Your editorial in the December issue of Beacon Lights contains several rash sweeping statements which may not go unchallenged. Such statements for example as “the awful fact is: that the very foundations upon which our existence as a distinct group of churches are grounded are in great danger of being uprooted and torn apart”. . . . “should have served to awaken all of us to this alarming situation”. . . . “there are ominous signs in our ecclesiastical sky”. . . “we are in great danger of losing our precious Protestant Reformed heritage by default”. In my opinion, such sweeping statements coming from you, and that without one iota of proof, are sheer nonsense. They can best be characterized as a mere playing to the gallery, and are wholly unworthy of an editor of our young people’s magazine. Let’s be sane in our leadership. Such tactics of making sweeping statements as indicated above, may create mass hysteria, but do not reveal good, sound, Reformed leadership.
You claim that the above described situation exists in our churches because of the present discussion of the term and concept “condition” in our Standard Bearer, and Concordia. What, can’t there be a lively discussion on some theological issue in our midst without some alarmists crying out fire, fire, FIRE. Such tactics remind me of the tactics of the Christian Reformed Churches prior to 1924, and of the churches in the Netherlands prior to the “Liberation”.
For your information the term and concept “condition” has had an important and indispensable place in Reformed theology for the past 400 years, notwithstanding the fact that throughout all these years there has been an almost continuous controversy about this term. And also in our Protestant Reformed Churches the term and concept “condition” has had a place from their very beginning, and has a place even now. Even the Rev. H. Hoeksema in his splendid address at our 25th Anniversary Field Day, at Jamestown Grove, emphatically stated that if we as Protestant Reformed Churches were to continue as the true Church of Christ Jesus in this world, then the conditio sine qua non, the indispensable condition is, that we be spiritual.”
Since it is a fact that the term and concept “condition” has always had, and always will have a place in Reformed theology, the sole question is, what do we, and what did the Reformed fathers mean by it? Did they mean by it that God’s grace is dependent upon conditions, or that God is bound by conditions, or that they are something that man must fulfill before God can bestow salvation? God forbid! So conceived, the term and concept “condition” is but the destructive poison of Pelagianism and Arminianism, and is abhorred by all who love the Reformed truth. And if that were the only possible interpretation of the term and concept “condition” we would have to brand all the Reformed Church fathers as Pelagian and Arminian, from Calvin and the fathers of Dordt to Rev. H. Hoeksema. But thanks be to God, these fathers were no Pelagians and Arminians, but loved, defended, and preserved our Reformed heritage, and spoke of “conditions” in the Scriptural and Reformed sense of the word.
What then is the Reformed interpretation of the term and concept “condition”? I can perhaps best express this in the words of Prof. Dr. Schilder as “something which God has inseparably linked up with something else, in order to make clear to us that the one cannot come without the other, and that we can never be assured of the one, except at the same time we have become assured of the other.” (Reformatie, Vol. 26:, p. 51). In other words, when we speak of “conditions” we mean that God has inseparably linked up faith with Salvation, the cross with the crown, the battle with the victory, and that we can never receive the one without the other, and can never be assured of the one except at the same time we have become assured of the other.
It is in this sense of the word that we and the Reformed fathers speak of a “conditional promise”. Here lies, according to Prof. Dr. Schilder, the fine point of distinction. “God, says he, does give us promises but no prediction. He does not say to N.N.: you shall inherit eternal life, and to another N.N.: you shall eternally remain without.”
“Therefore He gives a promise, with a command, even as the Canons of Dordt express it: the promise comes to us with the command to repent and believe. Thus also in baptism He says: he that believeth in Me shall not be ashamed; for them that honour Me, I will honour; unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness; they that seek me early shall find Me.” (Reformatie, Vol. 26, p. 51).
Hence, in order to inherit the promise of eternal life we must believe; we must love the Lord our God; we must do good works; we must fight the good fight of faith; we must walk in sanctification; in one word the conditio sine qua non, the indispensable condition is, that we be spiritual. CAN we do all these things? By no means except God work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
That’s Scripture! That’s Reformed! That’s the Confession!
Rev Bernard Kok
In his contribution our friend, Reverend Kok, asks for proof that there exists any threat to the future of our churches. We believe he knows very well the recent debate on “conditions” has been carried to the point where the participants have each publicly denounced each other’s position in no uncertain terms. Is it not generally admitted that there can be no room in our circles for two such opposing doctrinal positions? And does not our Protestant Reformed heritage hinge on which one is ultimately held to be in harmony with our Confessions? And is it not a fact, too, that while this issue’s being disputed in the States the fruits of our initial missionary efforts in Canada have ripened into thorns? Please see the contribution following these remarks and the report of our own Protestant Reformed minister in Hamilton which appears in the latest Standard Bearer.
As to Reverend Kok’s avowal that a conditional theology has “a place even now in our churches” we refer him to the Christian Living department and to our own editorial in this issue. Our readers should note, too, that Reverend Kok quotes at length a liberated minister to prove his contention.