vrijdag 6 juni 2014

Groen van Prinsterer: A Dutch statesman who confessed the Gospel of Christ 4

Groen van Prinsterer and his significance for church and state
Groen van Prinsterer always remained a member of the national Dutch Reformed Church. After his return from Brussels to The Hague he visited the Walloon Reformed Church, a French speaking congregation belonging to the national church where the rev. Secretan was the minis­ter, just like Merle d’ Aubigné a man of the Reveil-movement, or the Reformed Church were the orthodox-Reformed rev. Molenaar prea­ched.
Although Groen could not follow the people that had separa­ted from the Dutch Reformed Church, he felt himself inwardly united with them. In this connection he distinguished between the national church as a community of true believers, and between the national church as an institution.
The people that had left ