Hoodwinked (1)

“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.

Tricked.

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?

Indifference.

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.

Wretched patience.

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.

Man is.

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 are.

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?

This:

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.

Deceived.

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.

9 thoughts on “Hoodwinked (1)

  1. Heard and understood.

    But, what about the Lanning, Langerak, and the RPC? I wrote a blog pointing out their isolation and separation theology to which Langerak responded saying it is not true, and pointedly so. Yet, Lanning continues to preach isolationist and separatist theology. I recall one recent sermon (after he “taught” the catholicity of the church in a sermon entitled ‘the catholic church’) where Lanning insinuated that the RPC must stay separate and dwell alone in safety? This is a clearly isolationist and separatist. Not to mention the whole school situation, when there exists many thoroughly reformed schools all through out West Michigan.

    Looking forward to a response,

    Henry J Hoekstra

      1. Hello Vici (and Henry), the reason I did not respond was because it appears that Mr. Hoekstra was not referring to anything in my blog post, but rather, to a debate he was engaging in on his own blog. I am in favor of such debates. For the interested reader, Mr. Hoekstra’s blog can be found here: https://churchcurmudgeon.blogspot.com/. I believe an early issue of Sword and Shield responded to one of his posts, and that material can be found here: https://reformedbelieverspub.org/issues/.
        I follow Mr. Hoekstra’s blog and read it, along with anything else I can get my hands on and believe such discussions help sharpen our understanding of the issues. The interested reader can respond to Mr. Hoekstra’s question here, or preferably, at his blog, where that issue is being debated.

    1. Dewey,

      I did not see this comment until yesterday, otherwise, I would have responded promptly.
      I am curious, why you haven’t responded to the content of my comment? You say my writing is not pertinent to this blog post. This leaves me scratching my head. But I should have been clearer and so I apologize for not getting to the point. I will do so now.

      Two things must first be noted. 1) This blog post concerns the PRC as being unwilling to listen and therefore take reproof. 2) You also write based on the presupposition that you and the RPC leaders are in the right and are therefore re-forming the apostatizing PRC. Correct me if I am wrong.

      To prove my point, you say in this blog post, “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.”

      Here you claim that the PRC is not willing to listen to rebuke. They won’t humble themselves and listen to the people who truly do love them, are concerned for them, and would therefore be naturally critical of their doings. What I want to argue is that the RPC, as the daughter of the PRC, is exactly that which you accuse the PRC of being: unwilling to take rebuke. The RPC is the daughter of the PRC. The RPC as the offspring of the PRC has the same issues that you say the PRC has. Like a daughter who shares outward similarities to her parents, the RPC shares a similar worldview as the PRC. You cannot change this because it is in their DNA so to speak. The RPC too will not listen to rebuke.

      Naturally, being unwilling to take rebuke shows itself in separation and isolation. A teenager (like I once was) rebels against his parents and separates himself from their household to sow his wild oats. Furthermore, a daughter isolates herself in her bedroom and sneaks out the window to go to the party that her parents told her she was not allowed to go to. Being unwilling to take rebuke shows its ugly colors in isolation and separation. Therefore, the RPC is unwilling to take rebuke and is separatist and isolationist.

      From My point of view, I see the RPC’s leaders believing what they say is objective truth without spot or wrinkle. This is a common characteristic of leaders within cult movements like the Jehovah’s Witnesses as Anthony Hoekema points out in his book. He states that one could not criticize Charles Russell without him acting in a thoroughly combative way. Russell truly believed that there was no truth apart from what he said and wrote. Langerak and Lanning act without charity or fair-mindedness in their hearts towards critique and criticism, but rather they are constantly on the defensive. Just listen to their sermons and read their writings and you will notice this to be true. If Lanning and Langerak disagree with something, it’s anathema. There is never even a single ounce of truth in anything they do not like. It is all heresy and all a lie from the devil. Now, I am not saying the RPC is a cult or similar to the Jehovah’s witnesses. I am trying to buttress my point about being above reproof.

      What is happening between the RPC and PRC is a lesson for all Christians: let your pride fall (Proverbs 16:19) and act as the little one Christ commands us to be (Matthew 18:2). These two intellectual virtues (fair-mindedness and charity) are imperative for anyone engaging in any form of influencing, especially Christians, and woefully so for a spiritual leader (Matthew 23:13).

      You may direct people to Langerak’s response to my blog post, ‘Unholy Alliances’, but it does not even come close to giving a correct or persuasive answer. It confirms what I wrote on my blog and drives myself and others further in the direction of the conclusion founded. A conclusion founded upon scripture (Mark 9:38-41). It comes down to a fundamental difference in a world-and-life-view as Bavinck would say. As I mention in my capstone paper, the problem has to do with how both view the Church on earth today. One is far more inclusive (Hyde) and the other is extremely isolationist (Langerak). One strives after the unity that is a living reality in Christ and the other militates against it. One notices that the church on the earth today has the most professing Christians than ever before and chooses to embrace them despite differences, while the other builds up walls and condemns.

