In the footsteps of the synodicals 4

pushing on happily!

D.J. Bolt 


Last time we saw how prof. dr. G. Harinck enthusiastically welcomed the developments in the direction of the synodicals. We, the liberated, have become oil guy, ecclesiastical testing ground, prima ballerina in the ecclesiastical world and thereby leave the surrounding ecclesiastical mediocrity far behind. With us things happen! 
But those who are standing high, can fall deep. The proud leadership role is not guaranteed forever. And for that reason Harinck wonders with some concern whether his churches still answer to those high expectations: That will be decided by the following two stories.” 

These are the stories of prof. dr. M. te Velde and Dr. K. van Bekkum, both teachers at the liberated theological university. Are these colleagues able and willing to join the soaring flight of Harinck’s vision, or do they call him and the churches away from following the synodicals? 
In the next two episodes we will take note of what these brothers as co-speakers brought forward at the presentation ceremony of dr. Dekker’s book The ongoing revolution.


Te Velde’s address


Professor dr. M. te Velde addressed the meeting under the heading Response to G. Dekker, The ongoing revolution. We print his speech in full in italics [1] and again take the liberty to provide the story from time to time with (non-italic) comment and questions [2]


Te Velde 


What kind of reader response is envisaged with the book that is being presented here this afternoon?

It was already noticeable in the pre-publicity and in the corridors: this book evokes the inevitable primary emotions.

-           The one calls: Hooray!

-           The other: Fie, shame on you!

-           A third: Too bad!

-           Or: Of course! Speaks for itself!

-           Or: Amazing!

-           Or: Didn’t I tell you?


These emotional sentiments find partly their background in the liberated history of the years from 1945 to 1990. You could say that the liberated more or less asked by their actions for a book like this. Until the early 1990s, we have closely followed the developments in the GKs. We regularly extended a judgmental finger at everything we saw there shift and change. Mind you, very much work has been done to gauge and interpret both ​​spiritually and theologically the developments ‘at the neighbours’. We did not dismiss the matter lightly. From our side substantial contributions were made, for example to the debates about the authority of Scripture, and reconciliation. That was a necessary and valuable defence of sound Biblical doctrine, of which I feel not at all ashamed. It is also thanks to that activity that many liberated people in the years 60-80 received their religious upbringing and training, are well versed in Scripture and in the teachings of the church, and are warmly believing Christians.

Totally agreed. That is (was) the core of the criticism from liberated side on the developments in the synodical churches. It was about the Scripture and its authority, about the sound Biblical doctrine. The core of it was and is: how do you see the Bible? As a collection of pious testimonies of ancient times, which of course must be dealt with very respectfully and from which you can learn a lot? Or as the living Word of the triune God, which in law and gospel wields total authority in our day-to-day life, and should therefore be obeyed. Visionary ministers and professors in our churches noticed the consequences of numerous notions that gained ground in the synodical churches, and they kept on warning.

Te Velde
Meanwhile, we sometimes reacted too much from the outside, from a confrontational position.
 And we involved ourselves too little with the cultural and religious reality in which the GKs had to find their way. Examples: songbook, the position of women, national services organization, use of the humanities, understanding for hermeneutical questions. 
We could react from the luxury of a small, powerfully organized community with a high degree of seclusion and ‘purity’. 

After the well-defined and clear start we get the feeling that what was generously given with the one hand is now quickly taken back with the other. It seems that we were not ‘christelijk betrokken’ [we did not involve ourselves as Christians] and judged in issues about which we were only fragmentary informed. The given examples that should illustrate this also do not sound really reassuring. For these issues are one by one, although of different importance, also still today highly topical. Take for example the Songbook for the churches. Has it not really been made ​​clear by a variety of reformed people that there are in this book of praise also many unreformed and liberal songs? [3]. And that the direction that was taken by this Songbook is strongly being continued in the new Songbook, in which truly everything must be given its religious due? Whether they are the Reformed or something-else-ists. 
And the woman in office? Were (and are) no Scriptural replications given to the wholesale opening-up of the offices in the synodical churches? Is Te Velde, with his ‘understanding of hermeneutical questions’ at the beginning of his speech already riding the Harinck / Dekker track of cultural reality? Does this originate from his relativism with respect to this topic, demonstrated at the Synod of Harderwijk? [4] 
And is a standpoint that conforms to the norms of Scripture dependent on ‘the luxury’ of a relatively small bond of churches? Those earlier applauded statements for which Te Velde ‘does not feel at all ashamed’ are not dependent on the size of churches, are they?

