Crete PRC (3)

(This post was written by Mr. Andy Birkett, elder at Second Reformed Protestant Church).

For the entire ministry of Rev. Langerak, he had the heart of a servant for all the members, but especially for those who were oppressed and abused.

He had a reputation for this to such an extent that included in his monthly report of labors to the consistory, there was always a portion that included some type of counseling or assistance for an abused or oppressed member (man, woman, or child) or meeting with family or parents of a victim from the congregation or denomination.

Psalm 82:3–4: “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Rev. had made it clear to the consistory that he considered Rev. Lanning to be an oppressed spiritual brother to him.

In an effort to get Rev. Langerak to distance himself from Rev. Lanning, the elders proposed to Rev. that if he would capitulate to the motion to resign as editor of Sword and Shield and stop writing for the magazine, they would have the church Evangelism Committee publish a blog or newsletter or possibly even a magazine which he could write for.

This was quickly dismissed as a not viable option.

There had never been any efforts to do any of these things.

Any writing posted in any venue under the auspices of the Evangelism Committee could only be published on behalf of Crete Protestant Reformed Church, not as an independent, non-ecclesiastical magazine.

The writing would have to be vetted by the consistory, the minority of which had already made it clear that they hated both his preaching and writing.

Since this idea was quickly dismissed as unreasonable, a few elders (of which I was one) introduced another plan.

We proposed organizing a group to fund and distribute a magazine that would be essentially the same as Sword and Shield, except without the baggage of Rev. Lanning.

This way Rev. Langerak could stay in the Protestant Reformed denomination and maintain his work at Crete Church, and his life could go on more or less unaltered.

The dangling of this temptation in front of a man who from every earthly perspective wanted a way—any way—to try and work with his elders and acquiesce to their demands, was wicked.

To use a close personal relationship of friendship and trust with a person in order to tempt them to sin was especially devious.

By offering another magazine, we hoped to placate his conscience with the illusion that he could abandon the fight where it was taking place, and instead take up his fight at some future, yet to be identified front.

It was applying salve to the conscience of the man while tempting to turn his back in the heat of battle.

Psalm 78:8–10: “And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law.”

This proposal was selfish, especially since we all knew that the magazine was never really the issue.

Starting a new magazine might have delayed the inevitable silencing of Rev. Langerak’s preaching. But it was by no means a solution and would lead to continuing untold hardship for Rev. Langerak and his family. It was a willingness of friends to tempt Rev. Langerak to sin and suffer in order to gain temporal peace for us.

It was self-centered wickedness to tempt Rev. Langerak to sinfully abandon Christ.

I was able to fool myself into thinking that I was motivated by a desire for peace in the church and love for the members.

I was walking by sight and not by faith. And I put all the good gifts the Lord had given me, including my relationship to Rev., to the service of tempting him to sin.

The only explanation for that was wicked unbelief.

I have apologized to Rev. Langerak and confessed my sins.

The rebuke of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16:23 seems appropriate: “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

In self-examination I see the deceptiveness in myself, which is characteristic of a viper; and I see my willingness to play fast and loose with the gospel of Christ, which is characteristic of a whore. Not just my nature, but my actions.

I find assurance in the knowledge that Christ did not come to save the righteous. Christ died for the whores and vipers that he chose before the foundation of the earth. He died for murderers, liars, and abusive elders too. Luke 5:32: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

And for those whom God has forgiven, He has also given a place of repentance. Hebrews 12:16–17: “…Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” Esau could not find a place of repentance because Jesus did not die on the cross for Esau. He was not forgiven.

This is not an exercise in blame leveling.

Christ was displaced by man. In the realm of our salvation. Nothing could be more serious.

But Christ will not be displaced forever. Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

And we also live in the assurance that in the process of this displacement, Christ will not lose a one of His.

John 6:39: “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”

And we live in the confidence that none of this is lost on God.

Psalm 82

  1. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
  2. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.
  3. Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
  4. Deliver the poor and needy: rid themout of the hand of the wicked.
  5. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
  6. I have said, Ye aregods; and all of you are children of the most High.
  7. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
  8. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

And now, looking back on the events of the last year, the glory for the gift of the pure preaching of the gospel we receive every Sunday, which was worked by God through the willful suspension of Rev. Langerak, can only be attributed to God.

The truth is, man did not build the Reformed Protestant Churches any more than man built the ark. It was an act of God, an act in which he used countless sinful men and women and children. And after God built the ark through his servant Noah, he saved his people by the flood. And now every Sunday we hear the gospel.  And we hear the beautiful truth that our salvation, all the way to the experience of it, is of Christ.

Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

And we hear Psalm 127:1: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

All praise and thanks to God alone!

                           Yours in Christ,

                           Andy Birkett

Crete PRC (2)

(This post was written by Elder Andy Birkett and is the 2nd of his three post series).

Rev. Langerak had a deep conviction to be faithful to his vows before God and a selfless desire to serve the flock of Christ at Crete Protestant Reformed Church as its undershepherd, even to his own hurt.

Rev. did this until it became impossible for him to perform the duties he had vowed to fulfill as a minister.

The agenda for the consistory meeting of February 11, 2021, gave no indication what was about to happen.

The men at that meeting were some of my closest friends and men for whom I had the greatest respect. Some of these same men would soon be accusing, provoking, and mocking the minister (quotes following).

After reading and prayer, under the agenda item including “discussion of the preaching and state of the congregation,” the discussion began with accusations and charges against the minister: “His preaching damages the flock”; “His preaching does not feed the sheep”; “He gives the same sermon every Sunday, he just hangs a different text on it”; “His preaching is discouraging”; “We keep hearing about by grace and not by works” (this was in the context of the complaint that the preaching was discouraging); “He preaches angry”; “My wife can’t take it anymore”; “It has to stop!”; “We have to do something tonight!”

James 3:13: “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”

This was done in violation of the vows taken at the installation of elder to “be assistant with their good counsel and advice to the ministers of the Word, yea, also to serve all Christians with advice and consolation” and with a complete absence of scripture.

But the preaching of Rev. Langerak was the undisputed (even by the same elders) truth of scripture.

It was the pure words of Christ. That’s why they could not charge it.

The preaching was attacked without any direct reference to any words of a sermon, no grounds, no scripture.

Matthew 10:40: “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”

In the heat of the attack, an elder pulled out a prepared written motion regarding Sword and Shield, and after some discussion the following motion passed.

To require Rev. Langerak to resign as contributing editor of the Sword and Shield and discontinue writing for and promoting the publication.

