Gloss

In the November 15 issue of the Standard Bearer, Rev. McGeown glosses over the recently settled controversy in the PRC.

Since his analysis bears so little resemblance to what actually took place, one wonders how closely he has been following it.

In his defense, he has been in Ireland for the entire time of the controversy. He has not been here to witness what went on at every meeting of Classis East for the last four years. Therefore, he did not see the workings of an entirely political machine that was bent on defending false doctrine and defending the purveyors of that false doctrine. Which machine did not hesitate one second to cut down faithful officebearers where they stood. He did not witness, to borrow a line from Pearl Buck who was describing the churchmen of Machen’s day, the machinations of the ministers in leadership positions who occupied easy places and played their church politics and trimmed their sails to every wind. He was not sitting next to Elder Neil Meyer while Mr. Meyer was under (un)Christian discipline for three years. He was not in the consistory room at Byron Center PRC or Crete PRC to hear and see the absolute corruption that went on. He was not around when the church visitors ran roughshod over the Church Order and bullied a compliant consistory into doing their will. He was not here to be confronted on a regular basis by the sheer hypocrisy of the majority of officebearers in Classis East.

But now, having recently taken up a pastorate at Providence PRC, and almost before having his bags unpacked, he is ready to be our instructor.

According to Merriam-Webster, to gloss over something is to hide the true nature of that thing. It is to use deception to give something an appearance that it truly does not have.

Rev. McGeown lays it on thick.

Read the brief history that he provides.

A minister who was later judged to be “unsuitable” for the ministry preached some error, and when it was pointed out, the churches were eager to repudiate it. No one wanted the false doctrine (even though they defended it). No one wanted a conditional covenant (even though they preached it). Everyone was fully in support of those who defended the truth (even though those brave souls were suspended, deposed, marginalized, criticized, and hated).

He would have the reader believe that Classis East, champion for the truth, behaved itself nobly in dealing with error. Classis East, according to Rev. McGeown, did not want the conditional theology. They did not want the error. In fact, the whole denomination only wanted the truth! “No one in the Protestant Reformed Churches, whether the former pastor, his consistory, or Classis East willed or wanted to pervert the gospel.” Well, except for those ministers who continued to teach it and write it. And except for those consistories that continued to excuse it. And except for the Standard Bearer, which immediately after Synod 2018 not only undermined the decision but contradicted it.

The truth is that there were only a few members of the PRC who fought bravely, month after month, year after year, against almost unthinkable hatred and opposition, and who did so for the simple reason that they loved Jesus Christ and his truth.

Every single meeting of Classis East was a battle, with almost every delegate at those meetings doing everything he could to support Hope PRC and its corruption of justification by faith alone, and precious few of the delegates trying to uphold the pure gospel truth of salvation by Christ alone.

As for the clergy, there were only three ministers who fought for the truth.

Rev. McGeown was not one of them.

He shows his hand by writing a history and analysis of the controversy and never once mentioning those individuals whom God used, against the full weight of a denomination, to uphold and defend the truth of salvation by Christ alone. Remember? Mr. and Mrs. Meyer were upheld. (It is amazing. The PRC will thank and praise everyone under the sun, even those who led the PRC into error and who made sure the PRC would never turn from her error, but they have never thanked the men and women who were used by God to uphold the truth in the denomination. Can someone show me differently?)

McGeown goes on to write, “Again, if you claim something with enough rhetorical flourish, many people will not examine your assumptions, which do not flow from solid exegesis, but are based upon a sinful misrepresentation of the neighbor and a shameful twisting of God’s word.”

The reader is left perplexed. Who is he referring to?

First RPC consists of members who have lost their lives in contending for the faith. While I was busy slandering them, and Hope PRC was busy murdering them, and Rev. McGeown was busy trying to confuse them, these members were faithfully searching the scriptures and battling for the gospel of pure, sovereign grace. Is he really suggesting that these same men and women are now just ignorant, gullible men-followers who just agree with everything Rev. Lanning or anyone else says? If Rev. Lanning were to preach false doctrine, he would have half his congregation in his study the next day, and that by the grace of God.

Because I choose charity and charitable judgments, I can only say that Rev. McGeown is ignorant of the issues. I choose ignorance, because the alternative is that he is himself a deceiver who heals the hurt of the PRC slightly by preaching peace, peace, where there is no peace.

He makes it difficult to maintain that charitable judgment of ignorance, however, when he goes on to write about what has developed with the PR Christian schools.

If there is something which Rev. McGeown knows less about than the controversy in the PRC, it is the matter of the schools.

He writes the following: “Take, for example, our good Christian schools. The schismatics have now taken the position that, because the schools require parents and students not to militate against the schools, but to promise to use a lawful process if they have grievances, parents who give such assurances are guilty of placing an institution above the truth.”

Having carefully created this straw man, he goes on then to mock and ridicule it and tear it down.

But for those of us who are trying to be serious students of these issues, is that really what took place?

The schools just asked the parents to use a lawful process if they have grievances?

No, that is not at all what they asked.

If that were all, they already had the documents in place for that.

We know that is not all the schools required because we have the actual words the schools used to make clear what they were requiring.

“Are you willing to give us the assurance that you as parents and your children will not militate against our school, our teachers, and our churches?” (Covenant Christian HS questionnaire)

“Will you and your children not publicly or openly degrade (or bring into disrepute) this school, its teachers, or the PRC whose doctrinal teaching this school infuses into its instruction?” (Adams Christian School questionnaire)

Rev. McGeown continues: “Although the schools have always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools…”

Is that true?

Unlike Rev. McGeown, who is ignorant regarding the Christian schools, I do have some knowledge of these things. My children attended both Adams and Covenant. I served two terms on the board of ACS, the last term ending one week before I was elected to the office of elder at Byron Center.

I have served on the enrollment committee. For Rev. McGeown’s benefit, that is the committee responsible for enrolling new families and re-enrolling existing families.

So, is what Rev. McGeown says true? Have the schools “always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools”?

No, they have not. What Rev. McGeown writes is deceit. Whether done out of ignorance or not, it is pure deceit.

Deceit, according to the dictionary, is to trick someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.

He would have the reader believe that this whole matter of the schools was completely manufactured by the “schismatics,” and these vows have always been required of the parents.

The PR schools, which were at one time parental and not parochial, have never had their members swear allegiance to one denomination.

Did he even read the documents?

It is obvious even on the first reading that these vows were requiring something far more than just an assurance that you would follow the normal grievance procedure.

These vows came about because you had emotional, unprincipled men serving on the school boards, who put together questions that more closely resembled the questions a man must answer when he wants to join a labor union than when he wants to enroll his child in a Christian school.

This was the first time in the history of both schools that such questions were asked.

A far cry from being something they have “always required” of parents.

Not being content with twisting the facts and deceiving his readers, Rev. McGeown also pours in a dose of mockery.

Although the schools have always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools, this is now labeled “a grievous snare,” something the leaders of the schism failed to see, so that their failure to blow the trumpet supposedly put their people in grave danger. In grave danger of not being permitted to tell one’s classmates that they belong to the whore?! In grave danger of having to do all things decently and in order?!

We had our schools stripped away from us. Of all of the things taken away from us, this was one of the most painful. It was an incredible grief to the parents and their children. Showing the kind, merciful compassion the PRC is known for, Rev. McGeown now mocks those parents and children.

This type of writing will play very well in the PRC.

The people will eat it up.

But what Rev. McGeown is doing is trafficking in lies and deceit.

Which are the proper works of the devil (L.D. 43).

And not being content with his deception, he hypocritically exhorts his readers to follow Ephesians 4:2-3 and 1 Peter 3:8-9 in their own response to these things.

“Dear reader, do as I say, not as I do.”

But there is one other very striking thing about Rev. McGeown’s article.

And that is quite significant because with it he gets much closer to the heart of the issue.

(The thesis of his article, specifically his complaint about the rhetoric, is quickly swept aside. There have always been members of the church who are offended at the hard words of the Bible. So too with Rev. McGeown. His issue is not with Rev. Lanning; it is with God, who has ordained such words to describe the false church. And what he criticizes as a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, students of church history are able to identify as the regular course of church reformation, as the issues separating the two sides are more clearly identified. Speaking of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, D.G. Hart writes, “As both sides escalated their arguments, either to defend or question certain practices and the ideas that underwrote them, clear lines emerged that demarcated Protestantism and Roman Catholicism” (Still Protesting, Hart, 45)).

Rev. McGeown likes to use the word “schism.” It is a weakness of his writing. He believes he is making a point, but he wearies the reader with his constant references to the “schism” and the “schismatics” and the “leaders of the schism” and the “now-deposed schismatic” and the “schismatic leader.”

Schism, schism, schism.

Lament for schism.

Sermons about schism.

Articles about schism.

The PRC is consumed with talk of schism, schism, schism.

And they are right, there was schism in the PRC.

And it showed up unmistakably in October of 2018.

2 Corinthians 7:11

It was not difficult for the Apostle Paul to identify true repentance in the church at Corinth.

Sorrow after a godly sort.

Carefulness.

Clearing.

Indignation.

Fear.

Vehement desire.

Zeal.

Revenge!

In all these things proving oneself clear in a matter.

We have again just witnessed what passes for an apology in the PRC.

And it bore no resemblance to 2 Corinthians 7:11.

On Sunday morning, October 24, Grandville PRC had an announcement read from its pulpit.

We are told that the announcement said that Koole’s Witsius articles were false doctrine and that Rev. Koole admitted to militating against against synod.

I am told it also included a statement that the consistory declares him to be orthodox.

Hard to know exactly what it said, because that announcement is not public.

They muted the microphone while the announcement was read.

And if, as a member of that church, you would like to know what the announcement said because you were not in attendance that morning, they will not give you the announcement itself, but they would be happy to read it to you. (If that sounds familiar, it should.)

I wonder if during the meeting when this course of action was approved, any elder had the temerity to raise his hand and say, “Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, since Rev. Koole taught false doctrine publicly, why are we going to such great lengths to keep this apology private?”

