Final Article about
The League of the "Reformed (Calvinists)"
by Klaas Schilder
Note: In the 1920s an international League of Calvinists was formed which included a chapter in the Netherlands. Some of the members of this league were also members of the "churches" of Dr. Geelkerken who had been deposed by the Synod of Assen because of his heretical views about e.g. "Did the serpent in paradise really speak?" and had left the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). Most of the leaders in the GKN voiced their objections to this league, but others, such as Dr. V. Hepp (who had stood side by side with Schilder against the heresies of Geelkerken) promoted this league. It is still very important today to listen to Schilders words, to learn from them, and act upon them.
Roelof A. Janssen (translator and editor)
About the translation: I used the Systran Business Translator 2007 which saved about 70% of the work of translating. It will be beneficial to get this article and many others of Schilder published in a series of booklets. But for that to happen the articles need to be edited more thoroughly. If you are willing to help in this important work please contact the translator at email@example.com .
The League of the "Reformed (Calvinists)" (Conclusion)
As I mentioned earlier, I still wanted to deal with the matter of international relationships. If I correctly understand a letter from a board member of the League concerning this matter, then one of the first considerations of the League was the relationships between Dutch and foreign Reformed people. Also outside the borders of our country there are orthodox Protestants who carry the name Reformed or consider themselves worthy of that name. They consider themselves related to Calvin. At least they feel connected to this reformer. But generally speaking, one needs to give a "broader definition" to the word "Reformed" than we in the Netherlands usually do in order to include them in the broader Reformed group, although some consider this to be the right thing to do. They do not want to make it as strictly Reformed as (until now) has been the desire of most of the Dutch people.
But when representatives of different groups in the Netherlands, all of whom carry the name Reformed, come in contact with those foreign "Reformed people," each person and each group consider themselves the truly Reformed in the Netherlands, over against those foreign Calvinists. The one group speaks evil of the others. Those others have not kept the precious heritage of Calvin pure. Only the present speaker and his group have done that! Thus it is that the foreign Reformed people experience some confusion. Along with many other advantages this new League now also offers a mutual bonding at home, and consequently also the official regulation of certain contacts with foreign countries, all of which should prevent much of the slander behind closed doors or in convention halls. Unworthy competition can thus be eliminated. To the outside, therefore, an appearance of unity is somewhat restored, at least so it would seem to an observer.
Something else is added to this. As we noted above, internationally many people are included in the Reformed, Calvinistic group who do not really belong to it, even according to the opinion of those who in the Netherlands are brothers in a "broad sense." Is it actually proper to seek contact with them while the cooperation in ones own country is entirely broken with people who, according to us, have left the Reformed line, but have perhaps kept more of the Reformed truths than many others abroad? No, this would not be honest.
When one considers all of this, the intention of the founders of the League becomes somewhat clearer. In addition, one should not forget that the League does not want to play church. Neither does it want to unite churches, or something of that nature. In the League one is Reformed just as one is Reformed in a nursing home, or in a school society. Thus one is not allowed to measure with an ecclesiastical yardstick. It is true that ecclesiastical forms are mentioned in its constitution but that is because "we have nothing else. And about these the people can come to an agreement."
These are some observations of one of the board members. I believe I accurately gave the essence of his opinion.
* * *
But even though I ask everyone to consider these things thoroughly, because that is fair, all of these considerations do not diminish my objections. They only reinforce them. I would want to put the following objections over against all of this, that is, over against the good intentions:
1. In other countries the Babylonian confusion is great. Indeed, that is true. This magazine (The Reformation) already mentioned this. And it wished a professor from abroad well, as he squarely opposed this babbling. But, does one really benefit from that confusion of speech, as this may well cause further lack of clarity? No, the sixth petition of the Lords Prayer forbids it.
