Through Strife to Victory Chapter 2 – How Heresy Creeps In

It is important to understand the factors which led to the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The PR Churches were constrained to come out of the Christian Reformed Churches in America in 1924. In order to acquire a picture of the spiritual condition of the CR Churches in the 1920’s it is evident that we must go to our roots, the Netherlands.

The CR Church was made up of two groups of immigrants from the Netherlands. First were the sons of the Afscheiding of 1834, the second were the sons of the Doleantie of 1886. Both groups had left the State Church of the Netherlands because of modernism and worldliness in 1892.

Even though the members of the Afscheiding had shed the modernism that had crept into the Hervormde (The State Church), it could not be said that they were without error or had accomplished complete reformation. Soon after the Afscheiding, in fact, only three years later, a Rev. Brummelkamp preached a general, well-meant offer of salvation. This disturbed the leader of the Afscheiding, Rev. De Cock, and others very much. In fact, the matter was brought to the Synod, but the Synod, evidently not wanting trouble so soon in their history, did nothing about it. Not long after, the son of Rev. De Cock also preached a general, well-meant offer of salvation. Again the matter was brought to the attention of the Synod, but again, evidently to avoid trouble, nothing was done about it. The history that followed shows how important it is not to allow error to develop like a cancer, but to nip it in the bud. I have sermons in my library of “Reformed” ministers of the Netherlands who ended their sermons with a general, well-meant offer of salvation, inviting all to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. That painting of Jesus knocking at the vine- covered door with its knob on the inside is very deceptive.

Also the Doleantie was not free of its errors. It was Dr. Abraham Kuyper, the father of the Doleantie, who involved himself in politics and soon developed the theory of common grace. Although Kuyper strongly opposed the idea that there was any relationship whatever between his common grace and salvation, yet it must be admitted that common grace can never actually be disassociated from the general, well-meant offer of salvation.

The Christian Reformed Churches in America were made up of these two groups of people who immigrated from the Netherlands; these two groups who already had the seed of the well-meant offer of salvation to all men and the seed of a certain “common” grace of God to all men well established. These errors which came along with the immigrants obviously effected the spiritual condition of the Christian Reformed Churches in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

On the basis of Dr. Abraham Kuyper’s common grace theory the churches saw much good in the world round about us. As a result of God’s favor upon all mankind, so they said, the church and the world have much in common. They spoke of the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, who by their searching had come close to discovering God. Idolatry, so it was said, is the striving of the blind pagan in his search to find God. Often God’s revelation in nature and the scientific conclusions of the unbeliever were considered one and the same. By the natural light of God’s common grace fallen man was considered as being still capable of reading aright the hand writing of God in nature. Common grace was considered to be a bridge between Jerusalem and Athens, between the church and the world. The only conclusion to such a favor of God was the resulting belief that is restrained in the hearts of all mankind, and the sinner, without being regenerated, can do much that is good in the sight of God.

I have before me a sermon of J. Hiemenga, a minister of the Christian Reformed Church, published in 1909, on Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” In this sermon you will recognize the conditional theology and the offer of salvation which is so very prevalent in our day. He writes:

Well now, hear the Word of the Lord: Come then and let us reason together, and I assure you, I will take away all your sins, and set you before Me pure and holy.

Do you comply with the condition! There is oh so much religion. But also oh so much religion is mere form. Our time is crippled by it. Even as in Israel. Obligations, customs are regarded, but the heart is not in it. The intimate life with Christ is lacking; as a result, the service of the Lord and the service of sin go hand in hand…

The Lord despises that. Therefore: Repent. Forsake sin, break away from it, fight against it and walk according to God’s commandments.

Come then, that is God’s offer. Then, not earlier. If you want to live in sin there is no forgiveness. God invites you to come. Reason together. Discuss it with the Lord. Be honest and see who is to blame. (Translation and emphasis—mine C. H.)

Already then this general, well-meant offer of salvation was interpreted to mean that God loves all men. At that time a minister in the CRC in Grand Rapids preached on the text in I John 2:15, 16: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” The points of his sermon were:

“I. God does love the world.

  1. We may not love the world.

III. Why not.”

Apart from the fact that the first point is not even in the text, he preached a universal love for all mankind. Was this the fruit of the theory of common grace?

Heresy, as all sin, has its consequences. Unless a church repents and returns to the truth of the Word of God, this evil grows. Error develops into more serious error. Under the righteous judgment of God these apostate churches become the false church. Today there are men in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands who maintain that one can be saved even though they do not believe in Jesus Christ. They maintain that a sincere Jew, Moslem, or the like can be saved.

Through all this God preserves His church. Zion is redeemed through judgment. ♦