Grounds:

    1. Langerak continues writing in and promoting the Sword and Shield as a co-editor with Andy Lanning, a deposed minister of the PRC who continues to live in the sin of schism.
    2. Langerak’s participation has caused and continues to cause unrest and division in our congregation.

While Rev. Langerak’s association with Rev. Lanning and Sword and Shield magazine was the instrument used to suspend Rev. Langerak, Rev. Langerak was suspended because of his preaching.

Proof for this statement is the discussion leading to the motion, which had everything to do with the preacher and his peaching, as well as the undisputed testimony of an elder immediately following the motion regarding Sword and Shield.

When the motion was made and supported, he exclaimed in confusion and frustration, “Why are we talking about Sword and Shield? This is not about Sword and Shield—that is just a magazine. This is about the preaching off the pulpit!”

 For a moment, I was right there with the elder. It hit me like a sucker punch. I was thinking, “Where did that come from?”

The reason I was so shocked is because during the entire evening, nobody had even mentioned Sword and Shield.

The elder who made this remark had not yet grasped the scheme that everyone else in the room was already aware of (whether they agreed with it or not).

The strategy was: the means to accomplish the goal (of some) to silence the preaching was to be achieved through the use of Rev.’s association with Rev. Lanning and his writing for Sword and Shield.

Once I explained this strategy to the elder in the most explicit of terms, without any dispute from any of the other elders around the table, he took up his place.

When I referenced the above quotation of this elder, as well as a few other quotes, in my protest of the decision, an elder voiced his complaint that he “did not appreciate his words being quoted out of context.”

When I heard the elder say that, I was wishing that I could have typed faster, because the context of the quotes I brought could not walk them straight.

The same elder then gave testimony (albeit involuntarily) to the accuracy of the quotes when he readily admitted that he recognized the statements he had made and commented that “others probably recognized their statements too.”

The first sinful ground for the motion included binding the conscience of Rev. Langerak regarding the manner in which he must behave toward Rev. Lanning—as an unrepentant brother living in sin.

The elders were aware that if Rev. capitulated to the demands of the motion, he would be acknowledging the truth of the grounds on which the motion stood and that agreeing to this ground would be sinful for Rev.

The writing and the preaching of Rev. Langerak were with one voice. If Rev. had sinfully abdicated his responsibility and liberty to do either, the inevitable fruit would have been the loss of the other.

The second sinful ground for the motion specifically took Rev. Lanning out of the ground by qualifying that Rev. Langerak’s writing in Sword and Shield has caused—PRIOR to the deposition of Rev. Lanning—and continues to cause “unrest and division.”

The demands from the elders could not have stopped because the grounds used in the motion were crafted in such a manner that if Rev. Langerak complied with this demand, he would have been confessing truth to the grounds.

But the grounds were lies. Lies which, once he submitted to, would come as grounds with the next demand.

For now, it was enough to stop writing for and promoting the same magazine as Rev. Lanning.

If he had complied, would that have been enough? Would the demands from the elders have stopped?

Based upon the facts, the goal was to silence the preaching. They would not stop until this was accomplished.

But why all the accusations at the meeting with the surprise motion? There was not even a pretense of correction or instruction. What did they hope to gain?

My guess is that the flurry of accusations and charges were insurance. Insurance that even if the motion did not pass, it would take months, if not years (during which they could have their desire to silence Rev. Langerak), for the elders to either follow through with formal charges or repent and apologize of their false accusations and slander in the consistory room. The editors of the Standard Bearer had proven that this partial use of Christian discipline was the most effective tool to silence Rev. Langerak for a long time, if not indefinitely.

These men are not novices at church polity, nor are they given to temper tantrums or random outbursts.

This meeting was not an unplanned loss of control.

The reason there would never be proof to back a single one of these accusations is that there was none.

The sermons are all posted on SermonAudio. If any of the above charges can be proven (except the charge “We keep hearing about by grace and not by works”), I will gladly retract my above contentions.

Could he ever again mount the pulpit at Crete Protestant Reformed Church as the mouthpiece of God on behalf of THESE elders?

With the passing of this motion, the victory for those who wanted to silence Rev. Langerak in the Protestant Reformed Churches was secure.

The instant the motion was adopted, what had proven to be a years-in-the-making, insurmountable hurdle for the minority was no longer hindering them from their desire.

I say this was “years-in-the-making” based upon the response I received when an elder accused the minister of preaching out of anger. I asked the speaker when he noticed this change, and his response was, “He has been preaching out of anger for years.” I had never heard this accusation prior to this meeting.

All of this was done behind closed doors.

It seems hypocritical that the same men who shook Rev. Langerak’s hand after every one of these sermons would then behind closed doors accuse him of all these things.

But God saw it all.

Ecclesiastes 5:8: “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”

Immediately upon the passage of the motion one elder demanded of Rev., “ARE YOU GOING TO COMPLY?!”

At that time, nobody (that I am aware of) had ever seen the motion in writing, much less been able to study it enough to understand the implications of the motion, except the elder who pulled it out.

When Rev. requested time to pray about the matter, the same elder taunted Rev. by mocking him, “You just told us a minute ago that you could not bring yourself to comply with that demand if we made it. Are you going back on your word now? Is that what your word is worth? Or were you just trying to intimidate us?”

There were enough elders in the room who felt that a decision of such magnitude demanded we allow time.

After reading and studying the motion and grounds, Rev. Langerak and I were both convicted that the motion was sinful.

Being a sinful motion with a sinful demand based on sinful grounds, Rev. did not feel that he could acquiesce to it for even a minute.

Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

According to scripture, the believer MAY NOT obey man rather than Christ.

Acts 5:27–29: “They set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

The worst was yet to come.

Crete PRC (1)

(This post was written by Mr. Andy Birkett. Andy was an elder at Crete Protestant Reformed Church and witnessed first hand the corruption of the marks of the true church. In faithfulness to his office and obedience to his God, Mr. Birkett, along with the pastor and a deacon, called the faithful out of Crete PRC with an Act of Separation and Reformation and formed Second Reformed Protestant Church, where he currently serves as elder).

The silencing of Rev. Langerak.

I first noticed the division in the denomination when Rev. Langerak was no longer writing for the Standard Bearer. I asked Rev. Langerak about it, and he told me that the editors refused to publish his writing and directed me to ask Prof. Dykstra. Prof. Dykstra told me that he would not discuss it. Rev. Langerak then told me that the editors had charged him with sin and refused to publish his articles until he repented. I assumed that the elders were dealing with this, and I didn’t pursue the issue any further.

Later, when the SB stopped publishing articles by Rev. VanderWal and Rev. Lanning, it became apparent to me that the censorship in the Standard Bearer was not a sin issue against one man but a larger issue that was causing the division between some of the writers and the editors.

The division in the consistory room at Crete became palpable with the publication of the April 2020 issue of the Beacon Lights.

This issue contained a letter from Prof. Cammenga in response to a speech delivered at the Young People’s Convention by Rev. Langerak and published in the November 2019 Beacon Lights, along with the subsequent discussion in the letters section of the February 2020 Beacon Lights.

I appreciated Rev. Langerak’s speech and the subsequent discussion in the Beacon Lights, including Prof. Cammenga’s letter in the April 2020 issue.

I appreciated the speech and Rev. Langerak’s correspondence because I agreed with it. I was not in agreement with the letter by Prof. Cammenga, but I appreciated his response because even though it was painful to see division within our denomination, I thought that Prof. had exposed, and placed in juxtaposition, a serious doctrinal division, which I was hopeful would be discussed and resolved.

The doctrine of good works by Rev. Langerak and the doctrine of good works by Prof. Cammenga were to be used by God to cause division in the congregation in Crete.

During a contentious discussion of the consistory, the doctrine of good works espoused by Rev. Langerak in his speech brought the accusation of Rev. Langerak’s position as being “radical.”

When that charge was expressed with that specific word, I think everyone in the room recognized the reference to Prof. Dykstra’s article. The issue was never resolved.

The mechanism for the suspension of Rev. Langerak began to take shape about a year prior to the actual suspension, with the charges of sin against Rev. Langerak by the three editors of the Standard Bearer in a letter dated February 10, 2020.

The editors came with charges of sin against Rev. Langerak in response to a letter written by a group of men, of whom Rev. Langerak was one. After much correspondence with the RFPA board, these men wrote a letter to voice their concerns regarding the Standard Bearer and call for a meeting of the association to consider their concerns. The letter was sent to the board of the Reformed Free Publishing Association and editors about eight months before the charges of sin came.

The consistory of Crete Protestant Reformed Church called a special meeting for February 17, 2020, to address the charges. Since I was unable to attend the meeting due to other plans, I submitted a letter to the clerk of the consistory. In this letter I explained my participation with the men in writing the letter to the RFPA board and forwarded all my knowledge of the situation to assist the consistory in its deliberations.

At that meeting the charges of sin against Rev. Langerak from the editors were not sustained by the majority of the consistory.

The same charges were brought against Rev. Lanning at that time, with the result that the consistory at Byron Center did not sustain the charges against him either.

Our consistory was reconstituted with three new members sometime around the first week of January 2021.

In the consistory room prior to the morning service on Sunday, January 24, 2021, an elder presented the consistory with a prepared motion charging with sin the faithful officebearers from Byron Center who had called out the members of the congregation with the “Act of Separation.”

Rev. Langerak was convicted that the motion was bearing false witness and therefore had his negative vote recorded. By recording his negative vote, he would not be bound by the decision of the majority.

The elder who brought the motion was visibly upset by the recording of the negative vote, and it soon became apparent why he was so upset.

Once the motion was passed, the same elder read his wording of an announcement to the congregation. In it, he individually called out Rev. Langerak as having adopted the motion with the consistory.

Rev. objected to the announcement on the ground that he was NOT in agreement with the motion and had his negative vote recorded. (According to Robert’s Rules of Order, had he not had his negative vote recorded in the minutes at the time the motion was passed, he would have forfeited his right to express disagreement with the decision of the body.)

The elder had set a trap for Rev. when he wrote the motion, knowing that Rev. would not vote in favor of the motion, but not foreseeing that Rev. would have his negative vote recorded. But God delivered Rev. Langerak before the trap could spring on him by leading Rev. to have his negative vote recorded.

The elder who brought the motion and the announcement then, without shame, expressed before the entire body that he had written the announcement with the purpose of binding Rev. Langerak’s conscience.

II Corinthians 4:2: “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

The announcement was revised and adopted.

News of the false charges of sin from the editors, the opposing doctrine of good works by Prof. Cammenga in his Noah rebuttal, and the article from Prof. Dykstra about radicalism had all been festering, and division within the consistory and congregation continued to swell.

At this time several members of Crete were gathering to worship at other Protestant Reformed churches in the area. The elders (including me) were fully aware of this, and yet we did not rebuke the members for despising the means of grace. I think the consensus of the elders would be that we did this in order to maintain a carnal peace in the congregation. This was a sin for which we all share equal blame.

This despising of the means of grace continued through the time of family visitation. I specifically remember one elder report on his family visitation, where he questioned why a family would not request a membership transfer to the church they were attending since they rarely (if ever) attended worship when Rev. Langerak was preaching. Their response to the elders was, “We are staying for the building.”

It was a sea change when new officebearers were installed in January of 2021.

The change in the consistory was not wholly unforeseen, due to the fact that at least one of the men on the slate had stopped at the parsonage months earlier to disparage the preaching and person of Rev. Langerak.

I was aware of this incident because at that time I was a member of the Pastor’s Support Pulpit Supply Committee, and Rev. Langerak had called me to discuss it.

Rev. told me that the meeting was a vicious and hateful assault. Since I was not there to witness it firsthand, that is all I will say concerning it.

This man would later be elected to represent Christ in the office of elder. After witnessing what this elder would say and do in the consistory room with witnesses, I do not doubt what Rev. Langerak had told me concerning their private meeting.

With the installation of new officebearers, the urgency and fervency of certain members of the consistory to silence the preaching of Rev. Langerak could not be overstated.

Looking back, two months prior to the installation of new officebearers, my notes from the meeting of the Pastoral Support Pulpit Supply Committee included the following two comments.

October 19, 2020

We asked about any further developments in response to his involvement with Reformed Believers Publishing, as well as the articles published in the Sword and Shield. Reverend reported that he has received nothing and is unaware of any upcoming actions regarding these labors.

Rev expressed his deep appreciation and thankfulness for the excellent working relationship with the current consistory.

At our February 11, 2021, meeting, the following motion was passed:

Article 12 – Motion made and supported to require Rev. Langerak to resign as a contributing editor of the Sword & Shield and discontinue writing for and promoting the publication.

Grounds:

  1. Rev. Langerak continues writing in and promoting the Sword & Shield as a co-editor with Andy Lanning, a deposed minister of the PRC who continues to live in the sin of schism.
  2. Rev. Langerak’s participation has caused and continues to cause unrest and division in our congregation.

Motion made and supported to elide ground b. and replace it with “For the sake of the effectiveness of the preaching in our congregation.” Motion to elide fails.

