The following article and letter are translated and come from two issues of the magazine De Bazuin. They were written regarding a National Synod that was intended as a testimony to the world and as a preparation of a future commemoration of the Synod of Dordt 1618/19.

The National Synod, a misleading credo
S. de Marie (De Bazuin Vol. 4, #44 Dec. 8/2010)

This week on Friday, Dec. 11 & 12, the National Synod will be held. That, which was the idea of one person, namely the chairman of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) rev G de Fijter, has grown in two years grown to become a real organization. I wrote a first article about this issue a year ago in De Bazuin (Vol. 3, #42).                  Since then the General Synod at Emmen 2009/2010 has received an invite to as churches take part at this “National Synod” which in the mean time has become known as “a protestant forum” to distinguish it from an actual Church synod. The General Synod has explained the reasons why it could not accept the invitation in its reply (see below).

Besides partakers from the Gereformeerde Kerken vrijgemaakt (GKv), Christelijke Gereformeerde Kereken (CGK), Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken (NGK), Voortgezette Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (VGKN), en Protestante Kerk in Nederland (PKN) and other protestant groups from the Netherlands, there are also international delegates from Belgium and an observer from the Roman Catholic Church. The Gereformeerde Gemeente(GG) will not participate because it does not concern a real synod of the churches. The Hersteld Hervormde Kerk has published clear objections to the nature of the unity and the contents of the Credo of the national synod.

In this second article I will discuss this Credo in more detail. Along with this I will write something about the composition of the steering committee that compiled this Credo and its desired goal, after which I will examine the text itself.

The “Being” or “Not being” of the church

The initiator Rev. G. de Fijter suggests on the site that two factors, the disunity and secularisation of the churches convinced the steering committee that a renewed Christian testimony is required in our time. The serious disunity of the protestant churches and Christians in the Netherlands is one of the causes of the marginalisation of Christian witness in our society.
            Through our disunity we are not a city on a hill, no salting salt in society. The          disunity greatly damages the missionary character of the church.
People who would like to know more about the Christian faith would, according to him, become estranged in complete confusion due to the shredded state of that church. He is of the opinion that the unified testimony about the Christian faith in today’s society affects the “being or not being” of the church. In other words the right of the church to exist is connected with it.
            In our time the ‘gold’ of the Christian faith must become visible again. Therefore     we want to set ourselves up for mutual recognition and encouragement as       Christians in the public domain.

The composition of the steering committee that has prepared this National Synod and share in the idea is indicative. Participants from eight different denominations: ds. G de Fijter, Dr. J.M. van’t Kruis and ds. Susanne Freijtag (PKN, which includes the evangelisch-lutherse gemeenten), prof. B. Kamphuis (GKv) prof. H.G. Peels (CGK), drs. I.A. Koole (GG), ds. P. Sleebos of the Verenigde Pinkster- and Evangeliegemeenten and Dr. E.p. Meijering (Remonstrantse Broederschap). We can assume that the influence that these members contribute is determined by the confessions and convictions of the denominations from which they come. Especially the convictions of the Remonstrantse Broederschap are the furthest removed from the three Forms of Unity. Part of these, the Cannons of Dordt, has unveiled the unscriptural and misleading nature of the remonstrant doctrine and has refuted it. Is any return of the remonstrant to the scriptures perceptible so that people like prof. Peels, prof. Kamphuis and drs. Koole are willing to formulate a common confession with them? Has a miracle of repentance occurred that gives reason for this brotherliness after all?

The content of Remonstrant thought

If we study the confession or “declaration of principles” of 2006 of the Remonstrant Brotherhood there is no sign of it. Rather it appears that they have completely lost track of the Bible. This is apparent in the following quote:
            We understand and accept that we will not find our assurance in the surety of          what we confess, but in the astonishment about what confronts us and what is     poured out to us;
            That we do not find our destiny in indifference and greed, but in wakefulness and    unity with all that lives; that our existence is not completed by who we are or             what we have but by what is infinitely greater than we can conceive.
            Led by this understanding we believe in the Spirit of God that goes beyond all          human value and inspires them to what is holy and good, so that they singing or           silent, praying or working, honour and serve God.
            We believe in Jesus, a Spirit filled man, the visage of God that confronts and            perturbs us. He loved man, was crucified but He lives, passing His death and      ours.
            He is our Holy example of wisdom and courage and brings God’s eternal love        close by. (
At least three points become apparent here. The most important is that the assurance of faith by the Scriptures is exchanged for many uncertainties, although accompanied with much astonishment. Secondly, a horizontal fellowship of man is noticeable as a prerequisite for the contemplation of God. Thirdly, there is not much left of the work of Christ except for being holy example of “wisdom and courage” and model of God’s love. How far that is removed from the confession of Christ’s suffering the punishment of God for sin in order to give the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life to all those who love Him, and to give them protection in the last judgement on the Last Day.

