Perhaps we entertained the possibility that the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (RCN) would engage in some soul-searching and repent now that the Canadian Reformed Churches have followed the Free Reformed Churches of Australia in finally breaking the sister-church relations with the RCN (GKv). But if we thought that, we would appear to be badly mistaken. There is certainly no sign of repentance in the interview (below) nor in the response of Dr A de Bruijne to the Nashville Statement (further below) nor in other writings. Indeed, there is clearly a different spirit at work in the RCN. It is surely not the Holy Spirit, the Author of God’s Word, for the RCN – as successive synods have shown and as various articles continue to show – have deviated from the Word of God, captivated by a spirit of delusion. There’s a warning in this for us.
Following the Canadian Reformed Churches’ decision to break the relationship with the RCN, a journalist of Nederlands Dagblad asked the RCN’s chairman of Deputies for Relation with Churches Abroad, Peter Bakker, a few questions.[I] The interview concludes as follows:
Despite warnings from churches throughout the world the RCN (GKv) chose for women in office. Were those warnings taken seriously?
“Very seriously. During synod a discussion took place between delegates of churches abroad and members of synod. Synod stated that they wanted to continue to see each other as churches of Christ despite different views.”
Can you understand why churches abroad would say: It has no sense to continue contacts with the RCN if they ignore our warnings?
“We acknowledge that there is a difference of insight. That hurts; but the critical question is whether that is enough reason to break the ties. We think not. Despite that single point of difference [women in office] there is much that binds us together.”
How come the churches in the Netherlands and those abroad grow apart?
“That has to do with the character of emigrant churches: they are slower to integrate into society and hence they don’t really change. Here in the Netherlands the RCN try to be a church that stands amidst society.”
Will an attempt still be made to rescue the relationship?
“A delegate of the Canadian Reformed Churches will visit our next synod of Goes which will begin end of this year. We remain open for contact, but it’s got to be worthwhile. We’re not going to impose ourselves on them.”
A reaction to the interview
A couple of days later a letter to the editor[ii] expressed astonishment at Bakker’s responses in the interview. The writer, Hans Koops, asked: “Does Bakker really believe that women in office was the only reason for the Canadian Reformed Churches to break the sister relations with the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands? Doesn’t he understand that these [RCN] churches have over the past years drifted away from Scripture and the confession?”
Koops adds that officially the RCN still subscribe to the confessions but in practice they have distanced themselves from the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort, and that their discussions about the ‘new hermeneutics’ reflect a different way of interpreting the Bible. He adds that the decision of the CanRC to break with the RCN mark the end of a long road.
Commenting on Bakker’s remarks concerning emigrant churches being slower to integrate into society around them Koops says: “Last Saturday I heard Rev. Arjen de Visser [of the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary] say: In Canada we live in the same culture as in Europe. Maybe we in North America are even ahead of you.” Rev de Visser had added that, considering that emigrant churches were established more than three generations ago, Bakker’s comments about the emigrant churches were foolish and very arrogant.
Deviating from the truth
You may have heard of the Nashville Statement, a declaration by several evangelical ministers in America that the Bible teaches marriage as being between one man and one woman, that it teaches faithfulness in marriage, chastity outside of marriage, etc. It is a bold Statement against LGBT relations, polygamy, adultery, etc. But very few RCN members supported the Statement. Indeed, Dr Ad de Bruijne, a professor at the RCN theological seminary in Kampen, expressed criticism of it. He found its (Biblical) views on gender and sexuality ‘extreme’.
What’s worse, Dr de Bruijne suggests that, if we focus our attention on Christ and heaven, we see that there is no sexuality in heaven. And if that’s so, why should homosexual relations be of concern to us here on earth? Rev S Carl van Dam recently commented on this in Clarion.[iii] He says:
“Instead of supporting a statement like the Nashville one, De Bruijne writes that we need to take our starting point in Christ and ‘then it will become clear that the shifts [away from the traditional views] do not automatically originate in deformation and secularization’. He attempts to justify this shocking statement as follows. He says that many questions surrounding homosexuality and gender dysphoria are not adequately answered by the traditional view. He questions how we can judge so confidently about something which we have not come to deeply know and understand. He says that, for the Christian, nature (which would lead us to conclude that sex is for a man and a woman) does not have the final say.
De Bruijne goes on to make some very troubling and unclear statements connecting our future glorified body with homosexual issues. He writes:
‘Scripture also speaks of a future destination which transcends the current natural boundaries. From the time of the early church, Christians have realized that Christians do not reason from nature but from Christ. And in Christ it is certainly about our creation, but also about our future destination. Then our natural body will become a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15). As bourgeois orthodox Christianity, we have scarcely thought through what that would mean for homosexuality and gender issues. Also for this reason, churches today need open discussion and not authoritarian adjurations.’