Motion as originally moved carries. Andy Birkett records a negative vote.

On February 18 I submitted my protest against the consistory decision.

At the March 11 consistory meeting, my protest was received and sent to committee for advice.

On April 15 the consistory adopted advice to not sustain my protest. Rev. Langerak also submitted a protest at this meeting prior to his suspension but it was never considered.

I had received the advice concerning my protest in my consistory agenda, and I came to the meeting ready to verbally appeal the proposed response to my protest, should it be adopted.

After the advice was adopted, I was appointed to a study committee with two other elders with a mandate to formulate a proposed response for the consistory to deal with the reality that Rev. Langerak was not going to comply with the demand of the motion.

On April 21 the consistory met to consider a majority report, as well as a minority report.

The majority report was adopted.

On April 24 Rev. Langerak was formally suspended.

By this time the division at Crete PRC had become so pronounced, it was beyond dispute that Rev. Langerak was not going to be given a place to preach in Crete any longer.

Reformed ____ Publishing Association (3)

The board of the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) was in place to prevent the hijacking of its paper, the Standard Bearer (SB).

Certainly, they could see that the magazine’s direction was completely different than what it had been. Okay, perhaps not initially. I have been guilty of sleeping at the switch enough times to understand how that can happen.

But when the letter from the group of concerned men hit their desk, that would have been their call to action. “Men, we have been asleep; our magazine has been hijacked! But it’s not too late!”

Instead, they took their marching orders from the editors and did their bidding.

They denied the lawful request of this group of men to call a special association meeting.

They refused to allow the office of believer to have a voice about the direction of their magazine.

They denied it because they were taking orders from the editors. They did it because they did not know what it was to be a part of an association independent from church control. All they have ever known is church control, and they acted accordingly.

The Reformed Free Publishing Association is no longer free. That which former editors have so strongly warned against has taken place.

Ask yourself about the role of the Standard Bearer under the rule of Gritters, Dykstra, and Koole, compared to this analysis by a former editor.

The reason, historically, for the non-ecclesiastical, or “free,” status of the RFPA is the experience of the founders of the PRC in the early 1920s. Because they took issue with the developing party-line on common grace in the CRC, they were summarily and totally barred from writing in the house organ of that church. (Does that sound at all familiar? Rev. Langerak was barred from writing in the Standard Bearer close to ten years ago, and Rev. Lanning was barred from writing in the magazine the year before his deposition. – DE)

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.

I say “again” because the SB served such a purpose in the late 1940s and early 1950s against the powerful, malign development in the PRC of the doctrine of a conditional covenant, covenant promise, and covenant salvation.

Would the SB have resisted the alien theology in those days, had the RFPA and, thus, the SB not been free? Might not a majority favoring the false doctrine at some synod have silenced the editor? Or, might not a synodical majority foolishly desiring peace at any price have quieted the editorial and other columns? And if the SB had been unable to lay bare and defend the real issue of sovereign, particular grace, what then? (David Engelsma, RFPA Publishing Merger, SB, 9/1/96)

Criticize dangerous trends in the PRC? Open the periodical up to dissenting opinions? Time has indeed told. The recent editors took the SB as far away from that description as is humanly possible.

Time has shown that the SB will never again serve that glorious purpose in the PRC.

Profs. Dykstra and Gritters and Rev. Koole were successful.

And lest some delude themselves into thinking that things are different with the new editors, let me disillusion them of that notion. Prof. Huizinga has taken things a step further than the previous editors ever dared. I am sure in years past there were some speeches that were given at the RPFA meetings that the editors did not want to see in print in the Standard Bearer. But the association always voted to have them printed, and therefore they were published. Not any longer. The association, at its recent meeting, voted to have Prof. Huizinga’s speech appear in the SB. But you won’t see it there. Prof. Huizinga said no, he did not want it printed and gave the utterly nonsensical reason that he did not intend for it to be published in written form and was not of a mind to do so after the meeting. The vote of the entire “free” association was ignored and overridden. His speech will not appear in the SB, showing the association how completely useless they are. (The RFPA board, true to form, rolled over and agreed with his decision.)

The RFPA also has a blog. That blog serves the important purpose of utterly confusing the members of the PRC.

Consider the following excerpts. The first two are from sermons preached by Rev. Overway in 2016. The third quotation is from the 2018 Acts of Synod which was synod’s response to an appeal from Mrs. Connie Meyer. And then the fourth quotation is from an RFPA blog post on 9/29/21 which quotation directly contradicts the decision of Synod 2018, and which stands in direct support of Rev. Overway’s theology.

  1. We truly ask and are heard, and God receives our prayer and gives us—because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (Rev. Overway, Requisites of Prayerful Fellowship, 4/17/16).
  2. Yet perhaps one would say, “Well, how much, how little ought I meet these requirements? Do I need to meet these requirements perfectly before God will hear? Do I meet these requirements somewhat, or but a little, just a tiny bit and then God will hear my prayer?” The answer really is very simple. Very simple. If we but meet these requirements a little bit, by the grace of God, of course, and by God’s grace working them in us—if we meet these requirements but a little, then we will enjoy a little of God’s fellowship. That’s the truth. If we meet these requirements a lot, then we will enjoy much of God’s fellowship. (Overway, Requisites of Prayerful Fellowship, 4/17/16).
  3. It is erroneous to teach that the way to the enjoyment of fellowship with God, the way of approach unto God, the way to the Father is a way of requirements that God sets out for us and that the believer must meet by his obedience or godliness. Nowhere do the creeds, including L.D. 45, which is the text for the sermon, teach that the relationship between obedience and fellowship is that “there is obedience required in order that we may have that fellowship, prayerful fellowship with God,” or “obedience is required here, obedience that I must perform in order to enjoy fellowship with God,” or that we must “approach unto the Father, come to the Father meeting requirements that He has set out for you.” Giving to our obedience the place that these statements do strongly suggests that our obedience is a condition for covenant fellowship. The way of approach unto God is not our obedience, but Christ alone, by faith alone (B.C., Art. 23, we rely and rest “upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours, when we believe in Him. This is sufficient to cover our iniquities, and to give us confidence in approaching to God”). (2018 Acts of Synod, 66)
  4. Prayer is always the way in which we consciously receive God’s blessings. The more we pray, the more these blessings are ours. The more perfectly we pray, the more perfectly do we receive God’s favor and love. The closer we live to God, the greater is the flood of grace that comes from his throne as a stream of living water. The more thankful we are, the more we are the heirs of salvation in Jesus Christ (Hanko, When You Pray, 22, excerpt published on the RFPA blog on 9/29/21).