Or this: “Mr. Chairman, 2 Corinthians 7:11 speaks of ‘clearing yourself.’ Wouldn’t it then be a good idea to make sure this is public so that the entire denomination and world knows that Rev. Koole is sorry for what he has done? Does doing our utmost to keep this hidden in the darkness really resemble the clearing of ourselves spoken of in 2 Corinthians 7:11?”

Or this: “Mr. Chairman, since Grandville PRC took such an active role in the ungodly act of deposing Elder Neil Meyer, and since we have never once expressed even a shred of sorrow for that wickedness, maybe now is a time for us to show our congregation and denomination what true repentance looks like?”

Or this: “Mr. Chairman, do we think we can get away with this kind of secret behavior just because we no longer have any members who will hold us accountable?”

But there was a public apology in the Standard Bearer.

I mean, an “apology” in the Standard Bearer.

I need to use quotation marks because it was not an apology.

It included these words: “My consistory pointed out that a number of Witsius’ statements, as they are worded, no matter how I read them and was convinced what Witsius meant by them, stand in contradiction to decisions of our recent synods (in particular those of 2018) and to our confessions, and thus constitute false doctrine.”

But that seems a bit strange.

Is that all he is sorry for?

Is that all the consistory of Grandville PRC pointed out to Rev. Koole?

Compare, for a moment, the theology for which an “apology” had to be made, to a statement made on the editorial page of the Standard Bearer in October of 2018.

In particular I was pointed to Witsius stating, in the context of the utility (usefulness) of holiness and good works, that “Scripture teaches that something must be done that we may be saved.” (Koole, “Apology,” 11/5/21 SB)

But is it altogether improper for preachers so much as to suggest that there is that which one can do (is able to do)? And then, in the end, to go so far as to declare that if a man would be saved, there is that which he must do? (Koole, “What Must I Do…?” 10/1/18 SB)

Let us not forget that in 2018 and 2019, Rev. Koole went on for quite some time and with some vigor to defend the theology of man’s “doing.” That went on until men higher up the food chain in the PRC got him to back off (for a few months).

Well, isn’t Rev. Koole sorry for what he did in the months immediately following Synod 2018? Isn’t he sorry for throwing sand into the eyes of an entire denomination and confusing the people and corrupting the gospel?

Evidently not.

Can’t the consistory of Grandville PRC see that Witsius’ theology is Koole’s theology circa 2018?

Evidently not.

Let us be clear about something. The statement that was read from the pulpit of Grandville PRC was no apology at all. It was no statement of sorrow. It was a complete sham. It was a chloroform-soaked rag applied to the face of every member of that congregation.

Go back to sleep.

It was a sham not only because Rev. Koole was not even in the audience when the announcement was read, as he was off preaching elsewhere that Sunday morning.

Neither was it a sham only because that very evening he was off flirting with the same false doctrine at Southwest PRC. (If you had just apologized for corrupting fundamental doctrines of the faith, wouldn’t you get about preaching sermons that were so focused on the sovereignty and grace (particular, not the other kind) of God that you might even draw the charge of being one-sided?)

Neither was it a sham because a few weeks after admitting he taught false doctrine during the heart of a controversy on justification by faith alone, he was off representing the PRC at NAPARC. (Maybe replace him for this go-around until you can be sure he is orthodox?)

The reason it was a sham, and what makes it so easy to identify it as such, is that he did not apologize for what he wrote immediately after Synod 2018.

Neither did Grandville PRC’s consistory insist that he apologize for that.

But why not?

The theology is the same. In fact, it is almost word for word the same.

Why not go back to the beginning?

Rev. Koole couldn’t do that.

Because to go beyond the Witsius articles to the actual false doctrine itself would touch more men than just Rev. Koole.

Including Rev. McGeown, who has just burst back onto the scene in the PRC.

Rev. McGeown previously made a contribution to the controversy in the PRC by writing a lengthy article in the April 2019 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (PRTJ).

What was going on at that time was quite significant.

In direct contradiction to Synod 2018, Rev. Koole was writing that if a man would be saved, that is, if a man would know that he was saved, there was that which he must do.

Revs. Langerak, Lanning, and VanderWal objected.

The rest of the denomination would have none of them.

Everyone rose up to defend faith as a doing as if it were a key tenet of the faith and one that we had been taught from our earliest days.

The three ministers who spoke up against such a theology were pilloried.

Rev. Koole was defended.

Rev. McGeown was no exception.

He took up his pen and wrote his lengthy defense of faith as a doing.

There was no question why he was writing as he was. 

He was defending Rev. Koole, and more importantly, Rev. Koole’s theology.

At a time when the recent controversy was becoming more and more serious for more and more people (“Synod said this was about justification by faith alone?!”), Rev. Koole confused the people and corrupted the gospel with his talk of faith as a doing.

Three ministers rose up in defense of the gospel. 

Rev. McGeown rose up in defense of a man and that man’s theology.

And now he is back.

In an article in the November 15, 2021, issue of the Standard Bearer, Rev. McGeown took it upon himself to educate the readership about the controversy that has just been settled in the PRC.

What is fascinating is that Rev. McGeown’s article appears in the same issue as an “apology” from Rev. Koole.

Which illustrates why the apology can’t go any further.

Were Rev. Koole to apologize for making faith a work in the series of articles that appeared beginning in 2018, Rev. McGeown would certainly have to apologize for his further confusion and misleading of the people by his defense of Koole and his defense of such language in the PRTJ.

And were Rev. McGeown to apologize, that would certainly require the editors of the Standard Bearer to apologize because when they shut down the debate on Rev. Koole’s articles that made faith a work, Prof. Dykstra pointed the readers to Rev. McGeown’s PRTJ article that had defended the language of faith as “doing” as a “thorough, Reformed presentation on faith and works.” 

Not to mention all of the other ministers and elders who defended that theology.

Over and over and over again, all we heard was a defense of Rev. Koole and Rev. Koole’s theology.

But it is not just Rev. Koole.

It’s not just Rev. Koole’s theology.

There are those who console themselves with the fact that Rev. Koole is no longer editor. They are deluding themselves. The sickness goes far deeper than that.

To try and root out the false doctrine that has now permeated the PRC would require far more than just an insincere apology.

Follow that thread all the way, and what you will find is a theological and ecclesiastical Gordian knot.

It involves the men who serve as church visitors and synodical presidents and stated clerks and professors.

Can you imagine what that investigation would uncover?

No, far better for Rev. Koole to fall on his sword and simply “apologize” for dragging Herman Witsius out of the mausoleum.

And now Rev. McGeown is back.

And he shows no remorse for having confused the people when the controversy was reaching fever pitch.

He doesn’t apologize for his having contributed to the confusion.

He doesn’t even mention his earlier contribution.

He has other things to write about now.

And not being satisfied with just confusing the people, he now misleads them.

Hoodwinked (2)

Ruins,Of,An,Old,Church,With,No,Roof,And,Destroyed

In October 2018, Rev. Koole wrote that if a man would be saved there was that which he must do. (Many of the documents referenced below can be found here.)

Both Revs. Langerak and Lanning wrote letters exposing the false doctrine in these editorials. 

Rev. Koole rebuffed both and insisted on his theology.

(Which was no surprise to me, for the reasons provided in a previous post.)

It was only after two heavyweights in the denomination weighed in that Rev. Koole gave the appearance of backing off.

Prof. Huizinga used strong language to repudiate the theology being espoused by Rev. Koole.

In light of the fact that good works are a doing and faith is not a doing, we must be careful never to confuse faith and works by turning faith into a work we must perform in order to be saved. Salvation is by faith alone. Our experience of salvation as justified believers who know God’s pardoning grace is not by our doings but by faith in Christ. If faith truly is something we must do to be saved, saved in any sense of the word, then faith is no more faith, grace is no more grace, the gospel is no more gospel, and—terrifyingly—salvation is impossible because salvation by works is utterly impossible for all men whether they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit or not. It is one thing to command a man to believe (gospel), but it is another thing to command a man to do (law). When it is time for the gospel to issue its call, the gospel can frame to pronounce the words, “Repent and believe!” but the gospel cannot frame to pronounce the words “Do this and live!” Such a command is the gospel’s Shibboleth. (SB, August 2019)

Prof. Engelsma also spoke to the seriousness of the issue.

What Hoeksema meant, what the statement means, and what I believe and defend is that faith is not a “doing” by the sinner that, as a “doing,” contributes to his righteousness or accomplishes his salvation along with the doing of Jesus Christ. Righteousness is not by faith and by faith’s “doing.” It is not by faith as man’s doing. It is as gravely erroneous to make faith man’s saving “doing,” whether with or without the help of God, as it is to teach justification by faith and by the sinner’s working (“doing”).

In response to the letter from Prof. Engelsma, Rev. Koole seemed willing to make a concession.

Having read the objections and fears of yourself and others, perhaps it is time to cease referring to faith as a “doing” lest it appear we have turned faith into a working. This in the interests of removing this as an issue creating division in our churches and bringing unity again. For my part, I am willing to do that. (SB, 11/15/19)

At least for a year.

Then the whole matter of “doing” reappeared.

Witsius then proceeds to set forth what he is convinced is the Reformed perspective: II. In the matter itself [the controversy set before us] some things are to be approved, others not. III. Scripture teaches that something must be done that we may be saved. (SB, 12/15/20)

Rev. Koole tried to hide behind the words, “Due to space, we cannot in this article give select quotes of Witsius explanation of these propositions. We will let the reader reflect upon what Witsius wrote above and consider how orthodox one finds these statements to be, how Reformed, how scripturally sound.”

But every discerning reader knew he was setting them forth as support for his entire series of articles advocating conditions. (As was mentioned in an earlier post, this was all exposed in an excellent article in Sword & Shield by Dr. Nathan Lanning.)

It is interesting to note who this Witsius fellow is.

“While it is true that Witsius went in the direction of a conditional covenant like many (but not all) of his contemporaries…” (Rev. Koole, SB, 2/1/13).