Te Velde

And so we made declarations that were especially black and white and antithetical and drove others into the consequences. Also about aspects that did not all of them equally touch the core of healthy faith. Or in which we theologically gave too quick fixes. Sometimes we did little justice to real questions of practice which over time also the GKv had to face. Whoever does not at the right time exercise genuine christian moderation, runs the risk of an impertinence that sooner or later will be punished. If the Songbook becomes an alarm bell and the participation in the Dutch Council of Churches and so forth, then it can become a shibboleth in our communities and receive way too much credit in determining the identity. Hence in this book return on our own heads in part our criticisms on ‘the synodicals’ from the years 1970-1990. We should just wear it. Together with their associated emotions.

Black and white, antithetical, drive into consequence, theological ‘fast food’, – just go ahead. Here stands indeed a very humble and contrite leader of our churches. Is it not necessary to substantiate such acidic regurgitations about our recent church history at least some more?
Te Velde does mention a few examples but these do not exactly invite support. The Songbook, see above. And the Council of Churches? We have always regarded participation as an exercise in false ecumenism: the suggestion of unity of faith above deep religious divisions. But that is not different these days, is it? What business do the reformed have in a Council in which the far left and liberals, the romish and all kinds of isms participate? Where did we lose each other?

Te Velde

I think that the various emotions will also determine the reception of the book, especially in the liberated churches. My expectation is that it will be read primarily by people who have themselves actively experienced the period 1970-2010 (or a substantial part of the period). The facts in this book are not new for them. At one time or another they have come across almost all the analyses and interpretations, or made these themselves. But it might be interesting for them to see all those loose pieces together and hold them once again to the light. They will give the insight thus obtained a place in their position choice in today’s church life. Meanwhile the direction and policy in the GKv are rarely influenced by the question which similarities may exist with the synodical-reformed churches of the past. Thinking from such anti-identity is not strong anymore. The emphasis is now on the question how developments, policies, decisions, liturgy in the churches relate to the Scriptures, the Reformed tradition and today’s context. Under the influence of the great challenges of the (in short) post-christian situation and the information tsunami a greater reformed hermeneutic awareness has developed. And that leads to broader thinking. That is also the line which the author recommends in the final chapter, page 136: “Let the light of the Gospel shine.”

Comparison with the GKs was indeed for quite some time an important method of determining our position.
 But that has been all over for at least twenty years. How we relate to the bevindelijken [reformed believers who focus on religious experience] and especially to the evangelicals is now much more important.

A few observations. 
It is positive that professor Te Velde does not deny Dekker’s findings. To the contrary, he observes that “we have come across almost all of the mentioned facts.” This means that Dekker has done his work well, and his observations are reliable despite the flaws inherent in the study. So this is at least something we’re agreed upon.  
It also seems nice to busy ourselves together with Te Velde, with “the question how developments, policies, decisions, worship in the churches relate to the Scriptures, the Reformed tradition and today’s context.” 
Yet, here again you get an eerie feeling. For does not this also again undermine the initially vigorous appreciation for our reformed past? As if the issue then was to oppose to and to anti-identify ourselves to the synodical churches. The identity of our churches should not so much have been determined by Scripture and the Reformed confessions, but by positioning ourselves as antipode to the synodical church community.

How is it that today’s anti-identity between synodicals and liberated, say twenty years after The silent revolution, has such little meaning? Should you not, as a reformed believer feel an almost instinctive aversion to the utter breakdown of the reformed faith and life that has taken place in the synodical churches? Is it then not strange to  almost direct apologies to that community?

Also striking is that here again professor Te Velde mentions the triplet Scripture, reformed tradition and current context. That sounds very reformed. Indeed, we believe that Scripture has authority over all of life, therefore over the tradition / the church and the context / the environment. But we have already seen him develop his thoughts in a power point slide. He has explained this in his lectures held throughout the nation [5].


Is Te Velde here not approaching the ideas of Harinck and Dekker, by which the content of the christian faith and life is largely determined by the culture of our modern world? Here it is not Scripture that determines the answers to our questions, but they result from an interaction between three more or less equal poles. The Holy Spirit works these through the Word, but at the same time also directly in the church and through culture. Is the triangle graphic of Te Velde actually not a good illustration of the third perspective of Dekker echoing Bonhoeffer?

However, we have always articulated the basis of our convictions and actions with ‘standing on the foundation of Scripture and the Confessions’. Sola Scriptura! Is that not quite different, and does that not ultimately provide much more solid ground to our existence than the above circular triangle? 
Prof. Te Velde refers in this respect to the final chapter of the book, in which Dekker wants to let ‘the Evangelical light’ shine. But is that chapter with its recommended ‘third angle of incidence’ precisely not a reed that pierces the hand? Should we not first of all discuss together what the content of the Gospel is before we fall into the arms of Dekker? For the gospel of grace and reconciliation has especially in the churches of which Dekker is (was) a representative, become a dead letter. Indeed, it was there that the gospel of the Crucified One was noisily despised without any consequence of church discipline. [6] .

Of course, at a book review you should not throw curses around and pour out vials of wrath. But there should still be some evidence noticeable of the great sorrow as well as indignation that in the large synodical-reformed church community the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has been so absolutely reduced to ruin.

Today we concern ourselves in various missionary activities with people who are alienated from God. This results here and there in small communities of some dozens of members. At the same time there is a church community (now absorbed in the PKN) that stands guilty of a continuous flow of many ten-thousands of church deserters per year. Partly because it brings a gospel message with which you can neither live nor die.  
That should at bottom define our attitude towards these churches, I think. Deep sadness and compassion for sheep who have false shepherds. But there is not much evident of this in this section of Te Velde’s speech.

Te Velde

Content of the book

But now about the content of dr. Dekker’s book.
 Many thanks are due to him for collecting and the structured presentation of so much material. He sets us thinking and we will gladly take on his challenges.

I note four points:

-           Insights

-           ’Revolution’

-           Method

-           Doctrine and faith 


The book provides insights that are not new, but yet important.
 I mention two points.

- The impact of developments in contemporary culture is great, especially when there are hardly stronghold groups left. In the past we spoke of the culture ‘that surrounds us.’ Nowadays we are aware that that culture also pervades our thinking and doing. That is after all something of all times: faith and church are not supra-temporally but historically determined, and reflect their own time and culture. We live in a mixed reality, even in the church. In a strong desire for purity we have occasionally forgotten that.

This sounds very Bonhoeffer / Dekker / Harinck. To say it in the polished language Harinck employed in his speech: 

“An important thesis in Gerard Dekker’s religious sociological work is that church and religion are co-determined by the cultural environment in which they exist. 
Co-determined: church and religion are not taken up with culture and they can also not be reduced to it, but neither are they able to withdraw themselves from it, and they are hallmarked by it to a greater extent than is often realised in the churches and among believers.”  

Stripped of curls and twists this says about the same, I think. Harinck receives here a first response and can relax for a moment. 

The question can be asked whether it is really true that we are only now aware that “culture pervades also our thinking and doing.” Is that not a bit arrogant? For how vigorously have former predecessors not confronted us with the (apostate) culture of their days. While they were standing in the midst of the world, not huddled with a book in a nook, they were busy answering the questions of their days in the light of Scripture and offered resistance against unbelief and revolution in many forms. Does Te Velde’s little sentence ‘there are hardly stronghold groups left’ not reveal that there has been capitulation on a broad front to ‘the cultural world’ through which indeed her influence is unstoppably busy manipulating the spirits? We saw that already in Harinck’s speech. If your dismantle the walls you should not be surprised about the success of attacking enemy hordes.  