It is apparently the job of one man at the RFPA, or perhaps two, to mine the work of PR theologians, search out their theological dung, and spread it all over the internet. Why? Why would you highlight that part of that book? (Well, I do know why. Because you think it scores a point for the PR theology of man meriting with God. And you’re right. It does.) The man who found that quote from Hanko’s book and then posted it on the blog is representative of the entire denomination—when given the choice to trumpet Christ or man, then you trumpet man. It really is no wonder that the members of the Protestant Reformed denomination are as confused as they are about the gospel. Synod says one thing, but their ministers and the denominational mouthpiece, the RFPA, preach and teach another.

But now the blog has a new editor, Rev. Martyn McGeown.

Were it my intention to remain a member of the RFPA, I would object. Rev. McGeown fails in the one area where an editor or writer must never fail. He is dishonest. I have shown that here, and Mr. Andy Birkett, elder at Second RPC, showed that in a letter to his family regarding a recent post by Rev. McGeown.

And Rev. McGeown is the man who will lead and instruct the members of the PRC. Now, in his official capacity, he can spend the next number of years convincing the PRC that faith is man’s act, and emphatically not God’s act.

This further proves the point that those who look to the next generation of ministers are looking in vain. Rev. McGeown is Rev. Koole but with more polish. This is not just becaue Rev. McGeown has been dutifully following Rev. Koole around the last few years trying to clean up after him and talk Koole’s theology straight. Their theology is the same.

Together, Revs. Koole and McGeown are the “Brothers But.” They join the ranks of other famous brother pairs in history, including the Brothers Karamazov, the Brothers Grimm, and the Bash Brothers. They give the gospel of good news of salvation by the work of God alone in one breath, but then almost immediately insert a “but” and pull the gospel back from their sheep.

Don’t you see? That’s our hope. It’s based upon the blood. But it’s also in the way of this repentance and casting oneself upon the mercy of Jehovah God. (Rev. Koole, “The Years The Locusts Have Eaten: To Be Restored,” 10/24/21)

We do not, of course, bring our works into our justification, but the faith by which we are justified is not passive. (Rev. McGeown, “Passive Faith?,” RFPA blog, 11/15/21)

Or, “but” is used to utterly confuse an issue by taking a statement that is very plain and clear, inserting a “but,” and making unclear what was clear. In the exchange about whether or not in justification faith is passive, Abraham Kuyper is quoted as saying, “Our faith is the result and the fruit of our justification.” Pretty clear. Time for Rev. McGeown to come in and cloud the issue: “Throwing out quotes is one thing, but what did Kuyper mean?”

J. Gresham Machen is quoted as saying, “True faith does not do anything.” Many of us understand what that means. (And many of us love what that means, because it puts the focus on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.) Time for Rev. McGeown to come in and confuse you. “Machen’s surrounding context is critical to understanding this quote.”

John Calvin is quoted as saying, “As regards justification, faith is merely passive.” Yes, yes, a million times yes! Not so fast, says McGeown! “But Calvin explains his own meaning,” says McGeown, and he then continues, because really, you wouldn’t want anyone to think that in our justification we are passive, or that the child of God receives all of the benefits of salvation in Jesus Christ as a gift, unmerited and unearned.

McGeown does the same with Hoeksema. When Hoeksema explained the answer to the Philippian jailor as being understood as “Do nothing,” many of us agreed with (and loved) that answer because it pointed us to Christ and kept our “doing” out of it. Lest any of God’s people find that they are trusting too much in God’s sovereign work of salvation, which is on the basis of Christ Jesus alone, McGeown points out that that answer “has been exaggerated,” and we shouldn’t just pluck one sentence out of a sermon and draw too much from it.

To all of which I say, you can have your theology of “but.” I want nothing to do with it. Give me the pure gospel, and give me a pastor who is not deathly afraid of that gospel, so that every time the good news is sounded, he feels compelled to add a “but” and pull that gospel back from me.

I do find it amusing that Rev. McGeown calls Rev. Lanning “Andy” and Rev. Langerak, “Nathan.” Not just because it is puerile, but because McGeown must not be aware that in 1924 Rev. Hoeksema was deposed from office, causing the McGeowns of that day to refer to Rev. Hoeksema as “Herman.” Knowing one’s history is important, if for no other reason than you can try to avoid looking so much like your own apostatizing mother that deposed your faithful pastors.

As to the Standard Bearer, it now belongs to the denomination and the men who lead the denomination, as much as The Banner belongs to the Christian Reformed Church.

Another question was asked on the pages of the Standard Bearer some 64 years ago. Rev. Herman Hoeksema asked that question.

The question is: shall The Standard Bearer, through its staff of editors, in the future, remain faithful to the purpose of which it was originally organized and published? Shall it continue to maintain and further develop the Reformed truth, the truth concerning the whole counsel of God? Or shall it gradually become corrupt and apostatize from that truth? (Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer and Our Future, 12/1957)

The answer is all too clear. Yes, the SB shall gradually become corrupt and apostatize from that truth.

Which corruption and apostasy have now taken deep root.

The RFPA is no longer free.

What a fall from grace.

All because vain and light men took the spiritual birthright of the RFPA and handed it over to the professors of a denomination.

But they will get no bowl of pottage in return.

No, for their obedience they are rewarded with only a pat on the head.

Finally, a note of appreciation for the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA), publisher of our magazine. This board of a dozen men have worked hard to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the editors and staff of the Standard Bearer. Although the Staff of the SB determines the writers and content of the magazine, the RFPA publishes, distributes, advertises, promotes, finances, and everything else important for the witness to go out. Without the RFPA, there is no magazine. Carry on, brothers, in this important work of the Lord. (Prof. Gritters, “Editor’s Report on Volume 98,” SB, 10/1/21)

Loveland, CO

This evening, Friday, April 8, there will be a public lecture held in Loveland, Colorado. Rev. Nathan Langerak will be speaking on the topic, “The State of Theology.” The lecture will be held at the at the Best Western Hotel in Loveland, Colorado, at 6:30 PM MDT. The hotel is located at 5542 US-34, Loveland, CO 80537. The speech will be livestreamed at the YouTube channel of Second Reformed Protestant Church.

Much has been written that has laid out the spiritual condition of the Protestant Reformed Churches, including her corruption of each the three marks of the true church as found in the Belgic Confession, Article 29, so that does not need to be repeated here.

As to ones calling regarding his church membership, I cannot say it better than Rev. Key, the minister of Loveland PRC, so I will give him the last word.