      It can only be changed by confessing the sin to Jesus Christ and asking Him to open your eyes to the vastness of God’s church. A church WAY beyond the Dutch Reformed folk.

      In a respectful but challenging manner,

      Henry J. Hoekstra

      1. Hi Henry,
        It seems a bit presumptuous to leave a comment demanding an answer about a topic you are working on, and then when the blogger declines to answer (because he has a few other things going on) it results in your comment above. What rebuke have we not heard or been willing to hear as a denomination? Your comment on my blog? That’s it?

        I agree the PRC is in my DNA. They are my mother. I see the abusive tendencies just below the surface in myself. I see the pride just below the surface in myself. I see the defensiveness arise in myself when someone corrects me. I agree with you. All of those things are present in me, and not all that far below the surface either. It will take me my lifetime to fight against those things. And whatever progress I make will be just a small beginning.

        Your comment, and the other comments about the fact that I didn’t respond, lack charity. It appears you, and they, believe that just because of the fact that you leave a comment on the blog, that that obligates me to leave a lengthy response and defend the RPC against your charge that we are isolationist. I disagree. First, I disagree that we are isolationist. In our brief four months of existence we are now a denomination of four churches with work being done to form a sister-church in the Philippines among many other contacts. We love the unity that we share with other believers of like faith. We are eager to form such relationships. It is our calling before God, and one we take up eagerly. By God’s grace, and His work in us, I believe we can serve as an example to the broader church world in this area. Second, I disagree that just because you leave a comment on my blog, about a discussion at your blog, that now I must take up that work. To demand such is presumption. However, having taken another look at Rev. Langerak’s article, I don’t believe I can improve upon it. That is found in the September issue here: https://reformedbelieverspub.org/issues/ and I encourage everyone to re-read the article.

      2. Also, you write, “From My point of view, I see the RPC’s leaders believing what they say is objective truth without spot or wrinkle.” I praise God for that.

        I believe you are going to be a pastor? May I suggest that you not mount the pulpit and say, “What I am about to preach to you is only subjective, and no doubt has spots and wrinkles.”

        God’s word is truth (John 17:17). A minister that does not mount the pulpit with the conviction that his preaching is truth, should resign his office immediately. The church world is plagued with enough charlatans who mumble their subjective truths at the congregation.

    1. Good morning Dewey,
      I have read your blog with great interest and I admire the tremendous effort you have poured into telling your story behind the recent split in the PRC and birth of a new denomination, the RPC. This is of particular interest to me because I am a member of Harvest OPC, a local church that has welcomed many ex PRs and continues to do so. We love our new brothers and sisters and are enriched by their presence, their theological astuteness and their stories.
      Three years ago or so Henry walked into our church, not yet twenty. A courageous and life changing act of a young man who had determined that the PRC had become a spiritually abusive environment to him. Henry was in search of a Gospel centered place of worship where people exercise love and grace towards one another.
      Different than others who left the PRC, Henry at a very young age opted to engage his thoughts on his own blog as well as yours.
      As you know one of his main messages is the danger of what happens to real people whose churches isolate themselves from other Christians because they believe they are the only ones who hold to the complete biblical truth. Henry’s passion is the catholicity of the church, very much in line with the writings of the great Herman Bavinck.
      You too have left the PRC. You too acknowledge the spiritual abuse of the PRC in your own life. You go as far as to say that it may take a lifetime to combat the ugly manifestations of such abuse in yourself. I want to commend you for saying that in your response to him. That was a courageous and daring admission.
      In a real sense Henry and you have been on a similar journey, with the difference that you were twice his age when you embarked on it. Though is is clear that your experiences has led you to different places and conclusions, you two share the same roots, the same love for our savior, the truth of the Gospel and a love for Gods people. As the older brother I would like to encourage you to acknowledge and validate thoughtful young voices with greater empathy, compassion and kindness.
      How many 23 year olds of your common background bother to start up a respectful dialogue with you in public? Not too many I would guess.
      I for one believe it would be a great testimony of Christian brotherly love if you continued exchanging ideas
      with Henry and others as he will undoubtedly make his way as as a pastor in our community. Such continued dialogue or even friendship despite disagreements speaks louder to your audience than a thousand words. It would set you apart from the ways of interacting opposing views by leading thinkers in the PRC and make you a leading example for the next generation of young people in the RPC. If that were to happen, something extraordinarily good and lasting with the potential of great impact on many would have come out of your exchange.

  2. It seems Henry’s question was dodged. Isolationist thinking and practices are spiritual abuse and control. And it is happening in the RPC.

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