RFPA Update

The younger ministers will save the PRC.

That is the narrative that is set forth today.

Many now console themselves that once the younger men take control of the denomination the ship will be righted, and the PRC will be saved.

Well, here we are.

The younger men now are in seats of power in the seminary, and they control the church paper.

Prof. Huizinga is one of those younger men that will save the denomination.

He was asked to give the speech to the annual meeting of the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA).

And picked a very odd way to start the speech.

“And thank you to the RFPA for inviting me to give the lecture this evening and for giving to me the freedom to select my subject and after consultation agreeing with me on this subject. The title of my speech is ‘2021 in the PRC: Whom the Lord Loveth, He Chasteneth.’”

I have listened to a fair number of speeches in my life and have never heard one start this way.

What made it even more strange was that the speech title he announced was not the one he had originally chosen.

When the RFPA heard the original title, they were alarmed. So much so they sent a committee to meet with Prof. Huizinga to discuss it. What kind of speech was he planning to give?

Fast forward to the speech itself and the title was now much softer.

That must have been some meeting.

(As a member in good standing in the RFPA, I asked the president, Josh Hoekstra for the minutes and supplements that had to do with the board’s decision to send a committee to meet with Prof. Huizinga. After taking my request to the board, Josh told me the board had declined my request. They decided that I should contact Prof. Huizinga directly, as the “essence” of my request was a “perceived concern” that I had regarding Prof. Huizinga’s statement. I told Josh I did not see how contacting a Protestant Reformed seminary professor would get me any closer to receiving the minutes and supplements of an ostensibly independent publishing house. My request was actually quite simple—no need to “perceive” anything or examine the “essence” of anything. If there are minutes and supplements, please send them. But for some reason, Josh did his level best to confuse and complicate a very simple request, and needless to say, I didn’t get the minutes or supplements.)

Yet this was Prof. Huizinga’s moment to lead.

No one can dispute the fact that the PRC stumbled on justification by faith alone. If any organization has the right, indeed the calling, to call the PRCA to repentance for her errors, it is the RFPA.

And specifically through her paper, The Standard Bearer (SB).

It was made for a moment like this.

Listen to Rev. Hoeksema, the founding editor of the paper.

Now, when I call your attention for a few moments to the Standard Bearer as a Witness, I may well connect my remarks with the name of your association. It is called the Reformed Free Publishing Association, and in this name I find expressed the character and purpose, not only of your association, but also of the periodical whose publication you are sponsoring. It is Reformed, that is, it is devoted to the development and defense of the Reformed faith. It is free, that is, it is non-ecclesiastical in the institutional sense of that word. It is a publication, that is, it intends to reach the public and to witness for the Reformed truth. And, therefore, it is supported by an association, it is not sponsored by the Synod, but by the free association of brethren that are interested in the truth and its propagation (Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer as Witness, SB, 12/15/45).

It is also with this distinction before our consciousness that we say that the Standard Bearer is free, and that the society that sponsors it calls itself the Reformed Free Publishing Association. The freedom we thus denote is not akin to doctrinal licentiousness. We do not intend to separate ourselves from the institute of the Church. The very fact that we adopted the name Reformed Free Publishing Association, and that, therefore, we place ourselves on the basis of the Reformed Confessions, indicates the very opposite. But free we are in the same sense in which our Christian Schools are free schools. The Standard Bearer is not an official church organ. It is not sponsored by the church as institute. And this freedom implies that we are not hampered by purely institutional bonds, and are not motivated by mere, formal, institutional considerations or prepossessions. In 1923 the institute of the Christian Reformed Church meant to Silence our testimony. They closed the official organs to us. They tried to put the yoke of the Three Points upon us. They cast us out of their fellowship. Much of this action was motivated by personal opposition, and the desire to maintain so-called “rest” in the churches, the rest of corruption and death. But the Standard Bearer remained free. No institution controlled it. Its voice could not be silenced. And free it should remain. Unhampered by considerations that are foreign to the love of Reformed truth, our publication purposes to continue to maintain and develop the truth as our God delivered it to us! (Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer as Witness, SB, 12/15/45).

Or listen to another former editor commenting on Hoeksema’s stance on the paper:

As editor of the SB, Herman Hoeksema more than once called attention to the free status of the SB. He stressed that the SB could, and should, criticize dangerous trends within the PRC. His policy was to open up the periodical to dissenting opinions as much as possible, although the editor always had the last word.

The SB is intended to function as a truly free press functions in civil society.

Time may tell whether the SB will again serve this purpose in the PRC and whether the editor at that time will have the courage to press the truth of Scripture and the creeds against an un-Reformed doctrinal or ethical development within the PRC (Engelsma, RFPA Publishing Merger, SB, 9/1/96).

The RFPA was made for a moment like this.

And this was Prof. Huizinga’s moment to clearly show that the younger men would indeed be able to lead the PRC out of error.

He had the platform.

As editor of the SB, he had the right.

Call the PRC back to her beginnings.

Call her back to the rock whence she was hewn.

Call the PRC to repentance for her coolness to the truth and for her wretched response to the doctrinal controversy.

Could Prof. Huizinga’s calling for this speech be any more clear? “Repent! Repent for turning away from the living God and repent for hewing out cisterns that can hold no water!”

He failed.

Abysmally.

His speech was entirely empty. There was not one call to the PRC to behave herself like children of the Reformation and to be “always reforming.”

What was his conclusion?

The Reformed Protestant Churches (RPC) are using really strong words and it may even get to the point when the children and the young people of the RPC start using strong language as well!

And for the PRC? Well, they just need to try harder. They aren’t all that bad. The protests should probably be shorter, and people should be more patient while their protests wind their way through the assemblies. Everyone should respect everyone else more. Consistories should handle issues sooner.

The PRC has spots and wrinkles and blemishes. It isn’t perfect, you know.

Blandly, he declared that “If you are convinced that your preacher is teaching false doctrine or that another minister is teaching, writing, false doctrine, then go to him with your concern and lay that out before him, and if that concern is not addressed, then write a protest to the man’s consistory and demonstrate from the scripture and the confessions that what is being taught is false doctrine, and if you are not heard and pleased, you have the right to cry out for help and to appeal to Classis, and if necessary to Synod.”

Oh, that’s the problem. The members of the denomination need to use protest and appeal. As if the members haven’t been protesting and appealing. Although Prof. Huzinga couldn’t find it within himself to lift a finger against doctrinal error being written or preached, he now lectures the people to protest and appeal. Look around, Prof. Huizinga: the landscape is littered with those who went the route of protest and appeal in the PRC and paid for it with their lives.

Prof. Huizinga is a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church. He, along with the consistory at Grandville PRC, can’t seem to condemn, repudiate, and protest the false doctrine pouring from the tongue and pen of Rev. Koole.

But for others? They must protest and appeal.

And those ditches. Those pesky ditches. Errors on both sides, you know.

“Now it’s important to recognize that there have been errors out of what we might say both ditches on either side of the proverbial road because that creates a back-and-forth dynamic in the controversy.”

What nothing-speak that is. Completely empty.

“Proverbial road.”

“Creates a back-and-forth dynamic in the controversy.”

It was like watching a politician shore up his base and it bore no resemblance to a prophet who was determined to stand in the gap.

This speech was a faithless desertion of his calling before God.

Controversies do not go on endlessly. There is an end point to them. Doctrinal controversy in a church is settled when ministers are deposed or removed from office. To point to statements after that has taken place and then say, “See! Errors on both sides!” is to trick and fool the people. The error in the PRC was the compromise of justification by faith alone. That was it. By your own synodical declaration.

What was the error in the PRC that consistory after consistory and broader assembly after broader assembly defended? Was it antinomism? No, three synods in a row said that wasn’t the error. The error came out of one ditch, because there truly is only one ditch, and that is the filthy, scum-covered ditch of salvation by the will and doing of man.

The speech was empty, and wicked. It was wicked because it did what no Reformed speech should ever do. It excused, and minimized, false doctrine.  

When you keep trying to convince the people of the existence of errors out of both ditches, all you are doing is minimizing the actual error that plagued the denomination, and that has now entirely corrupted the denomination.

Even Prof. Huizinga recognized it.

Half-way through, he said “My point is not to justify doctrinal error.”

If a man in a speech ever has to say the words, “My point is not to justify doctrinal error,” it’s because he has just finished justifying doctrinal error.

The utter emptiness of the speech continued.

All of this controversy, according to Huizinga, is just “God’s work of chastening us in love.” But for what is God chastening the PRC? What sins did she commit? You never hear what that is. Just like the letter that Synod approved to be sent out to the members that left—and which many consistories in one of their few good decisions promptly ignored—the leaders in the PRC like to talk about her “errors” generally but can never find it within themselves to tell us what those errors are.

He also said the members of the PRC need to read more. “Read little by little, slowly but surely, a few passage and a few pages a night. Read.” I hardly know what to say to that. Go home, members of the PRC, and read a few pages a night. They may as well go home and read Dick and Jane, because all of their reading will avail nothing. Their calling is to repent, but there is not one minister in the denomination that is willing to issue that call.

The PRC did have members that read. And not little by little, and slowly but surely, but they poured themselves into God’s word, so that when error did arise, these members were able to identify it and condemn it. But do you know what happened to those members, Prof. Huizinga? Your denomination abused and murdered them and finally drove them from your fellowship. And you, learned theologian, did nothing to defend them.

He, and others, cling tightly to the decisions of the PR assemblies.

“The charge that the PRC is apostatizing finds absolutely no basis in the official decisions of the denomination but the official decisions of the denomination expose that charge as a lie.”

He, and others, had better cling to that argument.

Because their pulpits are full of the corruption of false doctrine and their assemblies are full of the corruption of the rule of man.

There are other denominations that can appeal to that argument as well.

The Christian Reformed Church can appeal to the fact that according to “official decisions of the denomination” divorce is permitted only in the case of infidelity. Meanwhile, the entire church world knows that in reality divorce in the CRC is granted for any reason under the sun.

Hear a fictional Prof. Huysinga of the CRC: “The charge that the CRC has corrupted the biblical truth of marriage finds absolutely no basis in the official decisions of the denomination but the official decisions of the denomination expose that charge as a lie.”

Right.

It was 120 minutes that the listener will never get back, and certainly will not remember.

Prof. Huizinga failed as leader. And he did so publicly.

Compare these two quotations from PR theologians:

Reformatory obedience means that in all your doctrine and with respect to all your practice you are obedient to the supreme authority of that word of the scriptures only. Reformatory obedience means in the second place, that you apply to everything—in your personal faith, in your life and walk, in your church and its preaching, in your school and its teaching, in your ecclesiastical assemblies and their pronouncements and decrees—apply stringently that test of the word only. It means in the third place, that what stands that test you approve and that what cannot meet that test you reject and disapprove. And it means in the fourth place, because that brings you into conflict, it means that whenever it becomes a choice between the authority of that word or bowing to the authority of the institute of the church, even if ultimately that means you must break, as Luther did, with a given institution, you always resolutely choose the former and reject the latter (Prof. Homer Hoeksema, Children of the Reformation, 10/31/66).

You must submit to church government. Whether you are a 75-year-old man or a 35-year-old minister, submit to church government (Huizinga, 2021 in the PRC: Whom the Lord Loveth, He Chasteneth, 9/23/21).

Would the people have followed Prof. Huizinga if he had called them to return to the glorious gospel truth of salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone? If he had condemned all talk that robs God of his glory and gives even a shred of that glory to man, would the people have been stirred in their souls to reformation?

Perhaps. But it no doubt would only have lasted a few hours, like the phony repentance of the elders of Byron Center PRC following the sermon on Jeremiah. Such is the extent of repentance in the PRC.

But we will never know for sure because such a call was not issued.

What we do know is that Prof. Huizinga loves his place in the PRC.

Prof. Huizinga, it turns out, is a good churchman. He is loyal to the institution. He is doing what all good churchmen do: defending the institution. Prof. Huizinga ensured he would stay in the good graces of all men and will never have to face criticism, much less opposition, his entire ministry. His cloying declaration of love for all things Protestant Reformed at the end of the speech cemented his place as a PRC loyalist, with all the perks and benefits such a position brings.

Regarding Prof. Huizinga’s ministry: what many consider a success, I consider a dreadful and lamentable fall. I looked up to the man. Again I must be reminded—rebuked—that I must not put my trust in men.

Prof. Huizinga will spend countless hours in a library reading and translating old Dutch theologians. He will compile all those hundreds of hours into a thesis. His thesis will be trumpeted in the Standard Bearer, and portions of it will appear in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. There will be many footnotes. The members of the PRC will puff and preen themselves because of the quality of their theologian.

The cult of personality will continue.

He likes to write and speak about soldiers and swords, and warfare and the din of battle (at one point writing 19 articles on the topic that involved a three-part introduction). He likes to say things like, “The smoke is heavy. The blood is fresh. The cries are desperate. The trumpet blasts wax louder and louder. Physical territory is not at stake; souls are.”

Stirring.

And in all of this talk, he shows himself to be the spiritual equivalent of General George McClellan. General McClellan was the Northern general during the Civil War who preferred the parade ground over the battleground. Both like to make much about the trappings of war, but can never bring themselves to actually make war. Prof. Huizinga, history has shown, favors the theological parade ground to the theological battlefield, which explains why he disappeared when justification by faith alone was compromised and when Jesus Christ was displaced. And then after the blood of a few had been cleaned up, he reappeared to speak smooth words to the people—a script that has played out many times in the history of the church.

He deceived me. He did so with his sermons, his speeches, his SB articles, and his pamphlet, Keeping the Sword Drawn. If he is a man of integrity, he will see that that pamphlet is withdrawn and never again published. He did not mean a word of it.

As a failed leader, it is fitting that Prof. Huizinga serves a failed institution, the Reformed Free Publishing Association and a failed magazine, The Standard Bearer.

But the question remains; why would the board of a free association send a committee to discuss a speech title when the title of the speech indicated a rebuke to a denomination?

The reason is simple.

They felt the need to protect an institution.

4 thoughts on “RFPA Update

  1. “The error came out of one ditch, because there truly is only one ditch, and that is the filthy, scum-covered ditch of salvation by the will and doing of man.” Well stated.
    Prof. Huizinga was also on Committee of Pre-Advice 4 to Synod 2018 that identified doctrinal error in the denomination that compromised the gospel of Christ and displaced the perfect, atoning work of the Son of God. But sadly the Committee in addressing error in a Doctrinal Statement itself also compromised justification by faith alone: “It is better to say [implying what this doctrinal statement said is good], we experience the Father’s fellowship on the basis of Christ’s perfect work, through a justifying faith in Christ, and in the way of a holy life of obedience.” According to this revised statement by Committee 4, we experience fellowship with our Father not through justifying faith in Christ alone, but “through a justifying faith” and by another way too: “in the way of a holy life of obedience.” Two track, two ways theology. Compare this teaching to John Calvin’s: ” When we tell a man to seek righteousness and life outside of himself, that is in Christ only, because he has nothing in himself but sin and death, a controversy immediately arises with reference to the freedom and power of the will. For if man has any ability of his own to serve God, he does not obtain salvation entirely by the grace of Christ, but in part bestows it on himself.” Compare it also to our Savior’s teaching that He (Jesus) alone is the only way of salvation and the only way to the Father’s fellowship: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

  2. To deny that there are two ditches is to play into the hands of the devil. He wants us to think there is only one ditch, so that he can more easily lure us into the other. We ought to heed the warning of Prof. Engelsma:
    “[T]he threat of hyper-Calvinism is real. It is the lie on the right that must be guarded against as scrupulously as the lie of self-salvation on the left…Nor are we ignorant of Satan’s devices…He is subtle. If he cannot prevent the recovery of the gospel of grace, he will try to turn grace into license. If he fails to destroy the Reformed faith with the doctrines of universal grace, dependent upon the will of man – the well-meant offer – he will endeavor to pervert this faith by a denial of the serious call of the gospel to all hearers and by a questioning of the church’s duty and right to bring this command to all nations and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction. This tactic is especially effective in the heat of controversy. As the church contends against a false doctrine, get her in reaction to succumb to the opposite error. As she guards the front door, slither in through the back window” (Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism, 183-185).

  3. The Committee of Pre-Advice 4 to Synod 2018 should have stalwartly defended the scriptural truth that ALL the benefits (each and every benefit!) of salvation is on the sole basis of Jesus Christ, and that both justification and sanctification are both benefits of God’s grace by union with Jesus Christ! They should have stated that “…we experience the Father’s fellowship on the basis of Christ’s perfect work, through a justifying and sanctifying faith uniting us to Christ; and the fruit of the believer’s union with Christ in which we experience the Father’s fellowship is the believer walking in the way of a holy life of obedience. Eph 2:10 “For we
    are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Leave a Reply