There is value in looking at the reasons people use to stay in the wayward RCN. Those same reasons have in the past been used in times of reformation and liberation and they continue to be used today to justify staying in various unfaithful churches. Here follow a few more reasons RCN members give for staying in what has clearly and very lamentably become an unfaithful federation, and the responses of H Oosterhuis to those excuses (continuing the previous two articles):
One more reason given for staying in the RCN is: We are still in dialogue with the Church Council.
Now it is a good and ecclesiastical business to express concerns to the Church Council and, if necessary, to the broader assemblies if there is a deviation from scripture or confession. And, we must admit, not everyone finds that easy. Some are not as quick to identify errors as others and it is through the grace of the Lord that some people finally come to the realisation that they must liberate themselves from the RCN, even though the first liberation already took place in 2003. Let us never think lightly about the power of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. After all, it is He who opens the eyes, and breaks hard hearts and gives repentance and obedience.
It is important to note that one doesn’t liberate oneself because one has come to a stalemate with the church council. People too eagerly put off making a choice because they are still engaged in ‘dialogue’ with the church council, or because their letters of objection haven’t been dealt with. But whoever scans what is happening in the RCN, and knows about the unscriptural decisions, and tests the spirit that blows through the RCN, will realise that even if one objection or concern was acknowledged to be justified by the church authorities it would not help the overall situation. The whole RCN needs reforming. For years now, the authority of Scripture has been a matter of dispute and this has infiltrated the outermost recesses of the church federation. The devil made sure of that!
- Requests for revision
It is also frequently said by those who want to put off leaving the RCN that it is still possible to ask synod to revise previous decisions.
However, you can keep appealing to the major assemblies till the cows come home. When the general Synod of Leusden 1999 decided that the Sunday as day of rest was not necessarily a God-given commandment (art. 25), it dismissed countless appeals. The following synods, both Zuidhorn 2002/2003 and Amersfoort-Centrum 2005, would not reverse the decision. Without new grounds (and there are none) the earlier decision stands.
What led to the Liberation of 2003 was this tampering with the Ten Words of the covenant. God’s universal law was at stake. Today you hear of objections to women in office and to unity with the NGK. And rightly so! But when is it finally time to leave? The time to leave is when there is a deviation from God’s Word and the appeal process has come to an end. Now to stay and continue protesting to the synod, and to let one’s liberation depend on this, is to ignore all those unscriptural decisions that have been taken over the years and which are affecting church life, preaching and church media.
One of the reasons often heard for staying in the RCN is that there is so much disagreement among those who have already liberated themselves.
We freely admit that there is at times dissention and this is not to our credit. But we hasten to add that Satan is quick to exploit the situation. […] Small groups of people who have liberated themselves did so after struggling in the RCN against the errors and for the truth. Nothing easier for the devil than to exploit such a situation. All he need do is rekindle the battle, but then among the newly liberated. Where the truth is upheld, there Satan works hardest to sow discord; but where error has previously taken hold, he has already won. Thus we hear of hierarchy (I’m the boss…!) and of independentism (each follows own rules). But this should never be a reason not to liberate yourself from the RCN. For Scripture offers us no easy road through life. ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate…’ ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first….’ So we see that a reformation does not mean an end to struggle. Nevertheless, we still enjoy peace. For the church that preaches the Word of God unreservedly and maintains and defends its truth is a resting place in the world. And in all difficulties, we may go to Christ. The Lord’s promises are solid. We can falter; He never does.
Another reason given is this claim: You people want to be a perfect church, but we’ll never get that here on earth.
Scripture calls us to strive for perfection. True, we will never reach perfection here. Yet the Bible is full of calls to be obedient, to observe the commandments of God, to live righteously, to do away with sin, to be holy and to live holy lives. We will not achieve perfection here on earth, but we must fight against error and use the preaching and the sacraments as Christ has taught us. The Church of Jesus Christ, the true church according to the confession, is not perfect. All of us are sinful people and come short of the glory of God. Also in Christ’s Church, which preserves the truth of God’s Word, people can only be saved by the blood of Christ.
Not the perfectness of the church but only the grace of God saves sinners. But then it is really very important that that gospel also gives a pure sound. Never can we say that what we do here on earth is not so important, provided we believe in Christ… That is not what we are taught in the Bible.
Last, a much-heard reason (though heard less frequently now) was: You [who have liberated yourselves from the RCN and formed the DGK] are but few in number and have few ministers.
What some don’t say to avoid making the choice to liberate themselves!
Indeed, in 2003 and 2004 the church was very small and with almost no ministers. And it is still quite small. But our confession also has a clear answer to that. BCF Art. 27 states that for a while the church ‘may look very small and as extinct in the eyes of man’. As an example, it refers to ‘the perilous reign of Ahab’ when the Lord kept for Himself just 7000 persons. Scripture is full of these kinds of examples. The ark gave saved only eight souls. And the people of Israel were also decimated in Egypt, in the desert, and later in exile. We are no better than the people then. After the exodus, when they were in the wilderness, they wanted to return to Egypt; and later when they were in exile they did not want to leave Babylon to return to land of Israel. We do not like to be a small church with a few people, and which is moreover despised and mocked by everyone. And yet … we must learn to look to Christ; to Him alone. Not just with words, but also with deeds. Faithfulness to the Word of God makes everything else pale by comparison. Then the mocking doesn’t matter anymore, for ‘where two or three gathered in my name, there am I with them’.
Choosing in Faith
Finally, it is good to have reasons for liberation and to weigh them up.
Liberation often involves great struggles. It is a process that frequently takes years. It’s not something one does lightly, as we’ve experienced ourselves. How good it is in such struggles to find support in others, but above all in God’s Word; and to pray to the Lord fervently that he may open our eyes to the way forward.
Liberation is ultimately not a choice based on weighing up the best option. No, it is ultimately a choice based on faith, a matter of following and trusting Christ. That belief, that choice, will never be put to shame. This can also be a consolation for the person who cannot express so clearly why he or she makes the choice, or who is not so good at writing letters. The choice must be: follow Christ. Cling to the truth of His Holy Gospel and spread it. Reformation is commanded by Christ. The choices that this involves can only be made in faith. For in the end Christ’s Church may sing:
But the LORD will send salvation,
And by day His love maintain,
he will grant me preservation,
and I will rejoice again.
I will sing and pray at night
to the God of life and light,
He will in his mercy hear me,
and for evermore be near me. (Psalm 42: 5 Book of Praise)