RFPA Update (guest post)

(This post was submitted as a comment, but after reading it, I quickly realized it needed to appear at its own post. The PRC may choose to ignore the men they describe as “the leaders of a schismatic group.” But it is a further evidence of their great folly if they ignore the voice of one of Christ’s sheep. I have not read a more appropriate description of the PRC – “a strange and barren land.” It was written by Bethany Kingma and was submitted as a comment to the RFPA Update blog post. I thank Bethany for allowing me to publish it here).

My husband and I were still members of BCPRC at the time this speech was given, and the topic and the speaker had given us yet a little hope for the PRC. You would think we would have learned our lesson of putting our hope in men, but we were crushed as we listened. This speech, more than any other event in the last few years, almost convinced me that if this is what a church becomes over time, then membership in an instituted church (any instituted church) was just not worth it.

The Lord has chastised the PRC, severely, by their own confession. And their reaction, led and taught by Prof. Huizinga, was this: “We are not perfect. But we are not that bad, either. In fact, really we’re pretty good. We are a true church, after all. We just need to improve in these few areas to be more faithful.” And this was taught and prayed before the face of the Lord!

We couldn’t help but think of King David in Psalm 51. David, having been chastised by the Lord for his sin, comes before the Lord, utterly empty of himself. He had been thoroughly and severely chastened for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. He confesses his sin, asks for forgiveness, prays for cleansing from his sin and for the joy of salvation to be restored to him, and prays for God’s blessing on His people as God has blessed him. He speaks not one word in defense of himself!

But just how serious was the sin of the PRC? Is the sin so serious that we should confess with David, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight”? Sin so great that a broken spirit and contrite heart are the only possible response we could have?

The sin of the PRC, we were told in the speech, is not so great as that. In fact, we can’t even name the sin and can only confess that we are generally sinful and have grown cool in our love for God (as if being lukewarm is a minor thing!). We were told that in regard to the chastisement of schism, while painful to the depth of our bones, it was not our fault. We must endure it, sure, but it is not of our own doing (the PRC was right to depose a minister back in January 2021) and there is really only a possible nugget of truth in this particular chastisement. Just a possible nugget.

And then the people were given five helpful, practical steps for being “more faithful”. “More faithful”? Is that how David responded when sorely chastised for his sin? “Lord, I know I’m not perfect. I have sinned. But I really do love you, and I really have lived in righteousness most of the time. So, Lord, help me to be more faithful to you.” I tremble to know that was the essence of what was taught to the entire denomination, to my dearest family and friends, as the proper response to the Lord’s hand of heavy chastisement. What a mockery of true repentance and confession! And this is now what my loved ones and our beloved PRC believes is the proper way forward.

The way forward…did it not strike anyone, as Prof. Huizinga laid out the five ways for the PRC to be “more faithful”, that these steps have indeed been followed throughout this entire controversy?

Step #1 – The PRC and its members should acknowledge their issues and repent for their errors. But there were some in the PRC who did faithfully acknowledge the issues and repent for the errors! We sat in the pew and heard this frequently from our own pastor from January 2018 until his suspension in November 2020. He preached Contending with Horses in January 2018 (his second sermon preached as the pastor of Byron PRC). He preached Jehovah Against the Shepherds in August, after Synod 2018 and after the reconvening of Classis East in July 2018. He preached The Flood after Classis East Sept 2018 and Respect of Persons in November 2018 when the Meyers joined BCPRC. He preached Election Theology in August, after Synod 2019. He preached Break up Your Fallow Ground and Abram’s Exceeding Great Reward in January 2020 before Classis East met and he preached Tears of Bochim right after Classis East met. He preached the Remnant Among the Nations and O Taste and See in June 2020 right around the time of Synod and S&S coming out. He preached Judges for the City for installation in July 2020. He preached By Faith Noah Built the Ark in September 2020 after the back and forth in the Beacon Lights with Rev. Nathan Langerak and others. And finally, he preached Jehovah against the Shepherds, Preach the Word, and The House of Mourning in November 2020. He preached all of these. All of these and more. With the setting forth of the truth, the call to repent from our errors, and a prayer for God’s mercy on his lips. And he was deposed for it. Is the PRC really sincere in calling its members to practice step #1?