Te Velde 
- In the past we always paid attention to the differences with ‘the synodicals’. Dekker emphasises the common origin of GKs and GKv from the neo-Calvinist tradition. This is characterised among other things by the will to consciously and concretely believe and be church, in harmony with the contemporary society. Thus no two worlds. And also the will to tackle difficult questions and develop a vision on the values of life

Good to learn from such observations.

Certainly, the synodicals had our full attention. That is of course not at all surprising. We had sat together under the same Word and celebrated the same Holy Supper. The tear ran straight through many families and households. It hurt, caused much grief, we know it from experience. The longing for a new unity remained, but became increasingly unattainable because of the developments in the GKs. 

And there was also “the will to consciously and concretely believe and be church in harmony with the contemporary society.” No two worlds. Indeed, who does not remember the brochure of JP de Vries of Nederlands Dagblad: Life is one? 
If everything is well, reformed people do not live in a spiritual world of church services on Sundays and a different world on weekdays. God’s Word is there for seven days a week and twenty-four hours a day. Doctrine and conduct of life should be in harmony. Compare also the almost passionate effort to provide all our children with reformed, that is scriptural education; the major effort to let Scripture  and the Reformed Confessions determine the direction in the political realm.  
But does professor Te Velde mean that too with that ‘one world’? Is that the one world of Bonhoeffer where there is no more fundamental difference with the church? Are there in the Biblical sense not two ‘worlds’? The world of the dragon and that of the woman? That of God’s church, and the one of the false church supported by worldly powers? 
Or is ‘in harmony with these days’ the antithesis completely worn out? 

Te Velde


Remarkable is the word ‘revolution’ in the title of the book.
 It seems to me that a sociologist can speak in neutral terms about evolution. He will certainly not want to define it as reformation when he describes the developments in a religious community. But why then that word ‘revolution’? Is it a kind of rehabilitation for the ‘synodicals? Is it support for the newly liberated and for disquieted groups in the GKv? Is it a warning to turn back to the old paths

It is somewhat tasteless to deny sociologist Dekker the word revolution. After all, it means nothing more than a turn around, a radical change. The book The Silent Revolution showed in detail that that was the case in the GKs. Harinck demonstrated with several quotes that that qualification was broadly endorsed. There was nobody who wanted to typify this “profound change” [7] with anything less. Why should you then criticize ‘Ongoing Revolution’ if you have to conclude that the development in the GKv is going in the same direction? 
In the discussion that followed the lecture professor Dekker played down the title: it was still nicely found as a variant on the ongoing Reformation [de doorgaande Reformatie].  Yes, that’s the way to wave it aside. But this is exactly what the book shows, that the development of the GKv lies in line with the GKs. That makes a telling title. 

Dekker’s book confirms what those who separated themselves from the GKv as well as those who are concerned in the churches have been claiming for years. But now you ‘hear it also from someone else’. 
This conclusion is however no reason to be triumphant about it. On the contrary, it causes deep sorrow that this ongoing revolution had to be diagnosed. How much dishonour for the King of the church, church desertion, ecclesiastical misery and alienation is not being caused by it! If Te Velde somewhat ironically seems to ask whether the book with that kind of title is a warning to return to the old paths our answer is a resounding yes, and we pray fervently for it.

Te Velde

Anyway, I share the idea that the liberated churches must get busy with a well thought out interaction with their environment. That they are doing this can also be found here and there in this book. In that being busy you see (as always) strong and less strong contributions and developments. I myself have spoken during the past ten years at many places in our country about the question what the core values are of the biblical reformed conviction and how we today give this personal and ecclesiastical form. Other colleagues are doing the same in a different manner. We do not shy away from criticism on what we notice in sub-surface developments. We acknowledge that the church is always evolving and changing. But we do test that movement as best as possible against Scripture. 

Similarly, the sermons I hear give a biblical-reformed direction for faith and life. In synod decisions, in a new Church Order, in decision making with respect to the discipline of the church, the reformed conviction is clearly heard. And I know many ministers and church members, but I do not find a revolution in them, no destruction of the reformed faith as the word ‘revolution’ suggests. I do however come across points that may cause concern. Points that do not correct themselves. But I think that the word ‘revolution’ is misplaced. A nice parallel with the 1992 book, but it just is not right, or we need to reassess the concept of revolution.