So now, in the middle of a controversy on the nature of the covenant of grace, the PRC is led to this conditional theologian for help.

Rev. Koole should have turned to Hendrik DeCock’s mother, Frouwe Venema, for help. “At that time it was given to Mother to attain the insight that man’s being saved was not dependent on his willing and working, but that it is a gift of God’s grace; and that faith is not a doing, but faith is a rest that trusts in and that casts oneself on God’s promise in the gospel” (1834, 187).

But what now? The theology is back. And is this not the same theology, that, if true, would mean “faith is no more faith, grace is no more grace” and terribly, “the gospel is no more gospel”?

According to Prof. Huizinga, the issues troubling the PRC had to do with a compromise of justification by faith alone. And we know from other of his writings, that doctrine is “enormously important” (here and here).

Where has he been?

Is this how it works in the ivory tower of academia? No letters to the editor? No protests? Just move on with life as normal? Even though the error is back with a vengeance?

Is that what Huizinga meant by “incessantly and faithfully” combating every new appearance of false doctrine?

Finally, the church must always battle against the deadly heresy of justification by faith and … The apostle Paul marveled that the Galatian churches were so soon removed from the gospel truth of justification by faith alone. Every true church will quickly apostatize from the gospel of justification by faith alone if the sword is not faithfully wielded. Preaching the positive truth of justification by faith alone is not sufficient. The church must incessantly and faithfully combat every new appearance of the heretical and monstrous notion that there is righteousness acceptable to God that is based upon some work, some merit, some obedience, some holiness, or some good in man. Let that doctrine be accursed. The apostle puts it still stronger: let the preacher of it be accursed (Gal. 1:8–9). For the sake of justification by faith alone, keep the sword wielded. (Huizinga, Keeping the Sword Drawn, 25)

“Incessantly and faithfully” means something far different to me than just writing one article in which you call out the error. To me it means pursuing that error relentlessly, whether that error shows up in print or is heard from the pulpit, and pursuing it until that error is routed from the battle field.

If “incessantly and faithfully” means squirreling oneself away in an ivory tower to study dead theologians while the battle is raging below you and faithful office bearers are being cut down one by one, then I reject your noble declaration of “incessantly and faithfully.”

Come down and get your hands dirty. And maybe even be cut down yourself. It is no badge of honor when all men speak well of you.

Simply rolling over and getting along with everyone is hateful to me. If this is what it means to maintain peace or “rest” within the church, then with Hoeksema I decry such rest as the “rest of corruption and death.”

But there are no “neutrals” in wartime. Whether that war is over land or over doctrine, sides must be chosen, and the same is true for Prof. Huizinga. He has the ignominious honor—which apart from his repentance he will carry as the dreaded albatross about his neck his lifelong—of being the man who read the announcements for both Rev. Lanning and Rev. Langerak’s suspensions.

The fact that right doctrine is simply not important to the membership of the PRC can be seen in responses to this same false doctrine after the 2018 synod had ruled on the matter.

In the meditation in the October 15, 2020, issue of the Standard Bearer, Rev. James Slopsema wrote the following:

God’s holy law is good. It is designed to regulate the life of God’s people in their covenant relationship with Him and with each other. In the keeping of this covenant law is great joy. In fact, the more faithful the saints are to God’s law in the grace of Jesus Christ, the more they prosper in the great blessings of the covenant. They prosper in their marriages, in their family life, and in their church life. Above all, they prosper in the enjoyment of God’s covenant fellowship. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” (Ps. 119:1)

(Yes, I tried to address these things with Rev. Slopsema directly. My letters are here and here).

This is the same theology as that condemned by Synod 2018. Compare the two:

In fact, the more faithful the saints are to God’s law in the grace of Jesus Christ, the more they prosper in the great blessings of the covenant. They prosper in their marriages, in their family life, and in their church life. Above all, they prosper in the enjoyment of God’s covenant fellowship. (Rev. Slopsema)

The answer really is very simple. Very simple. If we but meet these requirements (obedience—DE) 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.” (Rev. Overway, 2018 Acts of Synod, 65)

It is as if Synod 2018 never happened.

But did you see what happened?

Rev. Koole was still teaching conditional fellowship, but at least he was doing it on the editorial page.

Now, we have the false doctrine moving away from the editorial page of the Standard Bearer to the Meditation section. This is what people read on Sunday morning before they go to church. Or that they take with them and read in the sanctuary prior to the start of the service. Which means the members of the PRC are drinking in poison as their “meditation” prior to engaging in worship. Having been allowed to stand on the editorial page, it only stands to reason it would move elsewhere in the magazine.

Take note that these things are appearing in the SB at all. Of course, each writer is responsible for his own content. But would the editors, who are responsible for what is allowed to appear in the magazine, allow what they believed to be heresy appear in their magazine? Of course not. The fact that none of them have publicly objected to this public teaching is very telling, and that the theology continues to appear tells those who are not asleep that the editors agree with it.

And the preaching? Errors are popping up like mushrooms. A man would have to make it his full-time job to protest and appeal every instance. (This sermon does a fine job of explaining the presence of these “mushrooms”).

In a sermon on Exodus 16:1–31 preached November 15, 2020, at Grandville PRC—which sermon was also preached in more than ten congregations in the PRC—Rev. Koole put on Christ’s lips the following:

And in order to live in accordance with God’s word, beloved, we must seek the grace that is available to us. I don’t know how that strikes your ears. Grace available to us? Aren’t we saved by grace? Yeah, you’re saved by grace. But you and I better be seeking the grace that is available to us. I’m talking about not the grace of regeneration, newness of life, which is irresistible. I’m talking about the grace to withstand temptation, beloved, and to walk through the tests and trials of this life without falling into temptation and sinning in the way of temptation. To withstand temptation day by day, you and I need grace. And what does the Catechism say? He will give His grace, that kind of grace, to those only who on a daily basis sincerely ask Him for them, His grace and Holy Spirit.

How does the phrase “available grace” strike my ear? As the Arminian presentation of grace that it is. At least ten consistories heard this corruption of grace preached, and not one of them called for a public apology and repudiation.

This type of preaching and writing calls to mind Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13: “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” About this text Calvin writes that Paul is instructing Timothy to “regulate his manner of teaching by the rule which had been laid down; not that we ought to be very scrupulous about words, but because to misrepresent doctrine, even in the smallest degree, is exceedingly injurious.”

And what a doctrine to misrepresent. Grace is one of the most, if not the most fundamental doctrines of the Christian life. And consistory after consistory allowed it to continue.

In a sermon preached on November 29, 2020, entitled “Calling Towards Canaanites,” Rev. VanOverloop taught the following:

God’s sovereignty. Man’s responsibility. God’s gifts and Christ’s merits does not exclude God’s use of means. Does not exclude God’s gift of the use of the means of our obedience.

And yet, God commanded. I performed a duty. Two rails. They go side by side. In the wisdom of God: His sovereignty, our responsibility. And it’s all grace. And nothing but grace.”

Labor to enter into the rest, lest ye fall in unbelief, Hebrews 4 verse 11. And that labor is what we identified in Deuteronomy 10:12: keep his commandments.

The fact that this came from a PR pulpit and was never publicly repudiated is damning.

Or this from Rev. Spronk:

And that’s why we can also say, beloved, that the more you live a life of conversion, the more that you walk in good works, the more you will experience God’s love and fellowship, the more you will experience the blessing of salvation. And that does not mean at all that the more you do good works, the more you earn or make yourself worthy of God’s love and the experience of salvation. Not at all.

It is almost as if Rev. Spronk read a sermon by Rev. Overway and then tried to mimic it as closely as he possibly could. (It needs to be explained to me why David Overway is not still preaching in the PRC today. His preaching was muted compared to the preaching of Spronk, VanOverloop, Slopsema, Koole, and Cammenga).

Examples could be multiplied, and the reader is pointed to the August issue of Sword & Shield, as well as the 40-page summary prepared by officebearers from Wingham for not only additional examples but also an incisive analysis of these teachings.

What do you believe about false doctrine?

I believe this.

“Obstinately holding to a heretical doctrine is nothing short of making an image of God and unrepentantly breaking the Second Commandment.”

You may ask in what issue of Sword & Shield that appeared, but it is not found there at all.

That was in the letter Hope PRC sent to Neil Meyer, which I referenced in an earlier post, which letter excoriated Mr. Meyer for acting faithfully in his office and for working to uphold right doctrine. 

That is what the PRC puts out on paper, and what they will insist they believe, but they do not believe it at all.

But I believed it when it was taught to me.

And now, being in a position where I am called to protect God’s sheep, I insist on it.

According to Luther, “preaching true doctrine overthrows the devil, destroys his kingdom, and wrests out of his hand the law, sin, and death (by which he has subjugated all mankind).” What does that then say about the PRC that consistently has false doctrine preached from her pulpits?

There are two doctrines upon which the PRC was formed and which have made her place in the church world distinctive. The first, the doctrine of the unconditional covenant, is in the process of being overthrown in the PRC through the preaching and writing (if it has not been overthrown already).

The second distinctive of the PRC, marriage, appears to be next.

How important is a church’s stand regarding divorce? “It is here, on the issue of divorce, that the obedience of the church to the truth of marriage is put to the test. By her stand on divorce, the church either maintains or fatally compromises the truth of marriage, both for herself and for future generations” (Prof. Engelsma, Marriage: The Mystery of Christ and the Church, 88).

In the May 1, 2021, issue of the Standard Bearer, Rev. Eriks wrote the following (emphasis mine):

Third, one of the greatest dangers the church faces today is the sin of sexual immorality. This is especially true because of the danger of pornography in our day. Our culture is saturated with sexual immorality, which can affect the way the church views sex. One danger is that a church that loves Christ and His truth and loves the members of the church begins to depart from what the Bible says about sexuality and marriage. This begins with the acceptance of divorce for reasons other than adultery and desertion. The next step down this road is that the church reexamines its stance on homosexuality.

Just like that, slipped in without comment, is a declaration that there are two grounds for divorce, adultery and desertion.

I was always taught there was one ground for divorce.

“When Jesus forbids divorce, “saving for the cause of fornication,” he teaches that there is only one ground for divorce. Only adultery breaks the marriage bond to the degree that the husband and the wife may be apart, loosed from one life in one home, at one table, and in one bed. Nothing else is ground for divorce, nothing else whatever” (Engelsma, 99).

“By her stand on divorce, the church either maintains or fatally compromises the truth of marriage, both for herself and for future generations.” Does the PRC really believe that, or is this just another instance of a secret that no one shared with me?

What will it take for the members of the PRC to see that their ministers hold to false doctrine? Do ministers have to be so brazen as to draft a document that teaches error, put their names to it, and then later insist that they believe it and will continue to teach it?

No, that won’t do it either.

Only in the PRC could four of the leading ministers write a doctrinal statement in which they defend and promote false doctrine and then have nothing come of it.

(Yes, I tried to address this in an email to Rev. Haak and earlier in a private meeting with Rev. Slopsema in 2019).

Now you see it, now you don’t!

What is important for the members of the PRC is not that these men believe the theology that was condemned by their synod as a compromise of justification by faith alone. What is paramount is how much we love these men, how many years they have given to the churches, and how well respected they are.

To preserve their names, we must all just go on acting as though we had not seen their embrace of the lie.

Nothing to see here. 

Man looms large in the PRC.

As for Jesus, he was displaced and continues to be displaced.

And the denomination does not care. 

The great charade continues.

Look outward, but never apply the rebukes and the criticisms inward.

Nothing to see here.

Aren’t the emperor’s clothes beautiful?

Hoodwinked (1)

“O how wretched the patience, when the honor of God is diminished (not to say prostrate), if we tread so lightly that we can look the other way and wink at it!” (John Calvin)

I was hoodwinked.

Tricked.

Almost everyone was in on something, and no one let me in on the secret.

We were all raised the same.

On the same preaching, the same reading material, the same Bible studies, the same catechism instruction, the same lectures, and the same instruction at school.

But of all the people who professed to love me, and even those with whom I had the sweetest and closest fellowship, not one of them ever pulled me aside and let me in on the secret.

“Of all the things you learn, you must never apply them to our own denomination.”

It was amazing to watch, and I didn’t fully understand it at the time, but now I do.

How people started to pull back as things continued to progress. They could see things getting closer and closer to “that line” that must not be crossed. It is one thing to speak in the abstract about the problems in the PRC, but to actually rebuke her from the pulpit or to support such rebukes, to declare that her errors were far more than just trifles but actually issues about which men and women would have to take a stand, were steps too far.

The pullback continued.

Shame on me for not applying the lesson that they had never even shared with me.

“Don’t point the finger back at the PRC.”

The PRC will not hear a rebuke.

The problem is, once you see the problem, you can’t un-see it.

And not knowing that the PRC was above reproach, I took all of the principles upon which I had been raised—in the home, in the school, and in the church—and I applied them to the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And when standing on those principles, the path was not unclear.

I was taught that doctrine was the most important part of a church.

We all were taught Hoeksema’s maxim about the most needful thing for a church.

In the first place, doctrine; in the second place, doctrine; and in the third place, doctrine.

And it is true.

What you say about God is of the utmost importance.

It just isn’t true in the PRC.

Do you know what the reaction of the membership in the PRC was when a sermon teaching a conditional covenant was preached from a pulpit?

Indifference.

They did not care.

I could not believe then, and still cannot believe today, how unmoved the members of the denomination were to that heretical sermon.

Do you know how many ministers protested that public sermon? One.

Do you know how many lay members of the denomination protested that sermon? One couple.

We know how one member of the congregation, Prof. Dykstra, reacted to that sermon.

But what about the minister of the church, Rev. Spronk? What was his reaction?

When someone asked him about this, he said the sermon was a mole hill, and he would not allow it to become a mountain.

Explicit conditional theology—preached in the middle of a controversy by the leading figure who had been tasked to lead the churches out of the controversy—was said to be a mole hill.

Theology that was so clearly wrong that even Classis East had to use the dreaded “H” word (“the error of the heresy of the conditional covenant theology”), Rev. Spronk characterized as a mole hill.

(We know now that Rev. Spronk is capable of using the word “heresy.” He was quick to use the word once Rev. Lanning was deposed. He condemned as heresy Rev. Lanning’s exegesis of Malachi 3:7, which also happened to be Martin Luther’s exegesis. But conditional theology? That was not heresy, that was a mole hill.)

What about Rev. Spronk’s congregation, Faith PRC?

At the January 2021 meeting of Classis East, while deliberating (I use the word loosely) on the protest against the heretical sermon preached by Rev. Van Overloop, Rev. Spronk informed the assembly what the reaction of Faith PRC was after this sermon was preached.

He stated that this sermon was preached during family visitation, and he boldly announced that not one member of the congregation had raised an objection.

I could not believe my ears.

Explicit conditional theology, preached in the middle of a controversy by the leading figure who had been tasked to lead the churches out of the controversy, and no objections were raised.

Contending for right doctrine is simply not important for the PRC.

I base that not on what men tell me is important for the PRC; I base that on how the PRC behaves.

Look at the length of time they worked with Rev. Overway and the leeway given to anyone who preached or wrote false doctrine. Look at how many times discipline was administered to elders who tolerated or defended false doctrine, and compare that to the length of time spent working with Elder Meyer or Rev. Lanning or Rev. Langerak or Deacon Andringa  or the two elders who were relieved of their duties or the two officebearers in Wingham who were at one time disciplined.

The PRC has patience for false doctrine.

The PRC has patience for the trampling underfoot of Jesus Christ and his truth.

Wretched patience.

But for those who rebuke her for her errors or even just point out her errors by way of protest they have no patience.

God’s truth is not all that important.

Man is.

Case in point.

When Wingham released their excellent 40-page summary of the controversy, look at how long it took ministers to respond. It took only a few weeks for Rev. Kleyn, Rev. Guichelaar, Rev. Bruinsma, Rev. Koole, Rev. Slopsema and Rev. (soon to be Prof.) Griess to rise up in defense of themselves.

Rev. Bruinsma was the most candid.

“I am hurt and angered at the false accusation of error leveled at me…”

“I would like to take this opportunity to vindicate myself…”

“Rev. Guichelaar has defended himself against the false accusations leveled against him. I want to do the same.”

“I write this defense of myself to you in order to clear away the doubts you may have of me. I honestly care about my standing in your midst as a congregation.”

In the last four years, Rev. Bruinsma has served on two committees that misrepresented those whose material they were treating. At meetings of Classis East he had consistently argued on the wrong side of the doctrinal issue that has troubled the PRC. But now—now!—is the time to rise up in righteous indignation!

Not for the sake of Christ’s name, but for the sake of Wilbur Bruinsma’s name.

Where have all of these men been for the last five years while Jesus Christ was being displaced and his truth compromised? They couldn’t be roused to defend Jesus Christ and his name, but when their name was brought up, they came out in record time.

Doctrine is not important in the PRC.

Men are.

Men’s reputations are.

That can be clearly seen in the charge of sin brought by the editors of the Standard Bearer, Prof. Dykstra, Prof. Gritters, and Rev. Koole, against Revs. N. Langerak, Lanning, and Vander Wal. Incensed that they had received, in their view, a group letter charging sin, the editors responded with a group letter charging sin. (That is only one of the glaring hypocrisies throughout this entire saga. One that was particularly rich, was when the editors, while engaging in their abusive behavior against Rev. Vander Wal, expressed their dissatisfaction with how long it took Rev. Vander Wal to respond (“It should not take you seven more weeks to do so”). This after it took them nine months to respond to the letter they had received from the group of concerned men). These charges were pursued because the editors’ feelings were hurt by the letter that had been addressed to the RFPA by a group of men who were concerned with the direction of the Standard Bearer. It was clear to most that the letter did not contain charges of sin. Byron’s consistory knew it, and this was confirmed by Classis East, which decided as much.

What a mess that created. And all because men’s reputations were at stake.

But what about the Standard Bearer? And what about the appearance of Sword & Shield?

There is no one who can in good conscience contend that the Standard Bearer has provided leadership in this controversy. (Once the SB made clear that it was not going to provide any leadership, the membership of the PRC had to resort to distributing emails and “papers” in order to carry on the debate). I believe that the Standard Bearer has not just provided bad leadership but that it has actively been foisting false doctrine upon the Protestant Reformed denomination, as I will prove later.

What was the advice and leadership provided by the Standard Bearer leading up to Synod 2018 regarding the doctrinal issue plaguing the PRC?

This:

Also at Synod are four protests of statements or actions of the Synod of 2017, and an appeal of a decision of a classis. These protests make up 264 pages of the 427-page agenda. Synod may be forced to appoint a study committee to address the problem of ballooning protests and appeals. There is no good reason that protests or appeals should number in the scores, much less hundreds of pages. All consistories are willing in good faith to assist members so that they can bring the clearest, most precise protest/appeal with all the supporting documents needed. It is positively detrimental to overload the ecclesiastical assemblies with a mountain of documents. To put it into perspective, how many of us recently picked up a book of 427 pages, and not only read it in a month, but studied it in order to be qualified to discuss and make decisions on its content? That is what we are asking all the delegates to synod to do. (Prof. Dykstra, SB, 5/15/18)

After having suffered under the lack of leadership in the Standard Bearer for many years, finding no help from the paper that was made for moments like this in understanding the doctrines at stake, realizing that the SB was issuing a trumpet blast of an uncertain sound, and having to hear that Rev. Hoeksema’s theology of the Philippian jailor was “Nonsense,” a group of concerned men finally formed to try and recover their paper. After going through the proper channels and being soundly rebuffed by the board of the RFPA—which now operates only as an arm of the seminary and of the denomination as a whole—they started their own paper. (Here is what the SB used to be).

You would think these men had committed the unforgivable sin.