The reason that we mention the ‘testimony’ of the remonstrants, notwithstanding some differences, is that we see the influence of it in the Credo of the National Synod that will be held this week. The Remonstrant Brotherhood has just recently decided not to send a delegate to the National Synod, although not due to a rejection of her doctrine. It is due to the fact that they had expected the organisation to publically retract the incriminatory confession of Dordt 1618/1619 (Canons of Dordt). That this did not happen, notwithstanding their pressure, must be recognised more as politics than principle.

This is apparent from the reaction of rev. De Fijter on behalf of the steering committee:
            The request for historical reflection is justified and we understand the problem.        But the synod desires unity not the making of statements. During the Synod we    want to pay more attention to the history at the different group discussions but not      yet on the official opening meeting on Friday.

The purpose of the Credo

According to the committee the text of the Credo should have a connection with ‘the Creed’ meaning the Twelve Articles or the Apostolic Confession. In saying this, the steering committee wants to keep an eye on the faith of the church of all ages. With emphasis on whatever can unite all Christians in the Netherlands of 2010. Almost all Christians in the Netherlands should recognize themselves in this. The text is not meant to replace nor be a supplement to the existing Forms of faith in the churches, nor a confessional dogma in which all points are exactly detailed. According to the study group it should also not remain an object of constant discussion. The text of the credo should contain what binds and not what divides Christians. The purpose of the text is: to allow believers with different backgrounds to speak about faith as the mainspring of their lives. The committee makes the following comparison:
            The children of the reformation closely resemble tailors who closely measure           each other up: one is too wide and another too small. The national synod exists so       that all these tailors can talk together, not to make sure that there is a tailor     coming who will cut every believer according to the same standard template
All the members of the steering committee heartily endorse the text of the Credo.

The form is intended to be Trinitarian, just as the twelve articles speak about God the Father first, then about Jesus Christ and finally about the Holy Spirit.

We will now consider in how much the Credo actually abides by the Apostles Creed.

The Credo about God the Father

The Credo begins as follows:
            He, God the Father, the Creator and the origin of all life has entrusted us with the   earth in order to rule it and protect it. He has destined us to live with Him and          our fellow man in fidelity, in love and in peace. When we forget and abandon                 God, which we have done since living memory, we lose the purpose of our existence. There evil makes itself dominant, uncharitable, unfaithful and violent: a       world doomed to be destroyed in judgement. Yet God remains faithful to what He        created! That stimulates us to stand beside the others in all their burdens small or         great.  We entrust ourselves to His caring hand, as in the moment of death so also   during our whole life.
What is noticeable here? First that God is not called the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth as in the Twelve Articles and in the Nicene Creed. That ignores Genesis 1 and leaves room for evolutionary thinking.

Further on in the Credo we read of man that they “protect” the earth, but doesn’t this belong to the activity of God as the Almighty? Is any room left for God’s providence that goes over the whole earth? That is more than entrusting oneself to His caring hand.

The Credo about Jesus Christ

What do we hear about the only begotten Son of God, our Lord?
            God is the living one, who we are truly allowed to know through His Son Jesus       Christ born out of Israel in whom we hear the hidden heartbeat of God.
            Jesus is the righteous one, who has done the will of God and has lived this for us,    He has placed on Himself our guilt and carried it, and made atonement for us   with God on the cross of Golgotha. His grave was not the end: He is risen!
            The Gospel, the word of return and of new life, has rung out since Easter.
            It proclaims God’s peace to us that is beyond understanding.
            No man is a hopeless case anymore because Jesus has opened a door to the            Father             and to each other in the wall of death and guilt.
            For Him we look with great longing: Come Jesus Come!
The supernatural wonders of Christ’s coming to earth, His resurrection and ascension are strongly minimised or even completely left out! So the complete Christmas truth of the conception by the Holy Spirit and birth from the Virgin Mary is missing. At the same time in the Apostles Creed and that of Nicea these Christmas truths are specifically worded as the great wonder of God, revealed in the flesh! Is this no longer believed? Or are they ashamed to approach the world with this?
The resurrection of Christ is still mentioned, but is left very vague compared to the confession “on the third day”, as in our confession. That is no superfluous paraphrase to confess the reality of Christ’s resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15: 4).
In addition the wonders of Christ’s ascension and the glory of His sitting at the right hand of God the Almighty Father are painfully absent (Compare with Acts 2:32-36)!