Added to this, while reading I frequently got the feeling that dr. Dekker considers uniformity, consolidation and permanent truths as being ‘the norm’.
 Is this perhaps the origin of the qualification ‘revolution’? 

It is just too bad that professor Te Velde again digresses into the usual typically ‘nuanced’ denial of what is going on in our churches. We will not try to demonstrate that here; it  has been done on this site many times before, but we ask: What is wrong with unity (“uniformity”), solidity (“consolidation”) and Reformed Confessions and loyalty (“permanent truths”)?

Te Velde


Meanwhile, “The Ongoing Revolution” methodically viewed and in  various parts is a rather fragile book:

-     Limitation of the material used: mainly reports in church handbooks. It is remarkable that we do not get information about their authors: W G de Vries, P. Schelling, J H Kuiper. They wrote chronicles and added their comment here and there, the first two in the spirit of magazine Nader Bekeken. That is significant. Moreover, there are the various studies of expert authors from the GKv about the ecclesiastical developments, which we miss in the book of dr. Dekker. Thus there is a large part missing of the discourse that is relevant to this subject. 

-     Narrowness of the questions: similarities, minor differences =>, unilateral selection, there seems to me too little curiosity about points where the hypothesis may not be correct or needs to be refined.  

-    The spirit in which people speak and make decisions, the conviction with which, the direction in which the churches are moving, are not mentioned. Of course, these are not easily investigated. But I detect little of the author’s awareness that this is exactly the reason why he is skating on thin ice. There is at this point a fundamental difference with the 1992 book.

In our earlier comment on Dekker’s investigation we too offered fairly radical criticism on the systematic and scientific level of his work. But at the same time [we] also drew the conclusion, as Te Velde did just then, that there is little to criticise on the things he saw and the conclusions he drew. 
If Te Velde has questions about “one-sidedness” and “points at which the hypothesis is wrong or needs to be refined” his argumentation would have gained value if he had offered some proof. Now his question marks remain hanging in mid air, and is his statement regarding “a fundamental difference with the 1992 book” definitely hardly substantiated.

Te Velde

-     Statistics. There is a study (2010-2011) done by TU Kampen and the Center for society issues at the GH Zwolle, regarding the numerical development of the GKv. This shows that there is an ongoing decline, both on the basis of demographics, and a larger number of members leaving the Church than before. Here dr. Dekker too easily draws parallels with the GKs. If, for example, in the category of leaving the Church you make a distinction between “to another church” and “to no church” a striking difference shows up. Three quarters of the church deserters in the GKv joins another church. And very often that is a church from the orthodox family. There you can certainly not apply the term secularisation (p.39). In the GKs those percentages for the years 1960 - 2000 are very different. See appendix.

I do not know the basis of Te Velde’s reassuring rate of 75% liberated who join another often orthodox Church. But let’s have a look at the actual attrition figures of the GKv. In the 2013 Handbook we find the following statistical data for the period October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012:

Departed from the GKv to:

NGK  186
CGK    273
New Liberation   26
PKN  266
Gereformeerde Gemeenten  1
HHK   15
RK  6
Other churches  557
No church  467
Unknown  545
Total  2342

In the categories ‘no church’ and ‘unknown’ we count already 1012 members! That is, not including the category ‘other churches’, about 43%. Perhaps professor Te Velde is right when he says that this “very often” regards churches from the ‘orthodox family’, but certainly not always. There are plenty of examples. But let’s assume that three quarters of those who left the church in the category ‘other churches’ joined some ‘orthodox church group’ (and also stayed there ...). And assuming that the large number that goes to the PKN finish up in the orthodox Reformed Bond (which is not true). Then, by Te Velde’s definition, already more than 60% must be classed as church deserter. These brothers and sisters have abandoned the church or do not join an orthodox church. 
In this sense, there is indeed widespread abandonment of the church, and there is not a single reason for speaking reassuring words.