The reaction was swift and fierce, as was covered in a previous post.

Consistories and members were incensed.

“How dare they start this paper?!”

But if pure doctrine and the glory of God’s name is of the utmost importance, couldn’t we at least understand why a new magazine would be considered?

What caused the uproar after the appearance of Sword & Shield was the fact that the magazine was determined to be a truly free paper; it would hold the truth over all, and not the institution, and it was not afraid to rebuke the PRC for its errors.

Isn’t this what you want in a free paper? Why all the uproar?

Isn’t this what we asked for?

“If ever the SB becomes another nice, friendly, inoffensive, and harmless religious rag, may the God of truth and righteousness put it out of its misery quickly. And raise up another that will bear the standard!” (Prof. Engelsma, 75th Anniversary book, 129).

Turns out I was hoodwinked.

Deceived.

How silly of me to think that the sword should cut both ways, outside the denomination and within.

This deception goes all the way to the top.

Synod 2018 told me that the issues facing the PRC had to do with the unconditional covenant (the lifeblood of the PRC) and justification by faith alone (the heart of the gospel).

I believed them.

I did not always know the issues to be that serious. I was a fool for many years, thinking it was only personalities, and the doctrinal issues were minor. Fool is not too strong a word.

But Synod 2018 corrected that for me.

I pored over the decisions made by that assembly. I read the decisions carefully and studied the truths those decisions were trying to recover.

And I was convinced.

These issues had to do with the heart of the gospel and the place of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would he be central? Or would he be displaced?

Prof. Huizinga wrote the advice for the committee. And I honored him for it.

But he deceived me too.

And that came out in the Standard Bearer.

Why? (2)

pen sword

“Why?”

This question has been asked by several readers.

Sometimes with a barb.

“Was this your intent? To cause division among us? Well, you’ve won.”

I started answering the question “Why?” in the last post, but to fully answer it, I have to go back a few years.

To 2013, to be precise.

My wife and I had been members of Grandville PRC since we were married in 2001.

It was only in 2013 that we came to the conviction that something was amiss.

We had suspected for some time that there was something wrong with the preaching of Rev. Koole. However, for many years we blamed ourselves.

We were not listening hard enough. We had to take better notes.

One quote in particular from A.W. Tozer would plague my conscience. “If you will not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week.” This would ring in my ears, and I would reproach myself for not living a holy enough life during the week. Sundays were a trial because I was not faithful enough, diligent enough, spiritual enough. I was not doing enough. That law of Tozer’s lashed my conscience and left me despairing.

Finally, in 2013, I went to Rev. Koole. I told him I did not know what was wrong with the preaching, just that I knew something was wrong.

Over the course of the next year, nothing changed.

But I was busy reading everything I could get my hands on regarding preaching.

As useful as those books were, it is to my shame that I needed them in the first place.

The answer was painfully evident as to what was wrong with the preaching.

Christ was missing.

The preaching was Christless.

(There was much more that went on throughout that time that I will not detail. The lies and the duplicity of those appointed by Christ to lead me and my family. The double-minded men who would tell me one thing in private and then see to it that I received something altogether different in official correspondence from the consistory. Those books will be opened and revealed someday, and that is enough for me).

That does not mean the name “Jesus” was not said throughout a sermon. It probably was. It certainly was tacked on to the end of the sermon.

Yet Christ was absent from the preaching.

In their office of believer, a man, a woman, and even a child knows when they are being fed Christ and when they “hear his voice” (John 10:3).

And they know when they hear the voice of a stranger (John 10:5).

Finally, after vexing my soul and having the souls of my wife and children vexed for far too long, a man came to me and asked to me to consider whether it was time for me to leave Grandville. His reason was stark. Rev. Koole was not going to change, and the elders were not going to do anything about it.

So we left.

And joined Byron Center PRC.

Where we heard Christ.

It was only a few weeks in, and only a few minutes into a sermon, when I leaned over to my wife and, stifling a laugh, said to her, “He can’t get to Christ quick enough!”

Rev. Lanning knew nothing among us, except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

That was a joyous time for my family. We had been led out of the wasteland and to the green, verdant pastures of the riches of God’s word, as Rev. Lanning drew out of the treasure house things old and new (Matt. 13:52).

Every service, morning and evening, we were led to Jesus Christ, and how our souls sang with joy!

I truly had never experienced preaching like this.

And do you know what my denomination did to these two men?

It made the one man who refused or was unable to preach Christ a leader in the denomination. It made him a church visitor and editor of the church paper and an authority figure for the denomination to look up to.

The other man, who humbly fed his flock with Christ Sunday after Sunday, service after service, the denomination despised. It mocked him at the assemblies and made his name a byword. And then it brutally cast him out of their fellowship.

What the faithful officebearers from Wingham PRC wrote regarding the wicked treatment of Rev. Lanning and Rev. Langerak is true: “The denomination’s abuse of these men is nothing less than a rejection of Christ himself as he is revealed in the faithful office-bearer of Christ and as he speaks to and teaches his church in the gospel.”

What caused me to leave—no, what drove me to leave—was what the PRC did with Jesus Christ.

They cast him out.

I know I speak for the rest of my brothers and sisters who left Byron Center PRC when I say that we did not have a choice. We had heard the voice of Christ in the preaching, and having heard it, we would not, under any circumstances, allow ourselves to be robbed of it or allow it to be silenced.

Many of us had languished for years, if not decades, in spiritual wastelands of empty words and man-centered theology.

We were starving to death.

And now our denomination, after trumping up some charges, says that Rev. Lanning is not fit to be a preacher?

No.

We said no.

Even if that meant the loss of our families, our friends, and our schools.

No.

We can identify the voice of strangers. We will not follow those voices.

(Rev. Lanning certainly could not abide this unrighteous deposition. John Calvin spoke for all faithful ministers of God’s word when he said his ministry was from Christ, and therefore it must be defended “with his own blood if necessary.”)

This will probably draw the spurious charge that we are following a man. That charge is slander.

And familiar.

One of the cheapest, most superficial, evilest, but nevertheless often very effective methods to brand a movement of a reformatory character in the church as false and of the evil one, is to concentrate all one’s attention upon the leader of such a movement, vituperate his character and personality, ascribe the movement wholly to the powerful influence of that personality, and present all other participants in the movement as blindly following that strange, that ambitious, that impossible man.

This method has many advantages.

It simplifies the case immensely. Instead of collecting and carefully evaluating the historical data, the doctrinal implications, and the church-political transactions involved in the case, you can afford to limit yourself to the presentation of a simple syllogism: 1. The leader is no good; 2. The movement is wholly inspired by the evil leader; 3. The movement must be evil.

Moreover, if such a man happens to be condemned and cast out by the church, the latter, by fixing all the attention upon the impossible and evil personality of the leader, is at once justified. No matter what may be the doctrinal implications of the case, no matter whether this leader actually taught false doctrine worthy of deposition, no matter how many injustices the church may have committed in casting him out, the church is plainly justified in her act for the simple reason that the man is impossible. (Hoeksema, Vitriolic Indeed, 9/15/46, SB)

But when you consider that God is pleased to have his word preached through a man, then the faithful believer will gladly confess that they will “not easily allow themselves to be separated from any man in whom they have detected a right understanding of Christ” (Calvin).

As I have been led to see, not every man has a “right understanding of Christ.”

So you want to know why I am writing this blog.

In part—in large part—I am writing this for my brothers and sisters who themselves are bewildered and confused at the abuse they are facing. I am writing for those who I am called by God to protect and to whom I am called to minister. I am defending them. I am trying to be their voice. What have they done but follow the voice of Christ?

It is written in love for the “simple” in the PRC, who, through good words and fair speeches, have had their hearts deceived (Rom. 16:18).

It is written because it was, and continues to be, my duty as a watchman to warn God’s people of the grave danger they are in.

This blog is being written because of a love for Jesus Christ and a desire to stand up for his name and his truth in the world.

He is worth fighting for.

He is the only one worth fighting for.

I make no apology for this blog or what I have written.

If what I write is false, then prove it. If I am wrong, then show me.

And while I continually must ask God to forgive my cowardice for keeping back my pen from blood, and for so often turning back in the day of battle, and for wavering at the faces of men, I will continue to make the prayer of Psalm 144:1 my own.

“Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”

Why? (1)

Horizontal,Image,Of,A,Crumbling,Cement,Foundation,With,Windows,Boarded

“What is the POINT of this blog exactly Dewey? What are you trying to accomplish? You continue to bash the PRC, it’s ministers and members … WHY? Are you trying to exact some sort of vengeance on the PRC? Please, enlighten me! Everything I personally have read to this point has done nothing but expose the hatred you seem to have in your heart towards faithful believers and members of the PRC … That is how you come across.”

“I ask you Dewey … Will you stop your judging? Will you stop your accusations? They serve NO GOOD purpose but only promote MORE division, and MORE hatred towards the neighbor. You need to stop throwing stones!!”

Such were the questions and convictions of one reader.

To answer that question of “why,” it is important to point out that what I am doing not only has precedent in the PRC but is also my duty.

What I am doing has been done before. Sure, the medium is different—blogs have not been around that long—but principally, I am not breaking new ground. In other words, there is precedent for this.

Precedent that looms very large in the history of the PRC.

(Much of what follows can be found in Hoeksema’s History of the Protestant Reformed Churches found here at the PRC website.)

In this book, Hoeksema gave the history of the events that led to the formation of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Hoeksema named names and called men out for their sinful actions.

Hoeksema charged men with lying and slander and spoke of the “deplorable” behavior of Dr. Janssen. He accused the friends of Janssen, who were responsible for Hoeksema’s ouster, of acting the way they did because their “idol” had been cast down and because, subconsciously, they supported the doctrine of common grace.

Hoeksema wrote of three elders who came to him under false pretenses, and he identified their shameful behavior and called them out by name, as their names were “worthy of being preserved on the pages of this history because of the part they played in it.”

He spoke of the hierarchical yoke of the CRC and the “high-handed hierarchy” and “sophistry” that went on at their assemblies. He accused them of “popery.”