The other great tragedy addressed in this booklet is that thousands upon thousands of well-meaning Christians continue their membership in churches where the three marks have been lost. For various reasons they remain in churches that have departed from the Scriptures to such a degree that the biblical marks that characterize Christ’s church are no longer found, or are corrupted to a significant degree. Although they are in danger of losing their generations, they remain where they are, content to ‘put up with’ the errors that they see. To such comes the call: ‘Come out from among them and be ye separate!’

In this evil age, believers and their children must find a home in a faithful congregation where they may be strengthened in the most holy faith, where they may enjoy the fellowship of God in the gospel and unity in the truth of the Scriptures. That is our calling, the calling of church membership in an evil age.

Your membership in a particular congregation, and your membership in a particular denomination, marks you as responsible for the doctrines taught and for that which goes on where you have your membership. That is a serious matter for all of us. But that truth of corporate responsibility is clearly taught in Scripture. It is a truth rooted in God’s creation of Adam as the head of the human race. It is corporate responsibility which marks us as guilty in Adam, according to Romans 5, for example. You and I and all men are responsible before God for what Adam did in paradise. We were not there; we did not know anything about it; we had no say in the matter. It makes no difference. You and I are guilty before God for Adam’s sin.

It was because of their corporate responsibility that the whole nation of Israel stood guilty before God for the sin of Achan, as we read in Joshua 7. So long as that sin remained in the nation, they could not expect the favour and love and mercy of God. And what was true in the Old Testament manifestation of God’s church is true today.

When sin manifests itself in the church, it is not for us to look down our noses in self-righteousness. It is a time of grief and sorrow and confession of sin. The anger of the Lord comes not only upon the heretics and those who walk ungodly, but it comes upon the whole church so long as that sin is not dealt with. And God Himself says in the second commandment of Exodus 20, ‘I will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.’ That is corporate responsibility.

There are many, for example, who take the position, ‘The pulpit in my congregation holds to the truth; my congregation does not go along with this departure and that error; my congregation submits to the truth of Scripture’s infallibility and authority. Therefore, so long as the congregation is pure where I have my membership, the denomination can go to hell.’ That is blunt; but that is the attitude of many.

There are others, whom I commend for their concern for the departures of their denominations, but who also turn their backs on the scriptural teaching of corporate responsibility. There is a growing movement within various apostatising churches to have a sort of church-within-a-church, an alliance or fellowship of some sort which supposedly will absolve its members of the sins of the denomination. By such an organization within the church, there is the feeling that something positive is being done in opposition to the forces of evil and heresy—though in a way political and outside the bounds of Scripture—and there is a separation that makes one free from any responsibility for the sins of the congregation or denomination.

Having considered the scriptural principles and responsibilities of church membership, we noted the inescapable truth of corporate responsibility. Though many in this age of ecclesiastical departure and apostasy would like to ignore that truth, it is exactly the truth of corporate responsibility and corporate guilt that lies at the basis of the call, ‘Come out from among them, and be ye separate.’ We must not continue in conflict with the holiness of God. I pointed out that in some cases that may mean separation now from the body where you currently have your church membership. That is a move that is extremely difficult. I know that—as a matter of experience.

But when I point out that exercising the responsibility of church membership becomes increasingly difficult in the advancing apostasy in the church today, I would remind you that God’s people have often faced the same difficulties in centuries past.

Therefore, the question becomes, ‘Where is that church in which I must worship and live in active membership?’ And in Article 29 the answer is given us: ‘Here are the distinguishing marks.’

The determining factor of church membership must not be family and relatives. The words of Jesus are clear and must be applied by us to our own situation: ‘He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37). The only thing you must consider in that connection is the spiritual welfare of your loved ones. But your calling is to glorify God in the truth. And in glorifying God in the truth He assures you that your testimony to your family will not go unheard.

The determining factor of where I must worship as a member of Christ’s body comes down to this: Where is the truth of God’s holy Word maintained from a practical point of view? That is, do I in this church and its fellowship of churches hear the pure preaching of the gospel, preaching which trumpets forth the voice of Christ, the clear, fearless blast of ‘thus saith the Lord,’ and the unadulterated truth of the Scriptures? Secondly, do I find here the proper administration of the sacraments again, with the truth of God’s Word the determining factor? And finally, is there the scriptural exercise of the love of Christian discipline, without which neither the sacraments nor the pure preaching of the Word can be maintained?

Where any of those marks are gone, removed from an instituted church, your calling is to remove yourself for membership in a church where those marks are maintained. For church history teaches us that where the marks of the church are removed, so is its candlestick. Reformation in that case comes only by way of separation and renewal, to the glory of God (Church Membership in an Evil Age).

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!

A request…

(A recent blog post by the Berean Reformed Protestant Fellowship reminded me of a project that I had previously considered, but that I now would like to set before you, the reader).

Over the last six years the answer to the controversy that has so troubled the PRC has been in plain sight.

The answer was found in the protests, appeals, and letters of the members of the denomination. In other words, the answer was found in the office of believer.

I have read many of the protests and appeals that made it to the broader assemblies. I have also read some of the protests and appeals and letters that were sent to various consistories but never made it to classis.

Those letters, protests, and appeals are beautiful. They are beautiful because they set forth the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ over against the man-centered theology that now the PRC embraces.

I have read some of the letters that members sent their consistories, admonishing the men to fulfill their responsibility to be watchmen on the walls.

I have read some of the letters that members have sent to consistories, when finally, after much effort, the members realized that their work in the PRC was done, and they requested their papers be sent to their home.

My desire is to see more of those letters, more of those protests, and more of those appeals. My desire is to see that those documents be published on its own blog post, so they can edify the reader today, but also stand as a lasting testimony to the Protestant Reformed Churches forsaking the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to say, their forsaking of Jesus Christ himself.

I ask you to send me those letters, protests, and appeals so they can be published here. If you do not have a document yourself, but know of someone who does, please forward this post to them, and encourage them to submit it for publication.

Those documents can be emailed to astraitbetwixt@gmail.com.

Please also attend the Bible Study of the Berean Reformed Protestant Fellowship that occasioned this post. Their meeting will be held on Saturday, March 26 @ 8:00 am EST. The link for that Bible Study can be found here. They will be studying the PRC’s controversy in light of the office of believer.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” Revelation 12:11

Reformed ____ Publishing Association (2)

The Standard Bearer is a lifeless magazine.

Take, for example, the special issue on the Reformation (November 1, 2021).