Step #2 – The PRC and its members should engage in current doctrinal issues in a gracious and brotherly manner. But there were many in the PRC who did faithfully engage in the current doctrinal issues in a gracious and brotherly manner! We witnessed this in the agendas and meetings of Classis and Synod as our faithful pastor and many others testified of the truth. We witnessed this as we read with great interest the letters of our faithful pastor and others in the Standard Bearer in 2018 and 2019 and recoiled at the sarcastic responses received in return (even though we personally understood only a fraction of the controversy at that time, to our shame). We experienced this as we personally met with our pastor to express our own concerns and questions (and accusations, to our shame). We witnessed this as we read (with trepidation, to our shame) the Sword & Shield as it took up its important work and experienced the incredible outpouring of hatred toward this magazine. And these are only the things we witnessed, saying nothing of the scores of letters and meetings and protests of others. Is the PRC really sincere in calling its members to practice step #2?

Step #3 – The PRC and its members should be engaged in doctrinal development and take care to rely on Scripture and the creeds. But there were some in the PRC who did encourage doctrinal prosperity and development, relying on the Bible and the three forms of unity! We have read countless papers and articles, and heard dozens and dozens of sermons by our pastor and others who lay out the truths of Scripture, relying on the Bible and the three forms of unity for their exegesis and explanations, keeping the exalted Christ ever before our eyes! The Lord used them mightily to lay the proper Reformed foundation of our understanding of the controversy and where we needed to go from there. Is the PRC (who published Witsius and preached two-rail theology in the midst of the controversy) really sincere in calling its members to practice step #3?

Step #4 – The PRC and its members should be faithful in church government and honor the church orderly way of protest and appeal. But there were many in the PRC who strove to be faithful in church government! There were protests and appeals by those who faithfully exercised their office of believer and kept their vows as office bearers, despite great opposition. They “followed the rules” and were abundantly “patient”, as Prof. Huizinga exhorted the PRC to do (and thereby supported the narrative that lack of patience and disorderliness characterizes those that have left the PRC).

Prof. Huizinga assured the PRC that the assemblies are not broken and encouraged that the right of protest and appeal be honored. But our own experience testifies that there is no honor given to the place of protesting. At Synod 2021, Prof. Huizinga himself was there to witness this particularly revealing remark offered by one synodical advisor: “I hope this is the last time we ever hear from Mr. [protestant]. His protests are increasingly obnoxious and the language is increasingly offensive. Hopefully he will go away and I mean that.” The only feeble attempt to rebuke the advisor for such a hateful comment came from the youngest of all of the delegates around the table who said he “didn’t think” that the advisor should say that he hopes the protestant goes away. The advisor pathetically amended, “I’ll clarify. I do not want him back here in this form. At some point he must be accountable.” The assemblies aren’t broken? The right of protest is honored? This remark was just one of many that were witnessed publicly at Synod 2021 that testifies the system is indeed broken.

Step #5 – The PRC and its members need to be more grateful for the heritage we’ve been given. But there were some in the PRC who gave great thanks for what we’ve been given, giving all the glory for it to God, and recognizing what a rich heritage we have in the truth! These same faithful men and women didn’t just thank God for that heritage but endeavored with everything in them to guard and to keep it and to teach us the danger and horror of misusing this most precious gift. These men and women gave up everything in the fight for us to keep that rich heritage. And what do they have to show for it? They are called wicked schismatics. Is the PRC really sincere in calling its members to step #5?

Five simple steps to greater faithfulness. Possible. Achievable.

This speech was a triumph in the PRC, a roaring success, even. Smooth, comfortable words with practical steps for moving forward and being more faithful.

What the PRC fails to realize or chooses to ignore is that no matter how humble the tone or mild the manner or smooth the words, faithfulness cannot ever be legislated or incentivized.

May God have mercy and continue to call His people out from such a strange and barren land and into the verdant pastures of the full and free gospel of Jesus Christ!