It is striking that when a church apostatizes, in any age, their assemblies invariably become political and corrupt.

Hoeksema could have been speaking of Classis East in the year 2021 when he wrote of “a number of delegates that acted as mere voters without a proper understanding of the question at issue and were ready to go along with the majority as easily as straws in the wind.” Or when he wrote regarding his deposition that “an illustration of grosser injustice could hardly be conceived.” And strikingly, with words that could be applied today, “It is, then, not too strong a statement, to assert that a worldly court would not treat a defendant as the broadest ecclesiastical court of the Christian Reformed Churches treated the Reverend H. Hoeksema in 1924.”

Quotes like this could be multiplied, but for those members of the PRC who are reading this blog, I encourage you to read this book so that you can begin to learn your history.

In the controversy in the 1950s, Rev. George Ophoff accused the assemblies—at an assembly meeting—of being cesspools of corruption and said they needed to be cleaned out. Hoeksema agreed with Ophoff, and both were censured for it. You can read Hoeksema’s explanation and defense of that here.

Rev. Heys publicly accused a Rev. Schans of lying and slander.

Even the clergy behaves the same way today as it has in past controversies. “In their private assemblies, behind the closed door, they are most bold. In public, however, they maintain a profound silence. The objective has been gained. He whom they hated—the Rev. H. Hoeksema, was gotten rid of.”

Pull down a Standard Bearer bound volume from either of those periods, and you will see that examples like those listed above could be multiplied a hundred times over.

These men would make charges and then prove them.

All of the complaining and hand-wringing that has gone on regarding this blog reveals a church that does not know its own history.

But this script has been written before:

And now I would like to sound a warning from the pages of church history. The pseudo-arguments of which I wrote last time, and the various attitudes to which I call attention in this article are nothing new in the history of the church. There has never been a time in all the ages of church history when they have not arisen. In fact, if we are mindful of our own history of 25 short years’ duration, we cannot fail, surely, to note that all these arguments and different expressions of attitude have ominously familiar ring. Has it not been exactly the opposition in all the history of our churches that tried to dull the sharp sword of the truth by calling the differences between us and our mother-church a matter of terms, or of a difference of emphasis? Have they not often pointed to the fact that we were a minority? Have they not often boasted in authorities? Have they not often clamored, “me too”, in regard to being Reformed? Has not the breach of the peace often been lamented, with the sword of deposition in the hand? Has not the ostrich frequently put its head in the sand ecclesiastically? Has not the general and sentimental charge of a lack of love often been made? (HCH, A Healthy Attitude).

Hoeksema, Ophoff, and the other founding fathers had the right, even the duty, to do this because of the biblical command to identify not only the error but also the purveyors of that error.

In other words, names must be named.

“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck; Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:18–20).

“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:16–18).

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:9–10).

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words” (2 Tim. 4:14–15).

In 3 John 1:9–10, we read the following: “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.”

What did John mean when he said that he would “remember his deeds which he doeth”?

What this meant was that John was going to expose and condemn Diotrephes and his tyrannical and selfish lording it over God’s heritage openly, publicly, and strongly.

Commenting on this text, Matthew Henry writes that “Acts of ecclesiastical domination and tyranny ought to be animadverted upon.”

To animadvert upon something is to ””criticize it openly and harshly.”¹ One definition has it as “to remark or comment critically, usually with strong disapproval or censure.”²

Another commentator on this text said John would “remember his deeds which he doth; meaning, not only that he would tell him of them to his face, but make mention of them, and expose them to the whole church, and reprove him for them” (Gill).

Not only is this the example given in the Bible, but it is also the duty of the believer to engage in this work and expose the workers of corruption and the teachers of false doctrine. According to Paul, we are to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” (Rom. 16:17).

Mark them. Point them out. Expose them.

John Calvin, speaking on 1 Timothy 5:20 (“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear”), writes that he who “conducts himself badly shall be severely corrected.”

This is also the clear command of Article 55 of the Church Order, which commands elders to “use the means of teaching, of refutation or warning, and of admonition” to “ward off false doctrines and errors.”

The Bible uses strong language for the officebearer who remains silent in the face of such wickedness. “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” (Isa. 56:10).

I have also been accused of dividing the church and splitting families.

One correspondent was especially sharp.

To him, my actions have been “foolish, evil and malicious.” My behavior “betrays an incredibly self-centered, self-seeking agenda – more the conduct of a Judas than a true disciple of the Lord.” He called on me to stop my attacks on the PRC and all of my “sowing of discord among brothers and sisters in Christ.” He called on me to repent, or perish. According to this man, I have not shown love, but “malice and ill-will.” And because I am doing it in the name of Christ’s truth, in reality what I am doing is actually blasphemy.

By identifying the corruption and hypocrisy that took place in the deposition of Rev. Lanning, does that mean I have not shown love?

What would this man’s definition of love entail?

It would mean me being silent.

He would have me disappear quietly into the ecclesiastical landscape.

It means he does not want me to warn the members of the PRC of the lying, of the hypocrisy, of the corruption, and of the false doctrine that exists within their denomination.

Would that be love?

Because it maintains a certain peace?

This would be like a friend walking into your basement, seeing the foundation walls are crumbling and the whole edifice being held up by only a few blocks, then walking upstairs, bidding you farewell, and walking off into the night without having said a word of warning.

That is not love at all.

That would be cold indifference. That would be hatred.

To do that would be self-centered and self-seeking.

Had I just slipped off quietly, I might have saved my life, and not lost it.

I abhor and reject that man’s view of love, and I pray the church of which I am a member will never become infected with it.

I reject this conception of love because of what it would require.

There would be “one condition of obtaining peace—that by being silent we might betray the truth” (Calvin).

By God’s grace, I will not betray the truth, or Jesus Christ, whose truth it is.

Did Jesus not have love when he said he came not to bring peace but a sword? Or when he said he came to divide a man from his father, or a daughter from her mother, or a daughter-in-law from her mother-in-law? (Matt. 10:34–35). Did Jesus cause division when he rebuked his disciples and called them a “perverse generation” (Matt. 17:17)? Or when he said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me” (Matt. 16:23)? Was Jesus showing malice and ill-will when he called the travelers on the road to Emmaus “fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25)?

Am I the troubler of Israel?

To expose corruption and reveal error, even though that may, and probably will, cause division, does not indicate a lack of love.

Exactly the opposite.

That is love in action.

On 2 Corinthians 12:15 (“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”) Calvin writes, “This, certainly, was an evidence of a more than fatherly affection—that he was prepared to lay out in their behalf not merely his endeavours, and every thing in his power to do, but even life itself. Nay more, while he is regarded by them with coldness, he continues, nevertheless, to cherish this affection. What heart, though even as hard as iron, would such ardour of love not soften or break, especially in connection with such constancy? Paul, however, does not here speak of himself, merely that we may admire him, but that we may, also, imitate him.”

As one commentary puts it, “Love him as a true friend who seeks your good more than your good will.”

That is why I have done what I have in the writing of this blog.

Had I simply remained silent and left quietly, I would not have been able to live with myself. Leave without warning the people I love the most about the danger they are in? Brothers and sisters in Christ, I plead with you to consider the things I have written. I have no bitterness, anger, or malice in my heart at all, and that because of the grace of God.

God is not mocked. He will not give his glory to another, and lying and hypocrisy he will judge. Do you think even though these things have happened to every church in the New Testament age—including those churches that the Apostle Paul established—it is impossible that it happens to the PRC?

I have written this blog because I love you.

I do not write this defense to clear my name or win myself back into the good graces of any man. I will not justify myself before men. God knows my heart.

For those of you who do not believe me or who continue to charge me with lying or slander or deceit, I have come to realize that I will not be able to convince you. Nothing I say will convince you.

Only one thing will.

And that will be when Jesus Christ returns and when we will all see—and which no one will be able to gainsay—what has been righteous and what has been unrighteous. Then, and only then, will we see who has served God and who has not (Mal. 3:18).

It is to that day I appeal.

Reformation

“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Ps. 126:1-3).

Christ’s reformation of his church continues.

On May 30, 2021, a group of believers who had come out from the PRC and formed as the Reformed Protestant Fellowship of Northwest Iowa sent a letter to First Reformed Protestant Church asking First RPC to take spiritual oversight of their fellowship until such a time that “it would please God to organize and establish a Reformed Protestant Church” in their area. This request was granted at the council meeting held on June 23, 2021. On July 19, the consistory of First RPC passed a motion to request the approval of classis at the September meeting to organize this fellowship into a Reformed Protestant church in Northwest Iowa.

The initial formation of this fellowship and later, according to God’s will, its organization into a congregation, reminds us that this has ever been the duty during church reformation; “That is to say, just as people usually do who undertake to rebuild a building that has collapsed, so that they pull out and gather together the scattered, heaping fragments of the ruins into a pile, to be fastened into place later, so it was necessary for us to do likewise” (Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church, 75).

On July 6, 2021, two elders and two deacons of Wingham PRC signed an Act of Separation and Reformation, withdrawing themselves from the Protestant Reformed denomination and calling their flock to join them. They also distributed a powerful summary of the controversy that has engulfed the PRC, which document makes plain that false doctrine continues to be taught and tolerated in the PRC to this very day.

On Sunday, July 11, the consistory of Edmonton PRC distributed a letter to its congregation informing them of the decision that the consistory had made to withdraw First PRC of Edmonton from membership in the Protestant Reformed denomination. Along with the letter was an explanation of the decision which powerfully lays out the spiritual condition of the denomination as one that is turning from the “truth of salvation by grace alone, and to the false doctrine of salvation by grace and works.” The congregation will meet on Thursday, August 5, to vote on this recommendation.

On Thursday, July 15, Elder Jim Geerlings of Hudsonville PRC distributed to his congregation a letter of resignation which he had submitted to the consistory, as well as a cover letter addressed to the congregation. Knowing it to be his duty to remove himself and his family from the PRC, which is “falling away from the pure preaching of the Word of God in Holy Scripture,” Jim made his last act of love for his flock the calling out of them as well, lest they be partakers of the sins of the PRC.