In the first place, it starts with an article by Martin Luther that, according to settled doctrine in the PRC, never should have been written, much less republished. Luther had the audacity to write that in the great Reformation, “I did nothing; the Word did it all.” Did nothing? Did nothing!? Didn’t Luther know that Reformed theology glorifies God by shouting as loudly as possible about the activity of man? How dare he write that extreme and radical statement? That sounds suspiciously like saying that although Noah labored hard to build the ark, Noah did nothing, but God did it all. Were Luther a member of the PRC today, he would need to be publicly rebuked. He would be branded an antinomian from that moment on and viewed with suspicion.

As to the rest of the issue, its only purpose is to serve as a relaying of the history of the Great Reformation. Don’t the editors know that has already been done many times before? Do the editors really think that the issue in the PRC is that the people do not know the history? At a time that cries out for instruction about the Reformation truth of semper reformanda, there was none. None at all. Imagine that. After it was shown that the PRC had compromised justification by faith alone and displaced Christ, in a special issue on the Great Reformation, there was no call for the PRC to be “always reforming.” Instead of applying the glorious principle of church reformation to themselves, they only garnished the tombs of the reformers.

It is a lifeless magazine.

The reason the magazine is lifeless is because the magazine is now silent at the exact point where the gospel is under attack. It must be. Were any current editor to scrounge around in the basement of the RPFA and find a sword left there by a former editor, he would have to take up that sword against the magazine itself and against men who currently serve or who have served as editors of the magazine. Unwilling to put the truth above all, the Standard Bearer must now fall silent and join so many other so-called Reformed periodicals that only occasionally stumble across the truth and never, ever condemn and repudiate the lie as it is found in their own midst.

And now the magazine belongs to the editors.

It used to belong to the association. It used to belong to the office of believer.

This also implies that the Standard Bearer is yours. It is not an organ of any consistory, classis, or synod. Nor is it under the sovereign control of the editors that fill its pages. It is yours. Even as our free Christian Schools are not ultimately controlled by the teachers, but by the parents; so the Standard Bearer, though its contents are the care of its editors, is your paper, it is a means through which you have the opportunity to sound forth the testimony in behalf of the Reformed truth, within our own circles and without. (Herman Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer as a Witness, SB, December 15, 1945; emphasis his)

And emphatically not to a denomination.

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! (Herman Hoeksema, The Standard Bearer as a Witness)

But that was all challenged under Profs. Gritters and Dykstra and Rev. Koole.

In 2011, a staff member of the RFPA sent an email to Prof. Dykstra asking for information. The staff member wanted that information for the RFPA Update, which was sent out a few times a year, updating the association members on the work of the board and staff. Prof. Dykstra responded pettishly, arguing with that staff member about the proper relationship between the SB and the RFPA.

Prof. Dykstra’s misunderstanding of the relationship between the RFPA and the Standard Bearer then started a battle over the ownership of the magazine. The RFPA board stood its ground and insisted that the paper was their paper; which was to say, the association’s paper; which was to say, a believers’ paper. But over time, men joined the association—and then were elected to the board—who had very little spiritual sense and even less spiritual conviction, which men were only too happy to hand over the RFPA’s spiritual birthright for the good favor of a few men.

Fast forward to 2016 and beyond, and then we had the Standard Bearer hitting our mailboxes with not one word to say about the controversy. Finally, Prof. Dykstra waded in and in the issue just before the 2018 synod declared that the problem plaguing the denomination was the size of the protests. He solemnly counseled the PRC that the work of the synod may have to be to assign a committee to determine how to correct the problem of lengthy protests.

Once the synod had spoken and clarified what the issue truly was, the magazine then proceeded not only to minimize the decision synod had made but also to undermine it. Where was the heartfelt thanks to God for a decision that had made faith and faith’s object the sole cause, reason, means, and ground of any blessing of God for the believer? Where did they trumpet the fact that it is faith, and more specifically Christ, and not our works, not our obedience, not our doing, that brings us into covenant fellowship with God or that causes us to abound in fellowship with God? Not only did the Standard Bearer not instruct leading up to Synod 2018, but afterwards it ignored the controversy and then proceeded to teach that which was directly contrary to the decision.

The sole contribution that the Standard Bearer made in the recently decided controversy over justification by faith alone was that it led the Protestant Reformed Churches deeper into error and made sure that the PRC would not be able to correct its course.

Which makes what Prof. Gritters wrote in the September 1, 2021, issue of the Standard Bearer so astounding.

“In the past five years, our churches have struggled mightily to combat and root out error that gave to good works a place ‘out of harmony with the Reformed confessions.’”

I genuinely wonder if Prof. Gritters had the decency to blush when he typed those words. Or did he sit back in his chair, hook his thumbs into his belt, and give a good, hearty belly laugh? The PRC struggled mightily, all right. The denomination struggled mightily to assassinate the good character and name of those poor souls in the PRC who dared to protest and appeal bad sermon after bad sermon of her ministers, and bad decision after bad decision of her assemblies. In their defense of the gospel, these courageous members had to do their work despite having Hope’s consistory and Classis East fighting them every step of the way. And the Standard Bearer? And Prof. Gritters in particular? While the SB undermined and contradicted the decision of Synod 2018, Prof. Gritters himself did not lift one finger to combat and root out the error that gave good works a place “out of harmony with the Reformed confessions.”

Perhaps he did not laugh when he wrote it, but I certainly did when I read it.

And everyone knows that it is a complete fabrication. There is not one grain of truth to what Prof. Gritters wrote. Not that anyone will do anything about it. That’s how it goes in the PRC. Read it; know in your heart it is a complete lie and rewriting of history; but just move on. Protect the institution. Protect men. Allow them to write lies because, as the elder delegate from Grandville PRC said at the meeting of classis in January 2021, they have the reputations of men to protect.

The SB led the PRC deeper into error.

Let us be clear. The editors—Profs. Dykstra and Gritters and Rev. Koole—controlled the paper with an iron fist. Nothing could be published if the content did not meet with their approval.

Consider the attached documents, which was the second half of the material that Rev. Lanning submitted to his consistory in November 2019.

The RFPA board asked Rev. Lanning to write a review of Rev. Nathan Langerak’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, Walking in the Way of Love (Volume Two). Rev. Lanning did so and submitted the review to the Standard Bearer in February of 2019. Seven months later, Prof. Dykstra, on behalf of the editors, responded.

“We would like to print your book review, but with that quotation omitted.”

He was referring to a quotation from the book where Rev. Langerak had written critically of NAPARC.

Many emails followed, each becoming more and more “bizarre,” as noted in the correspondence.

The editors controlled the paper and what appeared in it with such an iron fist that they would not publish a book review because of one sentence that they found objectionable.

