“O how wretched the patience, when the honor of God is diminished (not to say prostrate), if we tread so lightly that we can look the other way and wink at it!” (John Calvin)
I was hoodwinked.
Almost everyone was in on something, and no one let me in on the secret.
We were all raised the same.
On the same preaching, the same reading material, the same Bible studies, the same catechism instruction, the same lectures, and the same instruction at school.
But of all the people who professed to love me, and even those with whom I had the sweetest and closest fellowship, not one of them ever pulled me aside and let me in on the secret.
“Of all the things you learn, you must never apply them to our own denomination.”
It was amazing to watch, and I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but now I do.
How people started to pull back as things continued to progress. They could see things getting closer and closer to “that line” that must not be crossed. It is one thing to speak in the abstract about the problems in the PRC, but to actually rebuke her from the pulpit or to support such rebukes, to declare that her errors were far more than just trifles but actually issues about which men and women would have to take a stand, were steps too far.
The pullback continued.
Shame on me for not applying the lesson that they had never even shared with me.
“Don’t point the finger back at the PRC.”
The PRC will not hear a rebuke.
The problem is, once you see the problem, you can’t un-see it.
And not knowing that the PRC was above reproach, I took all of the principles upon which I had been raised—in the home, in the school, and in the church—and I applied them to the Protestant Reformed Churches.
And when standing on those principles, the path was not unclear.
I was taught that doctrine was the most important part of a church.
We all were taught Hoeksema’s maxim about the most needful thing for a church.
In the first place, doctrine; in the second place, doctrine; and in the third place, doctrine.
And it is true.
What you say about God is of the utmost importance.
It just isn’t true in the PRC.
Do you know what the reaction of the membership in the PRC was when a sermon teaching a conditional covenant was preached from a pulpit?
They did not care.
I could not believe then, and still cannot believe today, how unmoved the members of the denomination were to that heretical sermon.
Do you know how many ministers protested that public sermon? One.
Do you know how many lay members of the denomination protested that sermon? One couple.
We know how one member of the congregation, Prof. Dykstra, reacted to that sermon.
But what about the minister of the church, Rev. Spronk? What was his reaction?
When someone asked him about this, he said the sermon was a mole hill, and he would not allow it to become a mountain.
Explicit conditional theology—preached in the middle of a controversy by the leading figure who had been tasked to lead the churches out of the controversy—was said to be a mole hill.
Theology that was so clearly wrong that even Classis East had to use the dreaded “H” word (“the error of the heresy of the conditional covenant theology”), Rev. Spronk characterized as a mole hill.
(We know now that Rev. Spronk is capable of using the word “heresy.” He was quick to use the word once Rev. Lanning was deposed. He condemned as heresy Rev. Lanning’s exegesis of Malachi 3:7, which also happened to be Martin Luther’s exegesis. But conditional theology? That was not heresy, that was a mole hill.)
What about Rev. Spronk’s congregation, Faith PRC?
At the January 2021 meeting of Classis East, while deliberating (I use the word loosely) on the protest against the heretical sermon preached by Rev. Van Overloop, Rev. Spronk informed the assembly what the reaction of Faith PRC was after this sermon was preached.
He stated that this sermon was preached during family visitation, and he boldly announced that not one member of the congregation had raised an objection.
I could not believe my ears.
Explicit conditional theology, preached in the middle of a controversy by the leading figure who had been tasked to lead the churches out of the controversy, and no objections were raised.
Contending for right doctrine is simply not important for the PRC.
I base that not on what men tell me is important for the PRC; I base that on how the PRC behaves.
Look at the length of time they worked with Rev. Overway and the leeway given to anyone who preached or wrote false doctrine. Look at how many times discipline was administered to elders who tolerated or defended false doctrine, and compare that to the length of time spent working with Elder Meyer or Rev. Lanning or Rev. Langerak or Deacon Andringa or the two elders who were relieved of their duties or the two officebearers in Wingham who were at one time disciplined.
The PRC has patience for false doctrine.
The PRC has patience for the trampling underfoot of Jesus Christ and his truth.
But for those who rebuke her for her errors or even just point out her errors by way of protest they have no patience.
God’s truth is not all that important.
Case in point.
When Wingham released their excellent 40-page summary of the controversy, look at how long it took ministers to respond. It took only a few weeks for Rev. Kleyn, Rev. Guichelaar, Rev. Bruinsma, Rev. Koole, Rev. Slopsema and Rev. (soon to be Prof.) Griess to rise up in defense of themselves.
Rev. Bruinsma was the most candid.
“I am hurt and angered at the false accusation of error leveled at me…”
“I would like to take this opportunity to vindicate myself…”
“Rev. Guichelaar has defended himself against the false accusations leveled against him. I want to do the same.”
“I write this defense of myself to you in order to clear away the doubts you may have of me. I honestly care about my standing in your midst as a congregation.”