For these acts of courage and love, the group in Northwest Iowa, the officebearers of Wingham PRC, the consistory of Edmonton PRC, and Jim Geerlings will be maligned, slandered, and persecuted. 

They will be called names.

Schismatics. Deserters of their offices. Dividers of the church and of families.

In fact, what will happen to some of these men is that the churches they left will depose them after the fact. The PRC cannot help itself anymore—on the increasingly rare chance the PRC comes across an officebearer who realizes he serves Christ and not man, and will answer to Christ and not man, and who acts accordingly, the PRC deposes that man.

For further proof of this, Hull PRC, with the consent of Calvary PRC, in only a few days, deposed Marcus Andringa from the office of deacon. I thought I was finished being surprised by the brutality of Protestant Reformed consistories, but the sheer injustice and even lack of human decency in this case is shocking.

Isn’t there supposed to be a period of time between suspension and deposition?

Shouldn’t the officebearer being deposed be given the opportunity to speak with the concurring consistory? Did either consistory even bother to consult with VDM’s commentary on the Church Order regarding suspension and deposition? “Almost needless to say, the brother in question should be notified concerning the double Consistory meeting to be held regarding his person, and he should have a full right to speak for himself before both Consistories” (VDM, Church Order Commentary, RFPA, 516).

Almost needless to say, the way Hull and Calvary treated Deacon Andringa was wicked.

But why shouldn’t these consistories act in this way? This is how the PRC behaves today, proving that the quote of the Irish statesman Edmund Burke applies not only to the world but also to the church: “Criminal means once tolerated are soon preferred.”

Such is the Protestant Reformed Churches.

So the faithful officebearers will face reproaches.

Rejoice, brothers!

“Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:23).

As to name-calling? That too is foretold.

“It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Matt. 10:25).

But there is a word here for the members of these congregations.

Those who occupy the office of believer must not sit idly by when these calls go out.

They must heed the calls.

There is a temptation to start making calculations.

“If I come out now, then I will lose my friends. My family. What about the schools? What about this comfortable life I am enjoying? Surely, I can wait a while?”

The Bible is not unclear about what is going on in the PRC today.

Faithful watchmen are issuing a call. They are men of the word who, in faithfulness to their Savior, are willing to suffer great loss for the sake of Christ and the sake of his flock. These are men who are mighty for God’s truth in the earth (Jer. 9:3). They have “hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

The calling of those in the office of believer is to heed the warning of these watchmen. God placed them in their position to do exactly what they are doing.

Listen to them.

Not because of who they are.

But because of Him whose cause they represent.

“Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand” (Ezek. 33:1–6).

The Future

I have had a few readers ask about the future of the blog.

The time is fast approaching for me to be finished.

I started it with a specific purpose, and that was to tell the “story” about Rev. Lanning’s deposition and what caused me to leave the PRC.

That story is coming to a close.

What Hoeksema said to the PRC in the decade after the split of 1924 will apply to the RPC and to me someday as well: “And, though deploring the necessity of separation and division in the Church of Christ in the world, the Protestant Reformed Churches, rather than wistfully glancing back at what might have been in the past, may well rest in God’s sovereign good pleasure, and stretch themselves to what lieth before.”

There are only a few more chapters for me to write.

I want yet to give a testimony to the continued reformation of Christ’s church. I also want to answer the question of those who have asked why I am writing this blog and why I am convinced I have the right to do so.

And a few final posts to try and appease my conscience, which continues to reproach me that I have not done enough to warn the church, and the people, that I love. 

Beyond that, if something demands a response, or if something arises about which I feel I must speak, I will do that.

In the meantime, I intend to work with a search-engine expert who can help me so that when someone searches for “PRC” or “Protestant Reformed church” or something similar, then this blog will be one of the first results to appear.

That’s not because I think my writing is anything special or that the blog itself is anything special.

And it’s not because of any vindictiveness, spite, or anger. I have none. God knows.

I want the world to know what the Protestant Reformed Churches did with faithful officebearers. I want the world to know what the PRC did with the truth that was entrusted to her. I want the world to know, for as long as computers and websites and blogs exist, what the PRC think of Jesus Christ.

So that the world can be warned.

I want those who are considering joining the PRC, especially the “simple,” who are those who might be deceived by the “good words and fair speeches” of the PRC (Rom. 16:18), to know what they are getting themselves into. So that any individual, church, or fellowship who might find themselves the object of mission efforts by the PRC will be warned about the false doctrine and corruption that exists within her walls.

What the reader of the blog does with this knowledge I cannot control.

I pray they will take this information and flee.

Or they might not.

But they will have been warned.

Which was my calling.

“Give them warning from me” (Ezek. 3:17).

Byron Center PRC

Byron Center PRC will have its next pastor installed on Sunday.

How striking that in the providence of God their next minister, Prof. Russell Dykstra, is not only the editor of a Reformed periodical but also a professor at the seminary and the president of what must be one of the busier denominational committees, the Contact Committee.

As all of us know, Rev. Lanning was required to resign as editor. He was required to do so because the consistory said the flock at Byron was “fragile.” He needed to spend more time with the congregation because his workload of being an editor, we were told, was getting in the way of his other work. “Being an editor reduces the important time spent with members of his own congregation, getting to better understand her concerns and needs and being more involved in shepherding the flock.” His resignation as editor was necessary, as “the additional time gained from not being editor would allow this aspect of his ministry to more greatly flourish.”

We know from the testimony of one current officebearer that Byron Center PRC is a “battered congregation.”

It will no doubt then be a priority of the consistory that Prof. Dykstra resign as editor, and as instructor in the seminary, and from all denominational committees so that his focus can be “on the preaching of the Word and care of the congregation.”

Although there is the similarity of both men serving as editors of magazines, there is a stark contrast between the pastor who was deposed and the pastor who will be installed this coming Sunday.

It does not have to do with style. It does not have to do with manner. It does not have to do with tone. It has nothing whatsoever to do with things indifferent.

It has to do with their response to false doctrine.

On Sunday, June 23, 2019, heresy was preached at Faith PRC, where Prof. Dykstra was a member.

How did Rev. Lanning and Prof. Dykstra respond?

In early July 2019 Rev. Lanning informed his consistory that, after speaking with Rev. Van Overloop, he was going to be protesting the sermon to Grace’s consistory.

In his protest, Rev. Lanning condemned the false doctrine and called for it to be repented of and repudiated.

What happened to this protest?

At the consistory meeting, an elder raised the question as to why it always had to be Rev. Lanning alone addressing these matters of false doctrine. Why could it never be elders and consistories of the PRC themselves taking up the sword against false doctrine?  

After discussion, a motion was made for Byron’s consistory to make this protest her own, and apart from two abstentions, this was unanimously approved and the protest was sent to Grace PRC from the consistory.

That protest then went on to die a slow and painful death as the consistory, over the course of the next 12 months, lost all courage and succumbed to the pressure that was being exerted against her. So that in the end, as had been the case in the PRC to that point, it fell to another mother in Israel to stand up and fight for the truth of God’s word at Classis East. Only one minister protested that sermon, and that minister was put out of the denomination. It is no longer a wonder to me that conditions in a church could devolve to such a point that would require a Deborah to arise and put the men to shame. We’ve lived it.  

Rev. Lanning acted faithfully to his vow to “exert” himself to keep the church free from errors (Formula of Subscription). Rev. Lanning’s protest also further exposes as slander the claim that he did not use the ecclesiastical assemblies.

What about Prof. Dykstra?

Not only was he bound by the Formula of Subscription, but he had promised at his installation as professor to “caution [the students] in regard to the errors and heresies of the old, but especially of the new day.”

The error of the “new day” was clear. Conditional fellowship.

And now a sermon explicitly teaching the heresy of conditional fellowship was preached.

In his church.

What was his response?

This was his response.

In an email sent to all of the PR ministers a week and a half after the sermon was preached (which email was included in the September 2018 agenda for Classis West), Prof. Dykstra came down as hard as he possibly could…on those who would dare to share this sermon with others.

For those who dared to share this sermon was reserved the condemnation that they were guilty of violating the 9th commandment. And far more.

What warranted this email with its full-on assault, was not the heresy which was dividing the PRC, not the ministers who continued to trouble the church by teaching and preaching error, but “radicals” and those who listened critically to sermons to “determine whether the minister said everything exactly according to their extra-confessional formula.”

(Let us stop here for a minute. Extra-confessional formula? Synod just one year before had pointed out that Hope’s minister, Hope’s consistory, Classis East, and four of the leading ministers in the denomination had displaced Christ, compromised the gospel, and compromised justification by faith alone, and now the leading minister in the PRC had just taught conditions explicitly, and this is what we get? That some are insisting on their own “extra-confessional formula”?)

The strongest language that Prof. Dykstra could muster against the heresy preached in his church and in his denomination was that it might “raise an eyebrow or even stir the Reformed antennae.”

Stir the antennae? Raise an eyebrow?

A statement teaching conditions at any time in the PRC should cause an uproar, but especially so in the middle of a controversy on this very issue.

Ominous for the denomination was Prof. Dykstra’s line, “You need not even get the context.”

In other words, when a man preaches a conditional covenant that is not all of grace, you must get the context. Had Prof. Dykstra forgotten that this appeal to “context” was also made by De Wolf and his supporters in 1953? Which argument was answered by the minority report from Classis East in 1953 that properly explained how such statements should be viewed. And how they should be treated.

(The pastor of Cornerstone PRC takes a different approach, as he said on the floor of Classis East that he hoped Rev. Van Overloop was not sorry for preaching the sermon. He said that he hoped a minister would not be sorry for preaching a good sermon that had a bad statement.)

Prof. Dykstra went on to write, “But God in His mercy and by His grace has kept the PRC faithful to the confessions and to the Reformed doctrines entrusted to our care.”

