us and our lives.

All creatures are by nature, totally depraved. By nature, all we do is seek to rebel against God (Proverbs 17:11). Yet the Almighty chose to save some. We don’t know why. We can’t understand why other than that it was God’s eternal pleasure. We certainly didn’t earn it (Ephesians 2:8, 9). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us. . .” (I John 4: 10). It was His eternal good pleasure to promise believ­ers that He would be God unto them and to their seed after them (Genesis 17:7). The name Jehovah, by which we may know God, means exactly that. This is the covenant of grace. This is why we baptize. The Lord saves His people, working first in their hearts the work of regeneration.

Regeneration is that work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that makes us born again. We are changed, made new unto Christ (1 Peter 1:23). This is not a license to say that all children of believers are saved. God does not promise that in His Word. But, it may not be ignored that God’s promise is a covenant of friendship with believers and their seed. This is why we baptize infants. They are included in the covenant of grace (Mark 10:14-16).

NRC dogmatics profess personal/experiential regeneration to be the correct view, in light of Scrip­ture. That is, they emphasize speaking only of regen­erated or saved persons once they evidence the fruits of regeneration and conversion, i.e. the inward work­ings of misery, deliverance, and the outward workings of gratitude in love toward God and others (Luke 3:7- 9, John 3:3, etc.).

Therefore, they pray for this working in their heart. If they do not yet have faith of their salvation in Christ, they pray for it because it is what they desire. Through the preaching, they are instructed to pray for that highest good: friendship and fellowship with God. They desire the salvation which is only through Jesus Christ.

For example, at times when Netherlands Reformed young people make profession of faith, they confess the NRC doctrines to be true. In the same breath, they confess their lack of a true, living faith. They want it, but haven’t yet had the experience that would give them full assurance of redemption through the blood of Christ. This is the message preached in Netherlands Reformed congregations.

But wait! That is not the proper understanding of total depravity. This isn’t Scriptural, nor is it found in the Reformed confessions. Man bound by sin and death can only seek to rebel (Prov. 17:11). He cannot pray. He cannot desire salvation.

Sinful man certainly cannot pray in and of him­self. Prayer is the chief part of thankfulness. Our con­fessions are quite clear on this. Lord’s Day XLV lays it out plainly:

Q. 117. What are the requisites of prayer, which is acceptable to God and which he will hear?

A. 117 First, that we from the heart pray to the one true God only . . . secondly, that we rightly . . . know our need and misery . . . thirdly, that we be fully persuad­ed that we are unworthy….

There is no place for an unregenerate heart to be praying to the Almighty God of heaven and earth! Dead to sin, not born again, we cannot fill the requisites of prayer. By nature, we hate God. Hating God, we love sin. Loving sin, we cannot want redemp­tion from it in any way. To believe that we can is a doctrine that troubles me.

For further proof, see Peter’s second epistle, II Peter 1:1-10. Read it, and focus on verses 8-9.

The covenant of grace is God’s promise to believ­ers. Unbelievers want no part of it. There is no experi­ence to desire and wait for. Covenant children can’t experience, they can’t understand (see baptism form), yet they are partakers, “for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). That is the comfort – knowing that it is not of ourselves. We could not do it. Yet we have assurance of the work of Christ in John 17:6: knowing the manifest name of God – and He glorified in it. This is the essence of salvation which is hungered and thirsted after by a heart made new in Christ.

It is my hope and prayer that you, the reader, have a little bit better understanding of what lies around you. May this urge you to study Holy Scrip­ture, and be more ready and able to defend your beliefs, D.V. Let it be known, I did not intend to mis­represent anyone, but 1 welcome all replies. See the editor for address.