In the last four years, Rev. Bruinsma has served on two committees that misrepresented those whose material they were treating. At meetings of Classis East he had consistently argued on the wrong side of the doctrinal issue that has troubled the PRC. But now—now!—is the time to rise up in righteous indignation!
Not for the sake of Christ’s name, but for the sake of Wilbur Bruinsma’s name.
Where have all of these men been for the last five years while Jesus Christ was being displaced and his truth compromised? They couldn’t be roused to defend Jesus Christ and his name, but when their name was brought up, they came out in record time.
Doctrine is not important in the PRC.
Men’s reputations are.
That can be clearly seen in the charge of sin brought by the editors of the Standard Bearer, Prof. Dykstra, Prof. Gritters, and Rev. Koole, against Revs. N. Langerak, Lanning, and Vander Wal. Incensed that they had received, in their view, a group letter charging sin, the editors responded with a group letter charging sin. (That is only one of the glaring hypocrisies throughout this entire saga. One that was particularly rich, was when the editors, while engaging in their abusive behavior against Rev. Vander Wal, expressed their dissatisfaction with how long it took Rev. Vander Wal to respond (“It should not take you seven more weeks to do so”). This after it took them nine months to respond to the letter they had received from the group of concerned men). These charges were pursued because the editors’ feelings were hurt by the letter that had been addressed to the RFPA by a group of men who were concerned with the direction of the Standard Bearer. It was clear to most that the letter did not contain charges of sin. Byron’s consistory knew it, and this was confirmed by Classis East, which decided as much.
What a mess that created. And all because men’s reputations were at stake.
But what about the Standard Bearer? And what about the appearance of Sword & Shield?
There is no one who can in good conscience contend that the Standard Bearer has provided leadership in this controversy. (Once the SB made clear that it was not going to provide any leadership, the membership of the PRC had to resort to distributing emails and “papers” in order to carry on the debate). I believe that the Standard Bearer has not just provided bad leadership but that it has actively been foisting false doctrine upon the Protestant Reformed denomination, as I will prove later.
What was the advice and leadership provided by the Standard Bearer leading up to Synod 2018 regarding the doctrinal issue plaguing the PRC?
Also at Synod are four protests of statements or actions of the Synod of 2017, and an appeal of a decision of a classis. These protests make up 264 pages of the 427-page agenda. Synod may be forced to appoint a study committee to address the problem of ballooning protests and appeals. There is no good reason that protests or appeals should number in the scores, much less hundreds of pages. All consistories are willing in good faith to assist members so that they can bring the clearest, most precise protest/appeal with all the supporting documents needed. It is positively detrimental to overload the ecclesiastical assemblies with a mountain of documents. To put it into perspective, how many of us recently picked up a book of 427 pages, and not only read it in a month, but studied it in order to be qualified to discuss and make decisions on its content? That is what we are asking all the delegates to synod to do. (Prof. Dykstra, SB, 5/15/18)
After having suffered under the lack of leadership in the Standard Bearer for many years, finding no help from the paper that was made for moments like this in understanding the doctrines at stake, realizing that the SB was issuing a trumpet blast of an uncertain sound, and having to hear that Rev. Hoeksema’s theology of the Philippian jailor was “Nonsense,” a group of concerned men finally formed to try and recover their paper. After going through the proper channels and being soundly rebuffed by the board of the RFPA—which now operates only as an arm of the seminary and of the denomination as a whole—they started their own paper. (Here is what the SB used to be).
You would think these men had committed the unforgivable sin.
The reaction was swift and fierce, as was covered in a previous post.
Consistories and members were incensed.
“How dare they start this paper?!”
But if pure doctrine and the glory of God’s name is of the utmost importance, couldn’t we at least understand why a new magazine would be considered?
What caused the uproar after the appearance of Sword & Shield was the fact that the magazine was determined to be a truly free paper; it would hold the truth over all, and not the institution, and it was not afraid to rebuke the PRC for its errors.
Isn’t this what you want in a free paper? Why all the uproar?
Isn’t this what we asked for?
“If ever the SB becomes another nice, friendly, inoffensive, and harmless religious rag, may the God of truth and righteousness put it out of its misery quickly. And raise up another that will bear the standard!” (Prof. Engelsma, 75th Anniversary book, 129).
Turns out I was hoodwinked.
How silly of me to think that the sword should cut both ways, outside the denomination and within.
This deception goes all the way to the top.
Synod 2018 told me that the issues facing the PRC had to do with the unconditional covenant (the lifeblood of the PRC) and justification by faith alone (the heart of the gospel).
I believed them.
I did not always know the issues to be that serious. I was a fool for many years, thinking it was only personalities, and the doctrinal issues were minor. Fool is not too strong a word.
But Synod 2018 corrected that for me.
I pored over the decisions made by that assembly. I read the decisions carefully and studied the truths those decisions were trying to recover.
And I was convinced.
These issues had to do with the heart of the gospel and the place of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Would he be central? Or would he be displaced?
Prof. Huizinga wrote the advice for the committee. And I honored him for it.
But he deceived me too.
And that came out in the Standard Bearer.