No, the PRC has not been faithful to the confessions and to the Reformed doctrines. Compromising the gospel of grace, the unconditional covenant, and justification by faith alone is not being faithful to the confessions and Reformed doctrines.

Prof. Dykstra is consistent, however. For those who are paying attention, this reaction mirrors very closely his response to Synod 2018 when he came down, not on those who taught or defended false doctrine, but on those who might try to characterize the error taught as heresy.

So now Byron Center PRC has a new pastor.

They disobeyed the command of Psalm 105:15 with their last minister (“Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm”).

Why was Rev. Lanning deposed?

It was not because he was guilty of of making charges of sin from the pulpit or creating schism or any of the other trumped-up charges that the bureaucratic institution came up with.

By being faithful to his vow to reject and repudiate the lie and to expose and rebuke error, Rev. Lanning had brought unwanted attention and criticism on the church and on the consistory.

The members, for a time, had to bear reproach because of Rev. Lanning’s stand for the truth of God’s word. The members, but especially the consistory, could only endure that for a brief season, at which point they had to expel him from the church through deposition.

That will not happen with their next man.

They will no longer have to fear leaving a worship service with a broken and contrite spirit on account of hearing the rebuke of God’s word. They will no longer have to “endure” the sound doctrine of Rev. Lanning’s preaching (2 Tim. 4:1–4).

From this day forward, smooth words and rebukes pointed outwards will ensure a safe and peaceful existence within the PRC.

There will be long faces and tears for a while. Sadness. Anger because of the radicals that so troubled the church.  

But that will not last.

Before too long laughter will be ringing from the narthex and from the consistory room and from the lips of the members.

There will not need to be any more tears.

Because there will be no more rebukes.  

Byron Center PRC has gone to the house of feasting.

Classis East (2)

Hypocrisy.

Hypocrite.

The word comes from the Greek word having to do with an actor or a stage player. Such men would wear masks to indicate the character they were playing. This allowed them to be different people at different times.

It was only after a number of years that the word came to mean “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”¹

Some of Jesus’ harshest condemnations were reserved for those he identified as hypocrites.

Those who condemn or judge others but are blind to those very faults in themselves (Matt. 7:1–5).

Or someone who says one thing but does another (Matt. 15:1–9).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were hypocrites. Those who bound heavy burdens on others but would not move those burdens with one of their fingers (Matt. 23:4).

On such, Jesus pronounces a curse.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13).

According to Charles Spurgeon, ministers are especially susceptible to this sin. “It is a terribly easy matter to be a minister of the gospel and a vile hypocrite at the same time.”

What about ministers and elders in the Protestant Reformed Churches?

We shall see.

The reason Rev. Lanning was deposed, we are told, is because he made public charges of sin against officebearers. There were differences in the three documents created along the way by three different parties—the church visitors, Trinity PRC, and then classis. One difference was that the church visitors and Trinity PRC pressed the charge that Rev. Lanning violated his Formula of Subscription vow. Classis never made mention of that vow.

But one thing was true with all of them: Rev. Lanning must be deposed for making public charges of sin.

“In these sermons he publicly charges ministers and office-bearers of the PRC with unrepentant sin” (church visitors).

“In a sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14, Shepherds to Feed You, preached in Byron Center PRC on 11/15/20, Rev. Lanning made serious public charges of unrepentant sin against ministers and office-bearers of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and against the entire denomination” (Trinity PRC).

In these sermons he publicly charges ministers and office-bearers of the PRC with unrepentant sin. The statements in his sermons and his subsequent actions are enumerated by the BC consistory, the advice of the church visitors, and set forth clearly by Trinity PRC consistory in the supplemental material (agenda, p. 125-179)” (Classis East).

It is no exaggeration to say that this was the reason Rev. Lanning was deposed. Apart from this charge, there is no deposition.

In addition to never proving that Rev. Lanning made charges, the men who convicted him had just done what they deposed him for.

(We saw in a previous post that this is not the first time we have seen this hypocrisy).

How can someone do that, you ask?

Put on a different mask.

On June 6, 2020, the consistory of Georgetown PRC mailed out a letter to its congregation responding to the distribution of Sword & Shield.

In this letter, Rev. Haak and the consistory of Georgetown PRC made public charges of sin against Revs. N. Langerak, Lanning, and VanderWal and the other men responsible for Sword & Shield. The charge made was lying and schism.

How then was it possible for Rev. Haak—as a church visitor—to formulate this charge and then press it in the service of the deposition of Rev. Lanning?  “Article 74 requires that any charges of public sin ‘shall be reported to the consistory,’ and it makes this step for charges of public sin, as necessary as the steps of Matthew 18 with regard to private sins. The way appointed by Christ is not to bring charges of sin to the court of public opinion, not even public sins. All charges of sin are to be brought to the consistory as the sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins” (church visitors’ advice).

Not hard at all. Put on a different mask.

Soon after Sword & Shield appeared, Unity PRC sent out a letter to its congregation charging the editors and promoters of the new magazine with lying, promoting division and unrest, and finally creating schism.

What does it mean then when the delegates depose a man from the ministry of the word and sacraments for the exact same thing they did in their public letter to their congregation? “Rev. Lanning’s schismatic actions of publicly charging office-bearers are contrary to our Confessions. a. He has not followed in his preaching or conduct the sixth commandment as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 107, “But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner above mentioned? No; for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies” (minutes of Classis East, 24).

It means they are good actors.

Hudsonville PRC sent out a letter to its congregation in late July stating, incredibly, that there was no controversy, but also that Sword & Shield was divisive in the PRC. Certainly, by late July, they could have gone to the consistories of the editors and promoters of Sword & Shield. Did they not truly believe that the consistory was the “sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins” and that there were “no other options” (minutes, 24)? Or was this grievous burden only one to be borne by Rev. Lanning and not the consistory of Hudsonville PRC?

(One elder delegate cleared himself of guilt in this matter by arguing and then voting against the deposition. Such a man that lives by principle does not need a mask, in fact, refuses to wear one.)

But what about the synodical delegates, the minister delegates from the West?

Was it unrealistic to hope that deliverance would come from the West?

Rev. Steven Key was one of those delegates.

There would be no help here. Instead, his own sword would devour this prophet, like a destroying lion (Jer. 2:30).

Rev. Key should have been more careful.

On December 6, 2020, the day the announcement of Rev. Lanning’s suspension was read in the churches, Rev. Key preached a sermon titled “The Shepherd and His Sheep.”

In this sermon, he publicly charged “some ministers” with the “grievous error” of “taking a bullwhip” to their flocks.

He was referring to Rev. Lanning and Rev. Langerak.

His congregation knew exactly what he was referring to as well. Within a few hours of the sermon being preached, I, as well as about forty-five others, received an email from a member of Loveland PRC bringing our attention to this sermon as “in the last 15 minutes or so he addressed the situation in Byron Center.”

From his pulpit, he publicly charged ministers in his denomination with “grievous error.”

Rev. Key did not bring these charges to Byron Center PRC or Crete PRC.

He made these charges publicly from the pulpit.

Ignore the monstrous implication that Jeremiah himself was guilty of grievous error for bringing the rebukes that he did, or that any minister today would be guilty as well for bringing the admonitions and threatenings of the gospel required of any faithful pastor.

Not five weeks after making this public charge of sin from his pulpit, Rev. Key voted to depose a man for making public charges of sin from the pulpit.

(I was able to stop Rev. Key in the narthex of Grace Church as he walked from the sanctuary to the room where he and the other synodical delegates were going to vote on the deposition. I asked him how he was not guilty of hypocrisy for preaching that sermon and then later voting to depose Rev. Lanning. There was no answer. Because there is no answer.)

What can you say about an assembly like this?

That without any shame walks in the grossest hypocrisy.

That blasphemously calls upon the name of God to bless such a wicked act.

That exhibits corruption that would make an earthly court blush.

It was never about public charges. Half the men there had done the same thing.

It was about a denomination that has made its living out of pointing the finger at other denominations but is unable to bear that finger pointed back at itself.

(When the rebuke came against herself in the sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14, many people were taken aback. In fact, some even felt the stirrings of sorrow for sin and repentance. Within a week they were able to gather themselves and decide, with a vengeance, that this troubler of Israel must go.)

The very things that the PRC has condemned in others, it refuses to see in herself.

It prides itself on the purest manifestation of the truth, refusing to realize it only has the purest manifestation of the form.

And then a few ministers showed up who refused to be cowed.

Only three.

Who refused to be bought off by whatever passes for plum positions in a small denomination.

Who refused to flee the cross-bearing that must come when one follows Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24).

Who worked along with other men in the denomination to form a magazine where they could, in faithfulness to their vows, defend and promote the truth and repudiate the lie.

One by one, those men who “incessantly and faithfully [fought] every new appearance of [the] heretical and monstrous notion that there is righteousness acceptable to God that is based upon some work, some merit, some obedience, some holiness, or some good in man” were put out of the denomination, or will be (Huizinga, Keeping the Sword Drawn, 25).

Instead of just writing about keeping the sword drawn, they did it, and it cost them.

The outcome of the meeting of Classis East was never in doubt.

The outcome never is with a “bureaucratic institution full of self-important and ruthless men.”

Those who voted for the deposition were warned.

One delegate warned them just before the vote to depose that if this was approved, they would be deposing a righteous prophet, a man in whom there was no guile, and it would be to the shame of the denomination.

But it is to more than just the shame of the denomination.

Toward the end of the sham proceedings, Jeremiah 26 was read to the delegates.

“But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears” (Jer. 26:15).

They brought innocent blood upon their heads and upon the denomination they represented.

And the man who felt compelled to speak last?

Who was not satisfied with all of the attacks, slanders, and abuse that had been heaped upon Rev. Lanning to that point?

Who wanted to make sure the final nail was pounded deep into the coffin?

That was Rev. Lanning’s father-in-law, Rev. Steven Key.

The man who had done the exact same thing only a few weeks before.

And now synod is upon us.

Which means it’s time for these men to reach for another mask.

Charles Spurgeon was a man ahead of his time.