Te Velde

Doctrine and faith, confession and conduct of life

The belief in the triune God is the heart of being church. Chapter 6 discusses doctrine and confession.
 Dr. Dekker tries to show how in this central area the GKv is again ‘going in the footsteps of the synodicals’. He believes that there are remarkable similarities. It is true that this chapter contains observations that may be illuminating. For example, take note that the liberated are in the main not conservative, but want to be orthodox in harmony with culture. Take note of the shift from doctrine to emotion, and that of orthodox doctrine to christian ethics. And certainly, there is more diversity and plurality than in the years 1970-1985. There are also all kinds of ideas among church members that required no attention in the 70s and 80s

But I must say that chapter 6 still has little power of persuasion.
 Dekker can hardly mention theological disputes of interest that would be comparable to the views of H M Kuitert or C J den Heijer. A reference to an interview with colleague George Harinck does not deliver the alleged parallelism. In order to obtain proper conclusions, at least a few controversial theologians should have been exemplified at major points.

It is noteworthy that at the end of his speech professor Te Velde yet again parades the GKs in the persons of Kuitert and Den Heyer as bogeymen. Earlier on, as we saw, he bowed himself down in the dust because we reacted to these churches “too much from the outside, from a confrontational position. And we involved ourselves too little with the cultural and religious reality in which the GKs had to find their way.” But now that we’re talking about the heart of the deformation in the liberated churches, that is, how we deal with Scripture [8] , now we’re still a long way away from being Kuiterts or Den Heyers who completely farewelled the (reformed) faith. Because we still have not identified such ‘controversial’ theologians [in the GKv] things are not that bad, appears to be the liberated professor’s suggestion.

We should agree with Te Velde that we do not have extreme liberal figures in our midst, like Kuitert, Den Heyer, Rothuizen, Plomp. But those leaders were ‘in the beginning’ also not totally derailed. 
Maybe it is good to illustrate this with an example. In 1968 Kuitert wrote in the series: Cahiers voor de gemeente (Manuals for the congregation) the booklet Do you understand what you are reading? In that booklet he emerges as a man who in his dealings with the Bible wants to be genuinely reformed. He writes:

“There is probably no one in Reformed Protestantism who is thinking (or worse: who would have the intention) of attacking the confession of Holy Scripture. We show here once more the opening line of Article 5 of the Belgic Confession:  “We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.” By this confession reformed protestantism is recognisable. We can even add to our delight that also Roman-Catholicism, with which formerly the greatest differences existed at this point, more and more clearly than ever before has rediscovered and works with this confession of Scripture as the only source and rule of faith.

We should not regard the developments in both the reformist and roman-catholic christianity – and this is the point – as a movement that is keen to undermine Scripture and its authority. To the contrary, this movement is mainly interested in honouring Holy Scripture, to do justice to it by making it anew, and now today in the world of the 20th century, understandable both for the congregation and for the world.

The huge effort spent on Scripture since the nineteenth century (an expression of Abraham Kuyper) is a work that is expressly directed at the understanding of Scripture; and those who see and experience only trouble and misery from this labour, most certainly allow the Bible to give them only half of all the light and life that the Scriptures with their message of salvation contain. And conversely, the people who are prepared to spend only a little effort to become involved in all kinds of new issues of understanding and interpretation, see this effort so amply rewarded with new courage, with unexpected and highly liberating faith - for example, liberation from people fear - that they can not possibly exchange their new understanding any more for the old ."[9]

So far Kuitert.
Is not it marvelous? Kuitert among the prophets who emphatically defend the reformed confession at the point of the authority of Scripture? In our churches, too, we hear all the time similar affirmations with everything that is being raised as an objection. Relax, they adjure us, we’re only bringing our theology in harmony with the time, or as Kuitert put it, make it intelligible in our world.

But in the same book Kuitert appears no longer to regard Genesis 1 as a trustworthy record of God’s creative acting, but to take ‘evolution, cells and atoms’ as his starting point [10]. And with many commandments in Scripture you cannot do anything, according to him. The fourth commandment is totally obsolete, “the Sabbath commandment (given by God Himself!) we no longer keep” [11]. The exclamation mark is his. 
Miracles as bringing the sun and moon to a halt in Joshua 10?: “Although it does say so, we say today: Someone who wishes to claim that Joshua 10, 12 and 13 want to tell us that the earth is stationary and the sun rotates, has not understood what he is reading.” [12].


Just compare that with the situation in our churches. Today many theologians, ministers and church members adhere to the theistic evolution theory, by which Genesis 1 has been abandoned as a representation of the history of God’s creating work [13]. O yes, God is still the creator, but he should have put an evolution process into action by which after billions of years through natural selection, death and destruction, eventually the man, the first Adam, was born. This is how they try to reconcile the beginning of Scripture with the theories of science. Such ideas are freely propagated.

God’s commandments have lost their authority to a significant degree. In several churches the Ten Commandments are no longer read in the worship service or a

dabble of private interpretations is recited [14]. Theologians and preachers proclaim that the fourth commandment no longer applies in our society [15]. The same is true with regard to the seventh.

The miracles in the valleys of Gibeon and Ajalon were explained away cum laude in a dissertation at our university [16] .

These are just a few examples.  But they can be expanded with many others. [17]. That’s how it began in the sixties. No, we do not yet see in our churches the final consequences, as Kuitert and associates drew them. But that we are on our way following these synodical false teachers is unmistakeable. 
Now we can also have a better understanding of Te Velde’s humble attitude which we noted earlier. For that behoves us as we see the same trends in our churches we now understand and even appreciate positively

Te Velde


And the influence of evangelical thinking and acting should have been included to  get an adequate image. 
It is additional proof of a deficiency. Where has the actual faith of the ministers and church people been put in the picture? Where do I see the reality of the weekly church attendance and daily fellowship with God?

And looking at it from a more historical-sociological viewpoint I offer an alternative interpretation. The discoloration of the GKv is much more of the evangelical version of modernism than the rational variant. The first mentioned version is modernism as well, but of a different cut. Although pure doctrines and pure forms become less important, it is not one’s desire to no longer be orthodox. On the contrary. But a warm personal faith, and being a genuine practised christian in the reality of a secular world, are for the time being given priority. 
That is essentially, in spirit and direction, a very different movement.

That there is an evangelicalisation is undeniable. And we also do not want to dispute the good intentions of many church members. But it is at the same time difficult to recognise the positive image that Te Velde thinks to detect. For what is a faith without pure doctrines and pure forms? Is the professor thinking of, for example, a faith outside the confines of the reformed doctrine as expressed in the confessions? Something like ‘not the doctrine but the Lord’? A community in which we disagree about everything but would indeed be ‘one in Jesus’? A unity that is pressed upon us in the Council of Churches, at a ‘National Synod’ ? 
And what does that ‘genuine practised christian’ represent? Do we not notice great secularisation in the church? Just think of cohabitation before marriage, adultery and divorce, neglect of church services, greed, separation and individualism, etc. [18] ?

Could it also not be that the two movements, those of the evangelical and rational variant of modernism, however different they may be, somewhere get back together? Namely because they are growing in the same soil of autonomy and self-determination of man? I am in control of my life, thinking and feeling. I decide what I do and think. So that there is no reason at all to be optimistic about it?

Te Velde

There are (as always) both reformation and revolution present. That’s how mixed our life is. We never go by definition in the right direction. 

It is nice that Te Velde himself now uses the word ‘revolution’ after previously having rejected Dekker’s. But professor Te Velde is right, man is also in the church inclined to all evil, to revolution, which is rebellion against God. Unless he lets himself be guided by God’s Word and His Spirit. 
Dekker’s book is, however, not about the individual believer and his struggle to live in obedience to all the commandments, but about the direction of the church. And then the evangelical variant of modernity may be even more dangerous than the rational one, as the first comes in the attractive ‘format’ of wilfulness and own warm piety.

Te Velde


My conclusion can be short.

Determining for the GKv is not whether we are going ‘in the footsteps of the synodicals’. Nor whether we ‘remain true’ to everything we thought and taught in the seventies and eighties. Or that we seek salvation in the evangelical direction.

Determining is - and I agree with dr Dekker’s previously mentioned expression – that we let the light of the gospel shine on everything we encounter.
 And then follow the Lord Jesus. Very complex. But also very simple.

Pushing on happily!