What does De Bruijne mean with this? Is he speculating that the renewed creation will contain homosexual and gender dysphoric aspects? Is he using the term ‘spiritual body’ to justify an approval of homosexuality and transgenderism? This would be absurd and unbiblical. Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Scripture tells us that the sexually immoral and homosexual offenders (without repentance) will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10). John writes in Revelation 22 that outside the new Jerusalem are the sexually immoral (Rev 22:15). We all struggle with sin. A kleptomaniac has trouble not stealing, but he resists this sinful inclination and knows that one day he will be totally liberated from this wrong impulse to steal. So too, one who struggles against an inclination to homosexual sin will one day be liberated in his glorified and spiritual body, bearing ‘the image of the man of heaven’ (1 Cor 15:49; Phil 3:21).
De Bruijne fails to perceive that there is a spiritual war going on and that a powerful delusion is causing many to believe the lie rather than the truth (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Jesus said that the world hated him because he testified that what it does is evil (John 7:7). The rough reception of the Nashville Statement in The Netherlands is evidence of this spiritual war. A clear testimony of the truth of God’s Word in a wicked environment will provoke a hostile reaction because it does not like to hear that its actions are evil. May the Lord have mercy upon his church in The Netherlands and, as yet, use the Nashville Statement to wake up those caught in a deadly slumber.”
A powerful delusion
Indications are that the RCN are in the grip of that ‘powerful delusion’ to which Rev Van Dam alludes. And that is a most terrible thing. When Pharaoh saw the miracles God performed through Moses, and hardened himself, God said as it were: if this is how you harden yourself, so be it: you will be hardened.
And later, when Israel’s King Ahab sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD (1 Kings 21:25), imprisoning the true prophet Micaiah, rejecting the warnings of the LORD, and surrounding himself with 400 false prophets, the LORD permitted a fallen angel to be a lying spirit in the mouths of those false prophets to lead Ahab to his death (1 Kings 22). If one is determined to go on a wrong road and Scriptural warnings are rejected, God gives you over to your self-chosen way. He sends a powerful delusion.
And now Rev Van Dam says: “De Bruijne fails to perceive that there is a spiritual war going on and that a powerful delusion is causing many to believe the lie rather than the truth.” That “powerful delusion” is a reference to 2 Thess. 2:11 where we read that God sends this powerful delusion, “that they should believe the lie”. Why? It says in verse 10 that “they perish because they refused to love the truth”. And if God sends this powerful delusion it’s unstoppable. If Satan deludes there’s a possibility of turning to the truth but if God, who is sovereign also over Satan, sends the delusion there is no holding it.[iv]
The RCN has rejected the warnings, first of those RCN members who followed the church orderly route of appeals in which the deviations from Scripture embraced by the RCN were pointed out, then of a public call to reformation which was ignored, followed by years of warnings from overseas sister churches. They rejected the “love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10) and instead, through their ‘new hermeneutics’, modified God’s holy Word in order to accommodate the unscriptural practices of a worldly culture. By making God’s Word say the opposite of what it really says they have come to share in the powerful delusion infecting worldly culture.
A serious warning
It is a huge warning for us as individuals and as churches. When we persist in rejecting the truth of God’s Word pointed out to us (individually or collectively), then God gives us over to the lie. We reap what we sow. If we love the truth we will walk in the truth, but if we love the lie then we walk in darkness following the sinful desires of darkened hearts. Those who love life and light receive that; those who love death and darkness receive that – even if, like the Jews in Paul’s day who rejected salvation through Christ alone, they delude themselves that they are walking in the light.
Let us therefore be vigilant in loving God and His Word with all our heart and soul, and in upholding and defending that Word. We stand at the crossroads at every enticement to depart from the truth, at every inclination to add water to the wine of our confession, at every allurement of Satan to accommodate sinful practices and beliefs. Like parallel train tracks at a railway station, we may still appear to be travelling in the same direction, but after a while the tracks diverge, and we end up at a totally different destination.
It is for us continually to study God’s Word and the confessions very diligently and to use them as our measuring rod for testing the spirits. And let’s accompany this by fervently seeking God’s Spirit through prayer so that in humble, thankful devotion to Him we avoid bringing upon ourselves a spirit of delusion through a departure from the truth.
[i] “Zusterkerken hoeven het niet altijd met elkaar eens te zijn” (Sister churches don’t always need to agree with one another), Nederlands Dagblad, 21 May 2019.
[ii] Letter to the Editor: “Verbroken kerkrelatie komt niet alleen door vrouw in ambt” (Broken relations are not only because of women in office), Nederlands Dagblad, 23 May 2019.
[iii] S Carl Van Dam, “Dutch Ethics Professor Finds Nashville Statement Extreme”, in Clarion, Vol. 68 No 4, Feb. 22 2019, pp. 104-105.
[iv] K Schilder in a meditation on 2 Thess. 2:11 in Schriftoverdenkingen II, Oosterbaan en Le Cointre, Goes, 1957, p. 369.