All the humanly difficult to accept mighty wonders of God’s creation, God’s providence, Christ’s virgin birth, resurrection, ascension and heavenly rule seem to have lost their offensive character.
Instead we read that “no man is a hopeless case”, while the demands of faith and repentance are lacking.
The majesty and holiness of God the Father and God the Son are diminished in an unacceptable manner. Every truly reformed protestant must certainly protest against this?!

The Credo about the Holy Spirit

On the last part of the confession the Credo has this to say.
            With Pentecost the Holy Spirit is poured out. He came and he comes with an           outpouring of gifts. He opens our eyes and heart for Jesus and makes room for        Him in our lives.
            The testimony of the prophets and apostles, widely breathed from the Spirit,             teaches us to go in Jesus’ path and by falling and rising to live a life through     God’s grace.
            This brings us as helper to our neighbour when there is no helper to be seen, to       pray where people are silenced and to speak for those made dumb.
            The joy of this gospel binds us together; we belong together and in the body of         Christ, the church, are given to each   other.
            We are pained that the unity in Christ is so broken in us, invisible even.
            We cannot be comfortable with this because the good Shepherd has a flock.
            In our land the fellowship is growing of those coming from world wide         Christianity, who give an enthusiastic expression of their faith. We want to be   church together in the Netherlands exhorting each other in faith hope and love.
            We pray that a proclamation may come from this that goes out to all those we are   in contact with, also with those who confess another religion. Thus we are on our        way to the day on which Jesus will return. Then God will vanquish all evil; pour             out to us His peace and righteousness: a new heaven and a new earth.
There is much to comment on, more than is possible here. We touch on a few matters; what does “testimony of the prophets and apostles, widely breathed from the Spirit” mean? That may make us think of “inspired by”, “given by”, but there is a difference. “Widely breathed from the Spirit” can mean that in the testimony of the prophets and apostles a great deal of the Spirit will be encountered, but not that every detail of it is breathed, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Then the understanding of “testimony” gets a different concept than that they are the Word of God. In this important matter of Godly inspiration room is left for thoughts on the authority of God’s Word which are different from what Scripture teaches us in 1 Peter 1:10-12 and 2 Tim. 3:16,17 ( see also BC art. 3,7).

We deem that what the Credo confesses about the unity of Christians and the brokenness and invisibleness of this unity is not in agreement with the Belgic Confession concerning the church (art. 27-32). The necessity to resist all heresy is hereby denied, as is the demand for constant reformation. What is called unity is in fact false unity that denies the truth of God’s Word in order to tolerate false doctrine.

Shades of humanism

The Credo has much room for ecumenical aspiration, and is also calling for humanity and social conscience. We miss therein the antithesis that is established by the Lord, the contrast between belief and unbelief and between Godly election and reprobation. The originators of this Credo have apparently ignored the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 12 verse 51: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you not at all, but rather division”.
Following the Lord faithfully as the one Head of the church, means, besides persecution in the world, division from those who prefer to seek a self-willed service to God. Is not the bible full of this?

Christ’s judgement of the living and the dead at His return even falls away. It is properly said that God ‘will destroy all evil’, but preaching about God’s judgement on the human race is essential*. There can be no true call to repentance by the blood of Christ when this is missing (Acts2:21, 33-40; 17:30, 31).

To present a humanist flavoured gospel is absolutely merciless to the world. Such a gospel where social justice sets the tone is totally different from the gospel that maintains that the judgement of God requires conversion to Christ as the only complete Saviour. Such a gospel is thus misleading and a danger to society (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

It is alarming to observe that delegates of the steering committee from the CGK, GKv and GG, who once proscribed to the Reformed Confessions, have allowed remonstrant concepts in their united testimony. It is obvious that people apparently no longer understand that the Church of Christ is called to condemn everything that is in conflict with the pure Word of God. The testimony of the church of Jesus Christ may mean nothing else than that she proclaims the Word of God to the people pure and unabridged (Rev. 11: 3-12; 12:17; 14:12; 22:18, 19). Only in this way the church will serve to show that as the congregation of the living God she is “a pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Only in this way can she be a blessing for the Dutch nation (John 17:23).

*Mathew 3:12; 4:17; 7:13-23; 10:34-39; 11:2024; 13:30, 36-43, 47-50; 16;25-27; 18:6-9, 32-35; 21:43-44; 22:11-13; 24:51; 25;31-46; 26;64