A Summary of the Effects of "New
Hermeneutics" as Adopted by the CRC in Report 44
Prepared by Richard Van Laar January 4th 2004
Quoted from Synod of 1972 REPORT 44 THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF BIBLICAL AUTHORITY Pages 493-546 (Art. 51, 52)
The second part of our mandate requires
us "to evaluate critically in the light of the above-mentioned study
and our confessional standards the manner of interpreting Scripture presently
employed by some contemporary Reformed scholars." Our task is not to
adjudicate charges brought against any person nor to assess the acceptability
of any particular book, but to evaluate methods or principles that are visible
in the interpretation of Scripture by some contemporary Reformed scholars.
These methods and principles are commonly called the "new hermeneutics."
3. Two Approaches to Genesis 1-11
There are in the Reformed community several
approaches to this question, each having numerous adherents who themselves
disagree with one another concerning specific questions. We do not intend,
therefore, to describe any of these approaches in detail but only to indicate
briefly two different attitudes toward the kind of historical reporting contained
in Genesis 1 -11. Although granting the essential historicity of these chapters,
one point of view argues that they should not be interpreted as a literal
description of events. There are differences, of course, in historical reporting
even within Genesis 1- 11, but when these chapters are discussed in general
the argument proceeds as follows. The occasion for reexamining these chapters
stems from the light science has cast upon the age of the human race. These
first chapters give us all that the Bible contains concerning human history
prior to 2000 B.C. For the long period of human history prior to the time
of Abraham, the Bible gives us only the few episodes contained in Genesis
3- 11. But scientific evidence is only the occasion for reexamining the kind
of historical reporting contained in these chapters. The episodic character
of these chapters can be established from the Bible itself. These episodes
following the creation account establish the basic perspective of sin, judgment,
and grace which creates the context for the call of Abraham. Since the whole
of humanity succumbs to the overwhelming power of sin and is alienated from
God, God chooses one man through whom some day to bless the whole of humanity.
Thus with the call of Abraham we have a new beginning.
What are the sources of Genesis 1-11
according to this view? The Bible indicates that Abraham's fathers worshiped
other gods (Joshua 24:2), and therefore it is argued that the information
contained in Genesis 1-11 was not passed down by means of a continuous oral
tradition. It is suggested that when God called Abraham out of an idolatrous
background, he revealed to Abraham (or to Moses) that which Israel had to
know concerning these things. If this is so, then it is permissible to learn
something about the form of this material from what we know in general concerning
the form of God's revelation to man. We know that revelation is given in words,
concepts, and symbols known and used by the recipients of that revelation.
Thus in these early chapters God makes use of such words, concepts, and symbols
in revealing to Abraham or to Moses this early history. Within this view it
is possible to suggest, for example, that although Genesis 3 communicates
an event, i.e. the fall of man at the beginning of human history, it does
so making use of concepts or symbols familiar to Abraham and to the world
of that time. Similarly Genesis 4, which Describes the environment of Adam's
immediate descendants in terms which fit approximately the period from the
seventh to the fifth millennium B.C., is not to be read as a palaeontological
report, but as a description of Adams descendants using concepts from the
picture of ancient man held in the second millennium B.C. This position therefore
makes a distinction between the event being reported and the form in which
that report comes to us. The other point of view is more closely related to
the traditional interpretation of these chapters. It holds that the information
contained in Joshua 24:2 does not necessarily preclude the possibility of
some knowledge of the true God along with the worship of other gods. (For
a similar combination see Joshua 24:16 and 23). The sources of Genesis 1-11
then, according to this view, are oral and possibly written sources which
come to Abraham from the past and which are amplified or renewed by revelation
given to Abraham. This view recognizes the episodic character of the history
recorded in these chapters, and it wishes to emphasize the fact that the history
recorded in these chapters was written from a particular point of view and
with a particular purpose in mind. It is thematic history and therefore these
chapters must be interpreted in terms of the special role they fulfill in
Genesis and more broadly in the history of redemption. This point of view
is willing to acknowledge some influence of the cultural milieu upon the historical
narrative, especially in connection with the creation account. However, basically
it argues that these chapters as historical records are not essentially different
from the rest of Genesis. Various arguments are adduced for this position;
e.g., the genealogical tables interspersed throughout the narrative which
link the early chapters to the history of Abraham, the division of Genesis
into sections (toledoth, generations) indicating-so it is argued-that the
author makes no distinctions between the first and the later chapters, etc.
Thus, although recognizing the thematic character of these chapters, this
view comes much closer to interpreting these chapters as literal descriptions
We have not given all of the arguments for either of these positions since it is not our purpose to judge the correctness of either. Our confessional statements, as well as our basic confession concerning the authority and reliability of Scripture, do not force us to choose for one or the other. Both positions preserve the intent of the confessional statements, both function on the basis of principles considered acceptable in the interpretation of Scripture. Therefore the church need not decide concerning the correctness of either. just as the church should not adopt a particular theory concerning the synoptic problem, so it should not adopt a particular theoretical position concerning the first chapters of Genesis. The church makes pronouncements on confessional matters, but where theological and exegetical differences of opinion exist, they must be tolerated so long as they do not conflict with that confession. Over periods of time some of these differences may be resolved. Therefore, the theological discussion concerning the kind of historical reporting contained in these first chapters of Genesis should continue.
the "Five points of pastoral advice" point 3:
This view of the task of the church offers real possibilities for arriving at a Christian perspective on the relationship between biblical authority and scientific findings. For by proclaiming Jesus Christ as the key to God's creation revelation and the heart of God's inscripturated revelation the church can point the way to a clearer recognition that there are no real contradictions between these two ways in which God reveals himself to us. In both creation and Scripture God addresses us with full authority. The conflicts that sometimes arise are due to discrepancies in our responses to these two modes of revelation. As Reformed Christians we must take both revelations seriously. Taking Scripture seriously means recognizing science as a legitimate expression of the cultural mandate. Therefore we must seek to profit from and make thankful use of the findings of science as seen in the light of Scripture. Motivated by these convictions we often discover that the results of scientific investigation become the occasion for reviewing and sometimes upon further Biblical reflection, even revising certain interpretations of the Bible when in faithful obedience to God's full-orbed revelation we are led to a reevaluation of certain biblical data, we should not resist such insights as lead us to a clearer understanding of both Scripture and creation in their revelational unity.
Here we find perhaps the subtlest of compromises
begin, the committee begins to make reference to "science" as a
factor in "revising certain interpretations". Most significantly
the statement by the committee leaves room for "modern scientists"
to interpret Genesis 1-11 on a less then literary or non-historical basis
allowing room for a view that the period of time from creation to Abraham
could allow the world to be billions of years old. As well as the notion that
God revealed himself to Abraham first and all preceding were just tools used
by Rabbi's for instruction. Thus reducing the power of God to create, as we
believe in Genesis or even of the promise made after the fall and the covenant
established with Noah. With this in mind we realize that the CRC opens the
door to allow people who do not grasp in complete faith in the FACT of creation
by the power of God literally described in Genesis. This no doubt a compromise
to give the secular view in modern science a position of authority equal to
or greater then the Word of God. One word sums it up, faithlessness.
Furthermore the statement "For by
proclaiming Jesus Christ as the key to God's creation revelation and the heart
of God's inscripturated revelation the church can point the way to a clearer
recognition that there are no real contradictions between these to ways in
which God reveals himself to us." Discredits the Word from the beginning
of time of having authority OVER science or "natural history". If
science claims that the world and universe formed over an immense amount of
time, billions of years and the Word of God, in Genesis claims God creating
the "Heavens and the Earth" in 6 days we have a REAL contradiction.
The CRC has adopted the doctrine that as long as we proclaim Jesus Christ
as the key to God's creation revelation we have the freedom to interpret in
accordance to secular science "creation revelation". This comes
in conflict with the Word, in fact denies Christ, who was the Word. John 1.
Let us not forget the origins of modern science in evolution stem from a complete
DENIAL of God.
Added to this the adoption of Report 44
also places emphasis within the CRC on a "neutral" position, two
views of Genesis 1-11 can be tolerated within the CRC. Also they provide from
a secular point of view of history that the resurrection of Christ is not
significant in a historical view since it cannot be proven using techniques
that "historians" would use i.e. documents, eye-witness accounts.