What that means is that when Rev. Koole published his false doctrine about what a man must do to be saved, and when he trotted out Herman Witsius to promote his theology of salvation by the doing of man, he did so with the complete support and agreement of Profs. Dykstra and Gritters.

Am I wrong?

Show me the letter that the editors sent to Rev. Koole that said, “We would like to print your editorials, but with the conditional theology removed.”

The editors were perfectly comfortable with those editorials and Koole’s theology.

What that means is that when Rev. Slopsema published his meditation that said that the work of Christ was good enough to a point, but what it took for a man to abound in covenant fellowship with God was that man’s obedience to the law, the editors were in complete agreement.

Am I wrong?

Show me the letter that the editors sent to Rev. Slopsema that said, “We would like to print your meditation, but with that paragraph removed.”

The editors were perfectly comfortable with that paragraph and that theology.

What that means is that when Rev. Eriks wrote that there are two grounds for divorce, adultery and desertion, he did so with the complete support and agreement of Profs. Dykstra and Gritters and Rev. Koole.

Am I wrong?

Show me the letter that the editors sent to Rev. Eriks that said, “We would like to print your article, but with that paragraph removed.”

The editors were perfectly comfortable with that paragraph and that theology.

Is it any wonder that men who knew the history of the RPFA and truly loved the Standard Bearer would object? What would you have them do—sit by and do nothing while their paper was corrupted and ripped from them?

But wasn’t the board in place to prevent that from happening?

Reformed ____ Publishing Association (1)

When the board of the RFPA saw Prof. Huizinga’s original speech title, they should have stopped whatever it was that they were doing, and they should have given thanks to God.

They should have thanked God for giving them another chance to be faithful to their very reason for existence.

They failed the first time.

A group of men were concerned about the direction of the Standard Bearer. They laid out extensively for the board why they were concerned.

What was their intent? Was it the reason that the editors gave to Byron Center PRC’s consistory when the editors met with the consistory on June 4, 2020? The reason the editors gave for why the group wrote the RFPA was that the group wanted to get the current editors removed. Was that true? No, that was not true. It was a lie told by Professor Gritters, Professor Dykstra, and Reverend Koole to the consistory of Byron Center PRC. The group’s request was for the RFPA to “take action on these issues” and for the RFPA to “assert its sovereign control over the paper and its content.” They called on the RFPA to “See these things as serious problems and to address them decisively, without delay, and with all due and deliberate speed.” If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself, in the group’s letter to the RFPA board and to the editors themselves.

The RFPA board responded by asking three questions: Why had the group of concerned men not gone through the assemblies, had the concerned men gone to the editors first, and did the group of concerned men know that the RFPA had already handed the magazine over to the editors?

I am surprised, and even impressed, that the group of concerned men responded. They showed a monumental amount of patience. With such a letter, the RFPA Board revealed that they did not understand even the most basic principles underpinning the RFPA. In receiving such a response, the group of concerned men would have been fully justified in declaring their conscience clear before God and planning for a new magazine. However, out a spirit of charity, they continued to correspond. To no avail.

It really is striking. Hoeksema’s theology was called nonsense? Conditions were being taught? North Korean-like censorship was going on at the Standard Bearer, to the extent that it was nearly impossible to get a letter printed? None of that mattered to the board. They were taking orders from the editors, which was enough for them. So much so that they even threw in a charge of slander against the group of concerned men, which charge was so obviously false that even Classis East had to reject it when it was brought by the editors.

Being rebuffed by the board, the group of concerned men called for a special association meeting, as was their right according to the RFPA Board Handbook (“The board on its own motion, or upon written request from any fifteen regular members, may call a special meeting of the Association”).

This too the board of the RFPA turned away. All in service to an institution and the men who ruled the institution.

But that brings up a question—why did this group of concerned men arise? What happened to the RFPA that caused such alarm in the hearts of these men?

The RFPA is doing many neat things right now, including publishing very practical books and a children’s magazine, but that is not why it exists.

The cause of the RFPA “is the maintenance as well as the development of the Protestant Reformed truth which we hold dear and the rejecting and combatting of all heresies that are in conflict with the truth” (Hoeksema, SB, 11/1957).

The RFPA, and more specifically its magazine, the Standard Bearer, exist to teach doctrine. They exist to defend right doctrine. They exist to expose the lie and condemn false doctrine as the damnable work of the devil that it is.

They exist to be the one voice that trumpets doctrine and to do so in a world littered with vapid publishers of practical books and children’s magazines.

The RFPA exists because of the Standard Bearer, the calling of which in recent years was to rebuke the apostatizing Protestant Reformed Churches and to defend the truth of the Reformed faith as that faith was historically taught in the PRC.

When it became clear that the editors of the Standard Bearer were taking the magazine in an entirely new direction, the RFPA board should have stepped in and addressed the matter. Did it not trouble them when an editor of the paper called Hoeksema’s theology of the Philippian jailor nonsense? When the magazine had absolutely nothing to say during the heart of the controversy, did not alarm bells go off at the board level that this was directly contrary to the very purpose of the paper? When one of the editors printed and defended blatant false doctrine—heresy—that led the PRC farther down the road of apostasy, did not one man raise his voice to object?

The answer to that question is yes. Some men fought. Some of those men fought right up until the ends of their terms. For two others, they would not make it to the ends of their terms. With a story that has been told before, the dishonorable and unrighteous majority finally had enough of those men who would not truckle to the editors with the rest of the board. In late August, Joel Langerak and Jon Langerak (I will say their names, even if the RFPA board president cannot) were summarily removed from their lawfully elected posts.

How does this happen? How is it possible that the PRCA corrupts every organization it touches, whether a supposedly free publishing association or a school board?

The reason is simple. You have men who are not spiritual but carnal. Spiritual battle about the purpose of the RFPA? A fight over a magazine and what may stand on the pages of that magazine? Heresy versus the truth? These men know nothing of these things; neither can they know them because these things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). They can tell you who Michigan football plays on Saturday. They can tell you about their vacation next week. They can also tell you the state of their company, down to the very last penny. But they can’t lift a finger in defense of the truth if it means going against powerful men in their denomination. 

And these men will serve out their terms at the RFPA and go on to take their earthly wisdom to the school board room or the consistory room. Like the consistory of Byron Center PRC, they will bring their carnality and corruption right into the very heart of the bride of Christ.

There was a battle over the Standard Bearer at one point.

But that battle has been lost.

The RFPA is now on a leash.

The PRC holds that leash.

And where that is evident is with the RFPA’s publication, the Standard Bearer.