2. Do people want to better inform foreign countries? That is great, but:
a) This is possible also by other means;
b) It can be done by better means;
c) This League has quite a different objective in mind than only to provide information. It wants to propagate. And now my main objection is that foreign countries will no longer obtain correct information if this League becomes our official representative body. On the contrary, the tidings will steadily diminish in quality. Honest, trustworthy information means: a recognition that we in our country not only differ in intelligence if that were but all but we are especially and to a great extent divided at heart. And in addition to that, much that is called Reformed is no longer Reformed. And if we have said that accurately, it will annoy the foreigners but also that annoyance can be beneficial for them and cause them to examine by means of Scripture and confession, and by the light of history, where "the gold is tarnished" and where it is not. But do not let people reserve this term merely for . . . prayer, and blur it at solemn and serious conferences. Dear People, in order to restore the tarnished gold you only need common sense.
3. Instead of sanitizing the foreign world, the people in the Netherlands are now inoculating themselves with the virus which has consumed many Calvinistically-trained organizations, both internationally and at home. One calls together healthy people and sick patients and says, "Together we are Reformed. We do not want to rob you foreign people of your Reformed name, and for this reason we remove as pleasantly as possible the criteria which should decide who does and who does not deserve the beautiful name of Calvin and of the Reformation." It is a compassionate gesture, as one says nowadays. But it is the same liberal idea of compassion which I have to reject as frequently as I have to preach on Lords Day 31 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
Thus I also hear De Genestet speaking from afar:
Put them outside the church, so you call out loud:
But you must really broaden your church and not be proud.
Yet I always said to that, "That is not liberal, neither is it merciful." Indeed it is being merciful to the foreigner when the church keeps her gifts, which she possesses to hand out as puregifts. But now I hear someone cry out to me:
Put them outside your League, so you call out loud:
But you must really broaden your League and not be proud.
Yet, I obstinately keep on preaching. I have learned that from the leaders.
4. "Oh," says someone, "now I got you. Preaching? We hang the critics on that word. For we do not preach in the League. The League does not do what belongs to the church. A society is not a church."
Be quiet. I have noticed that too.
But what is that to me? It is time that the truth is heard: I notice that apostasy is common in our time . . . and that all across the board. I find that the greatest danger that threatens us is not contained in an acute heresy, but in a permanent one.
When I think of the Geelkerken group, I put my hand in my bosom, and say, "Its fault was very serious, but I fear that our contemporary Reformed world I intentionally include also the Christian Reformed Church (in the Netherlands) and others suffers from a lingering sickness which will have a more terrible impact than any acute and disturbing heresy, about which one can write books and pamphlets. I am referring to the fact that one no longer seeks the absolute truth in each concrete situation , , , and especially not in matters concerning the church.
I know that some will take this ill of me. I offer no resistance. However, I do resist persistent misunderstanding by revealing that I see many among those who are in the League though not even all of them of whom I believe that they have wrestled more, better, and more determinedly than I to maintain the absolute Word of God in the concrete facts and powers of their life. But that is not the issue here. There is a mind-set among us which, particularly in matters regarding the church, will no longer accept the absolute truth. They do not want to grant a different task to the church than that the church will go out and DESERVE the reproach of Rev. Lingbeek and Dr. Kromsigt. For these men blame the "Church of Kuyper" that she practices a "party-discipline." The discipline of the "Church of Kuyper" as these men call it so nicely is solely and exclusively the discipline of a "party-church." That is due to her separate existence. She does not practice the discipline of Christianity. She adopts rules of life for a GROUP. She does not carry the keys of Gods house.
In contrast to this because the complaint is particularly serious, and as soon as it is deserved by us, we are gone I have learned from my great mentors: if the church but lives in obedience, and holds only to the Word of God, then her discipline will be no party-discipline, her doctrine no party-word, and her confession no administrative formula of consent of a little group. Yet thus far that church will be allowed to say to everyone, "Here is the church of Jesus Christ. Do the same as she and speak her words; for everyone is duty bound to join himself to us."
This is what one sees happening today: without paying attention people are leaving that basis, that confessional practice. To stick concretely to this point: When the church has said, "Between Dr. Geelkerken and us lies Scripture," then I must consider this as a truth which I dare to confess before God, in fear and trembling, but nevertheless CONFESS it. Or I should do all I can to get my church to retract this pronouncement. But I should not say, "That pronouncement is indeed applicable to me as an ecclesiastical person, but not in any other capacity."
For then I would indeed have turned the church into a party. Into a sect. For in fact the "Church of Kuyper" has a regulation of Assen, and the Church of Wisse (the Chr. Ref. Church in the Netherlands) has another one. And even the Geelkerken Church has one. And thus we should resign ourselves to it. We turn the church into a party; its gatherings on the Lords Day have become meetings for the religious shaping of and for like-minded people, quite intimately. And we will have to carry out the important work of the kingdom of heaven outside of her. No, I do not want to be the faithful concerned member, and therefore say aloud, "Among those who are in that League there are also those not all are like that who have clearly pointed to the dangers I identified. They did so better, longer, and more determinedly than I. But now it comes to maintaining what they said.
"Thus," says someone, "you again confuse church and society?"
No, certainly not.
Let me say it like this: If I am engaged I tell my fiancée that I love her. That is a kind of confession. That confession moves the soul. If we are alone I say it with determination, honestly, and clearly. With an oath, as it were. If we are somewhere else in a different situation, on the street, among people, or at work, then we do not say it. However, we nowhere contradict what we said.
Thus in church on Sundays I will only be able to confess in the strength, with the emphasis, and with the swearing of an oath, that which characterizes the service of the Word. Thus in the church I have to swear with an oath, so to speak, that Scripture is between the Geelkerken group and me. And the (Dutch) Christian Reformed congregations should from their side swear an oath on Sundays that I am going astray. Only in this way can I hold on to those people as brothers, and thus my confrontation with them is either an act of despair or of faith; but at least a recognition that the speaking of the church is a mighty object, and that a church, which just says anything it likes has become a prostitute. And whatever I say in church I do not have to say in exactly the same way in other places. But I may never contradict it.
5. For this reason it is tiresome and incomprehensible to me when in the church some say, "The Geelkerken group are not a nuance, but a non-Reformed entity," while in some league or association they say something different. Thus I will echo what Rev. Van Lummel said: "It is a sign of the time!" Indeed, a very questionable sign.
6. Thus one cannot blame me that I refuse to work with the Geelkerken group or others. It is only a worthless gesture by which one washes his hands off everything . . . that binds me on Sundays with some angry brothers. And it is exactly in that which binds us where I have to find them back. When some people get angry at me I will gladly become one with them again, but then exactly on that point. Otherwise the reconciliation is only a matter of appearance. Once again: It is not true that from the point of view I indicated one cuts off all cooperation. Because I refer here to Dr. Hepp there are certainly other possibilities than that one adopts the Three Forms of Unity as a basis. Can one not mention particular points? Gods sovereignty, for example, or Gods election, and the sufficiency of Christ. I do not say that the cause would be redeemed by that, for I maintain what Dr. Hepp wrote some time ago to Dr. Engelkes in The Reformation, Dec 23, 1923, p. 100):
Dr. Engelkes speaks of considering himself one with someone as the main point. However, one of the main points is also the divine inspiration of Scripture. The question: What do you think of the Christ? can only be answered if one gives a satisfying response (a satisfying one! K.S.) to: What do you think of Holy Scripture? . . . The issue dealt with here (in the case of Dr. Cramer, K.S.) is not with existence, the being. I will stay away from that . . . But it concerns the knowing.
Thus I still believe that cooperation with the Geelkerken group will never work. And that, if it does work, the matter of the League will be lost. For I do not believe that the Geelkerken group will be able to give a "satisfying response" to the question, "What do you think of Holy Scripture?" And, again referring to Dr. Hepp, I conclude: That since the Geelkerken group as a whole can join the League, that there is at this time absolutely no objection from within that League.
However: Should a person not use all avenues with someone? But then we should at least explain ourselves about those points on which we agree. But we should not base ourselves on the Three Forms of Unity. Otherwise my church has maintained a party-discipline. And I find that a terrible sin. Against that a severe judgment must erupt.
But what then about school societies and nursing homes? Are they (the Geelkerken group) not also represented there? That is one of the questions being asked.