Never mind what the Bible teaches. We see the compromise when they ask the
question shouldn't Christian Historians support the Resurrection? So that
begs the question, does the CRC accept so called "Christian Historians"
that actually reject the Resurrection? Or tolerate that point of view in a
disciplinary sense by being "lenient" in pressing members to the
FACT of the Resurrection?
To draw a similarity, by compromising faith in the Word as subject to scientific deduction separates the Word from God. Thus we now have the freedom to do as we please as long as we look to Christ, this concept isn't new. The CRC doesn't come out and actually state that it accepts opposing views of Genesis 1-11, or that it denies the resurrection, nevertheless the CRC dismantles the safeguards against these heretical notions by allowing these ideas to have a position in the Church. What it amounts too is really Gnosticism in a different cloak.
We can look to the book of Revelations at
the Nicolaitans in the following excerpt from a sermon prepared by Rev. George
Vanpopta at Ancaster:
Jezebel was the heathen wife of King
Ahab of Israel. Famous for her wickedness. She imported Baal worship into
Israel and promoted it vigorously. She led Israel astray, teaching them to
bow before Baal, and to participate in the immoralities associated with Baal
worship. She was a frightening woman. Anyone who crossed her knew he was in
for trouble. Even the mighty and fearless prophet Elijah, the most fiery prophet
of the OT, was scared of her.
This NT Jezebel in Thyatira was very
much like this. She dragged the world into the church and said it was OK to
be a worldly Christian. We met similar people in the letters to the church
at Ephesus and Pergamum. They were called, "the Nicolaitans" and
"Balaamists," the people of the compromise. In Ephesus, the church
took action against them; in Pergamum, this heresy existed as a cancerous
growth; in Thyatira, it was actively promoted by this Jezebel of a woman,
and it was tolerated by the church. Perhaps, like the OT Jezebel, this NT
Jezebel had such a strong personality that no one dare to cross her.
It's very likely that Jezebel taught
the Christians in Thyatira that it was all right to practice immorality literally,
but there is probably more behind this. The OT often viewed the relationship
between God and Israel as the relationship between a husband and his wife.
You find this in especially in the prophets. When Israel, the wife of the
LORD, went astray after false gods, then God, through his prophets, accused
them of committing adultery, fornication, immorality.
The same imagery comes back in the NT.
In the NT, the Lord Jesus Christ is often described as a husband, and the
church as His bride. And so if the bride (the church) rejects the exclusive
claims of her husband (Christ) and embraces worldliness, then she commits
adultery; she is guilty of immorality. This is what Jezebel was promoting.
She had bewitched some of the congregation to be unfaithful to their Lord
and master, Jesus Christ.
So this was the problem in the church at Thyatira. The minister proclaimed the exclusive demands of Jesus Christ. He preached about the Lordship of King Jesus which covers every square inch of our lives. And this Jezebel, claiming to speak for God, said the opposite. She proclaimed a doctrine of compromise. She taught that there was room for both in the peoples' lives: some room for Jesus Christ, and some room for the trade guilds and their gods.
Now how could this woman speak like this?
She stayed a member of the church of Christ; in fact, she claimed to be the
mouthpiece of Christ for His church. How then could she proclaim this heresy,
knowing full well that the trade guilds were not neutral -- that they were
intimately connected with the false gods? How could she claim to be a prophetess
of God and yet teach that it was okay to compromise ones service of God?
Excerpt from Sermon prepared by Rev. George
van Popta - Ancaster, Ontario - Nov 17th, 2002
After drawing the comparison in what the
CRC has adopted as pastoral advice to what the Nicolaitans and the Jezebel
had taught in Revelations 2 we see that the CRC sins both in practice and
in the doctrine of compromise with the World. In regards to how this affects
us as Canadian Reformed members, many of our own friends, and family have
affiliation with or are members of the CRC which has been repeatedly admonished
by the CanRC's concerning numerous other heresies. This evaluation may be
helpful in combating the ignorance of many of our own brothers and sisters
in the CanRC's concerning the sinful practices and doctrine of the CRC. We
see within Report 44 several, varying in degree, attempts to place "Confession"
as authority over the Word. (e.g. quote from 5 points of pastoral advice point
b) Synod calls the churches, in harmony with our common commitment to the
Reformed confessions, to maintain the clear witness of the creeds to the authority
of Scripture as the saving revelation of God in Jesus Christ, a revelation
rooted in the historical reality of redemptive events as recorded in Scripture,
yet honoring such freedom of exegesis or diversity of insight as does not
conflict with our forms of unity.)