Kampen, 1st March 2013

Mees Te Velde

It amazes me that professor Te Velde almost completely ignores the content of the final chapter of Dekker’s book, Evaluation, in which Dekker attempts to point the way the GKv should go. The way, as we have tried to show before, that is a way following the ideas of Bonhoeffer, and that may very well suit the current direction of the churches. Should Te Velde not have given that at least some, if not critical attention? 
How is it, for example, possible that Te Velde devotes not a single word to Dekker’s shrill remark that the GKv has never been up-to-date and has not noticed God’s progress in the world? Should that not cut him to the heart as one of the main responsible persons for a large part of the developments and changes in the GKv? 

Sure, we are ordered to “let the light of the gospel shine on everything we encounter.” The light of the Word. But the problem is that we become hopelessly divided on its content and authority. That is the great difficulty in today’s liberated-reformed churches.

Pushing on happily following the Lord Jesus?
Yes, but not in the footsteps of the synodicals.

To be continued


[1] With minor textual corrections.

[2] For those who first want to read the speech without being interrupted by our questions and concerns, go to 

[3] See for example, Lied tegen het licht (Song against the light), J.P.C. Vreugdenhil and H. Vreugdenhil-Busstra.

[4] This is what prof. Te Velde said in 2011 as adviser at the Synod of Harderwijk: “We are unable to make unanimous decisions in this matter. We have to make decisions like: ‘this is how we do it together’, ‘what is wise’, ‘what will we do where and not the same everywhere’. That is a healthy approach and church-orderly correct. Otherwise we will for ever get fat documents and reports.” And: “... the key question: ‘Is it lawful to admit women to the office of minister, or elder or deacon’? Many books can be written about it. Every three years again another book from and a study at the TU. But that bookcase will not lead to clear statements if that clarity is lacking in the church council and in the churches.” (See Synod report, week 23 - Women in office? 1, section: Synod Reports) 

[5] See Vertrouwen gevraagd – In een model (Trust requested - In a model (6)), in section TU Kampen. Other episodes of this series can be found at

[6] An example. In 1997 prof. C.J. den Heijer published the book Verzoening (Reconciliation), in which he denies and despises reconciliation through satisfaction. Two synods of the GKs (1997 and 2000) examined it but did not condemn the professor.

[7] H. Berkhof: “In little more than a quarter century the Reformed Churches have changed so fundamentally as I have not seen anywhere else in this century in the West European Reformed churches.” 

[8] The new hermeneutics, the manner of interpreting Scripture.

[9] Kuitert, H.M, Verstaat gij wat gij leest? (Do you understand what you are reading?), p 11, 12

[10] as above p 25

[11] as above p 8, 9

[12] aw p 25, 26.

[13] For example, rev. J.J.T. Doedens in Woord op Schrift; prof. dr.  J Douma in Genesis.

[14] For example, Sunday 03/12/13 at GKv Drachten South-West: ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all that is in you. This is the great and first commandment. And there is also a second, of exactly the same weight, is it equivalent, it is the commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.” Without reference to the Ten Commandments, and dressed up in the summary of the Lord Jesus.

[15] For example, rev. W. Wierenga, Geen geboden rustdag meer? (No longer a commanded day of rest?) He also rejects that the Ten Commandments should still apply to the New Testament church of today.
Also rev. A.H. Verbree (GKv Gramsbergen) in Nederlands Dagblad 27/04/13: “The Old Testamentic absolute nature of the Fourth Commandment does not, after Pentecost, fall away de facto but also de jure, together with the legal abolition of theocracy as a model of the state.”

[16] Dissertation of dr. K van Bekkum, From Conquest to Coexistence.

[17] Those who wish to have a quick overview of the major problems that are current in the GKv should read the Letter of admonition of the FRCA, the Australian sister churches (section: Kerkverband)

[18] Dr. H.J.C.C.J. Wilschut in Afscheiding? (Secession?), p43: “Looking for the actual front in all the problems and controversies, you will come (in my opinion) to the devastating impact of secularisation, through which the GKv are gradually threatened to lose the character of reformed churches - if this development continues. In actuality, this secularisation becomes apparent in man-centred thinking and acting.”