Again I say, "Does one have to set a precedent in the one case by the irregularity of another?" Do not forget: we are still in a period of settling matters of justice. At Middelburg they also said, "We have to recognize the judicial position." And "justice" is a beautiful word. But in the League there was not a single judicial position. Moreover, the League is not based on Reformed principles but on the Three Forms of Unity. And thus it is a different matter. Moreover, I also consider it correct that the Geelkerken group should be kept out of the schools that want to be Reformed. And I am amazed about those who agree with me on Assen but want to deal differently on this point.
7. Some people say: When the League, for example in another article, says what I would want it to say, (here Dr. Hepp right away states: "Please do say something then!") namely, that it admits that the Three Forms are indeed maintained in 1926. Does one then prevent contact with foreign countries and also cut off many people in our own country?"
a. If I have the right foundation, I can leave the outcome to God.
b. Recently I quoted Dr. Krop in my Press Review. From that it is clear that mutual cooperation of national organizations is possible even when each organization has its own basis. It is actually not even necessary to remind one of that fact, for our churches know all about it, think for example about the foreign missions.
c. If I as a Reformed man constitute a Reformed basis I do not exclude anyone among those who truly are Reformed. Do I exclude the Dutch Reformed (Hervormden)? In no way. A Dutch Reformed person can think whatever he wants, also about the church and Scripture, including what I think. He only differs with me in what he does. He can see the ailment precisely where I see it. But he seeks another process of healing.
And the (Dutch) Christian Reformed people? Certainly, a Reformed person cannot exclude those people with the best of intentions, for he says every Sunday: "Between you and us there is no essential difference." And to this I answer sincerely, "Amen."
8. Let me go back to a path which according to my conviction limits the seriousness of the confession. It is either one of these: One may take the Geelkerken group along on a foreign journey, but will then have to give the travellers another label, or at least one should. For by maintaining the present label or designation, we say to God and to the Hungarians please do not say that this is mockery, for we should say things exactly this way "They are not Reformed."
Does one want to take them along "on particular points?" That would be fine!. Even though I would still shiver, for I believe that whoever at any time approaches Scripture differently than he who strictly professes it, will probably only be able to preserve a certain number of Reformed positions. And I do not like truths that can be sold in particular quantities. But however, then at least a situation is created that agrees with the facts.
9. And please let no one now become angry that someone tries to be consistent in matters concerning church and theology. Today all our people enjoy it that (the Dutch Reformed) Dr. Visscher (of the Anti-Revolutionary political Party) puts (the Netherlands Reformed) Rev. Kersten (of the Staatkundig Reformed political Party) on the spot, and analyzes his foolish mottos. Indeed, that is in the political sphere, and is easy to detect. It is concrete, and expresses itself in votes and numbers. But many, who enjoy Dr. Visschers articles, would immediately say with the same sense of justice if he said similar things about ecclesiastical leaders: "Now you touched the apple of Gods eye!" Everyone knows what is meant by that.
I ask: "Is it not more important to clearly identify the truth in matters concerning church and theology, no matter what the results are, than in concrete political matters and seats of parliament?" But people displace the emphasis.
10. And if God does not prevent it we will be destroyed because of it. We can applaud for a long time. We can just as quickly withhold our applause. But if relativism gnaws at the root of our existence, also in matters concerning the church, and if one no longer allows the house of God to speak the absolute truth, then everything is lost.
Then the church will no longer tremble. Then the madness of causing schisms will continue with more severity. For when the church is only concerned about writing some unimportant party regulations, then one can indeed begin to sort things out and continue to sort where one can find the coziest get-together. Yet, only taking hold of the absolute Word will keep one in proper fear and trembling.
Put them outside the League, so you call out loud:
But you must really broaden your League and not be proud.
I hear it already.
But I respond: "Have compassion, please, with the brothers who stray. And do not ignore Assen (de Geelkerken case). Nor paralyze the attempts to bring those who are careful among them back to the church, where they belong, by saying to them, You only are a nuance in Reformed church life."
For if indeed they are, I repeat that I then want to be the first one among those who do penance. Then I will not do penance for a wrong word. But I will do it then for nearly everything I have said these last years.
[De Reformatie, Apr. 18. 1930, p. 226-228.]
KS19300418REF-ENGLISH-The League of the Reformed (Calvinists) part V
Back to the Index of Articles by Klaas Schilder
Special Package Sets at 15-20% discount