No doubt the adoption of Report 44 leaves
freedom for members in the CRC to deduce different interpretations of scriptures
enacted in the sinful practices of women in ordained offices, women voting
(e.g. Paul was a male chauvinist influenced by traditions then, thus they
deny 1 Tim 2:11-15) and perhaps laid the ground work for the "tolerance"
of homosexuality within the CRC.
(excerpt from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_crc.htm) the name speaks for itself.
A resolution was submitted by the First Toronto CRC. It had been prepared by Dr. Henk Hart of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and former CRC minister Jim Lucas. The First Toronto overture noted that "very recent history in our denomination provides evidence that people who discuss views that deviate from 1973 can expect censorship in one form or another." (Dr Hart lost his license to exhort (preach as a lay person) because of his pro-gay views. Lucas lost his ordination because of his endorsement of committed monogamous same-sex relationships.) They had circulated a petition calling for a "safe place" to discuss homosexuality within the CRC. It was signed by over 300 CRC members, including almost three dozen ministers. The Toronto overture "asked the churches to consider whether same-sex partners should [be permitted to] take communion, as well as to consider how to respond to members whose views differ from [the CRC's] 1973 [declaration on homosexuality]." 2 With "no discussion, debate, or public announcement," the Toronto resolution was ruled out of order. "CRC General Secretary Dr. David Engelhard simply announced that the synodical officers were recommending that no new materials would be added to the synodical agenda without specifying what those materials might be." 3 The homosexual study committee will submit a revised report to Synod 2002, after receiving input from CRC congregations.
Here we can see the complacency and blatant
disobedience already, first noted is the lack of discipline in the actions taken
against Dr. Hart and the minister Jim Lucas. They only lost their ability to
preach, lack of repentance is emphasized when we see them circulating a petition,
receiving 300 signatures including almost 3 dozen ministers! They are no doubt
still members and should have been excommunicated long ago for their unrepentant
doctrine and lifestyle. Many groups within the CRC such as AWARE, teach that
we must tolerate homosexuality because Jesus tolerates the sinner. The CRC openly
tolerates this doctrine.
Now to once again focus our attention onto the aspect of CRC influence within our own life as members of the CanRC's I would be so bold as to point to Rev 2:7 (which is taken out of context in Report 44) "He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." So those members who depart the CanRC's and then join the CRC do NOT overcome because they accept the false doctrines within the CRC accepting what the entire CRC as a federation accept as principles and compromise themselves, basically they cut themselves off from the right to eat from the tree of life while with so much at stake when they make the decision to be unified with a federation that upholds the afore mention doctrines. Likewise let this be a message of admonishment to those in our midst who are unable to separate themselves from the practices of these modern day; "Nicolaitans". For no doubt many of us interact with members of the CRC, at teachers conferences, seminaries, Life Recovery, humanitarian mission trips, and I could go on. Our main concern should be voicing to these CRC members, "Repent!", "break free from disobedience!".
2 Timothy 4:1-5 "IN THE presence of God and of Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry."
Colossians 2:8 "See to it that
no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends
on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Matters of concern:
In 2001 Synod Neerlandia adopted Phase 2 and
established Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the URC. The URC rejects the Genesis
1-11 theory and rejects women in ordained office or voting, as well as gay tolerance
yet not the actual entirety of Report 44 or the influence of "New Hermeneutics".
Therefore it is important to realize that the URC has not totally broken free
of the yoke of "New Hermeneutics" nor of its ties with the CRC. The
URC continues to allow pulpit exchange with ministers of the CRC and I have
yet not found any evidence of the Committees involved in "unity talks"
with the URC to bring this concern forward. Our Federation has extended the
right hand of fellowship to the URC and brought with it several immediate concerns
that have not been properly tested in application to 1 John 4. These concerns
being the pulpit exchange with the CRC, the lack of any statement denying the
doctrinal error contained in the entirety of Report 44, the lack of the proper
fencing of the Lords Supper, and the lack of declarative separation with the
CRC "come out of her". With this in mind the question must be asked
"Have we compromised?".
P.K. Keizer's "Church History" pg
23. (Ties between Gnosticism and New Hermeneutics).