It is now ten years ago that a number of people throughout the Netherlands liberated themselves from unscriptural teachings in the Gereformeerde Kerken – vrijgemaakt (GKv)[i] and instituted what are now known as De Gereformeerde Kerken (DGK). The 10th anniversary of the DGK was recently celebrated in thankfulness to the LORD at a ‘kerkdag’ in Zwolle but has evoked some negative responses from within the GKv, one of which is dealt with in the following Press Review.
Solution to a problem? by T L Bruinius[ii]
Both Nederlands Dagblad (ND)[iii] and Reformatorisch Dagblad (RD)[iv] recently paid some attention to the ‘ten years of new liberation’. Whilst ND again gave abridged reviews of interviews with Rev. P. van Gurp, A. Admiral and W. Dijkstra, RD devoted two whole pages of its Saturday edition ‘Accent’ (Sept. 21) to it. Apart from an overview of events in the form of a timeline, interviews with Rev. S. de Marie [DGK], Prof. Dr. G. Harinck [GKv] and Rev. A. van Houdt [GKv] were published.
The purpose of this article is to delve into some of the comments by Dr. Harinck in his interview. He is an authority, we might say, on church history. His opinions have some clout.
He was asked whether ten years after the ‘new liberation’ another separation could threaten the Gkv on account of the discussion about women in office. We read:
“The risk of new troubles in the church is not imaginary”, stated historian Prof. Dr. G Harinck. The director of the Centre for Historical Documents of Dutch Protestantism [HDC] (1800 – to the present) claims that “solving a problem by seceding is within the tradition of the GKV”.
Now a tradition is a custom that is passed on. Harinck therefore sees the practice of seceding from a church as a custom that is passed on in the GKV. If you have a problem, you secede. That, we may take him to mean, is a typically ‘Liberated’ solution. His words also imply that it is not necessary to secede at all. Others solve the problem in a different way. But not those in the GKv, he implies; there people stick to the tradition of seceding.
You would expect a better, a more reformed, reaction from a reformed historian. The liberation of 2003 was not an expression of tradition, just as secession of 1834 was not either. Neither was the Doleantie, nor the Liberation of 1944. None of these had anything to do with tradition, or with custom, or with the choosing of a ‘solution’. On the contrary, everything possible was done to preserve unity in each of these situations!
No, in all these cases people were confronted with serious deviations from the Word and therefore sought a return to the Word. For that is what the Lord called for. Had that not been the case there would have been no secessions or liberations.
That is something quite different from a tradition of choosing to resolve something by seceding. To speak this way seriously short-changes the issues at stake, and that are still at stake: faithfulness to God’s Word. It also undervalues the work of the Lord Himself.
Further on in the article we read:
The HDC director sees ‘’something radical’’, however, within the mainstream of the ‘newly liberated’ Reformed Church (restored) (DGK). In earlier secessions the church orderly way of dealing with concerns was “followed to completion, whilst newly liberated in contrast went away on their own”.
Apparently there is still something that distinguishes the newly liberated from all the other traditional secessionists – something radical. And what is that? It’s this: the others always followed the church orderly way to its end, whilst we, apparently, did not do that. Apparently we left when the way was still open.
Pity that a historian speaks this way. The facts prove to be different. Whoever takes the trouble to follow in detail the history leading up to, and the history of, Synod Zuidhorn must conclude that on many points dealt with at Zuidhorn the church orderly way was no longer open but closed.
To put it differently would not do justice to the facts. It is easy but inaccurate to represent the liberation of 2003 in the way Dr. Harinck does.
We read something else that’s remarkable as well. Harinck admits that the GKv has changed. You cannot escape it. He also sees that the DGK considers itself the continuation of the Gkv, and suggests that from their point of view it is justified.
Is he finally seeing the light? Regrettably not, for he says: ‘”They long to return to the situation as it was roughly between 1944 and 1960. That time was marked by a sort of pure liberated thinking.”
Evidently our vision, our outlook, is governed by nostalgia – a melancholy longing for a bygone era! But have arguments ever been brought forward from the side of the concerned and newly liberated that give occasion for that observation? No, all objections to the developments in the Gkv and to the many synodical decisions were based on the Bible and confessions. What Dr. Harinck presents here is nothing but his personal interpretation. A man in his position should not make such a loud claim but should present proof.
But that proof will never be presented.
Traditional, radical, nostalgia
Dr. Harinck makes some more interesting observations. For example, he posits the possibility of a new liberation as a result of the eventual admittance of women in office. We sincerely hope that he is not proven right.
“That wouldn’t suit a neo-Calvinist; he wants progress. Therefore I think that those who are against women in office will sigh deeply, remain concerned, but ultimately will not go away in large numbers.”
May the Lord grant that he isn’t proven right ….
But what’s at issue is the way our liberation (2003) has been represented. If you place all those remarks of Harinck in a row then an image emerges of us, “newly liberated“, as being traditional, in a negative sense; as solving problems by running away, instead of finding a ‘better’ solution; and of having a nostalgic longing for a past which is long gone.
We suspect that not only Prof. Harinck but many in the Gkv see us in this way. If this is the way they look at us then they ignore the real issue: simply staying with the Bible. But that’s something they don’t want to discuss.
But ah, if you do not want to deal with the crucial issue, then you must give a false representation of the issues at hand. Otherwise you condemn yourself.
We should not let ourselves be disheartened by such opinions, by such a misrepresentation of us by others. The Lord also hears and sees it. It is His honour, in the first place, that is insulted. Let us leave it therefore in His hands. Let us keep praying for those of the Gkv who are still prepared to see the continuing deformation so that they may receive the strength to travel the way of reformation.
[i] Also known as the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN) who liberated themselves in 1944.
[ii] This article is a (slightly paraphrased) translation of “Oplossing voor een problem?” by T L Bruinius, published in the Press Review section of De Bazuin, Vol. 7 No. 36, 16 Oct. 2013, pp. 454,455.
[iii] Daily newspaper loosely associated with the GKv.
[iv] Daily newspaper associated with the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken.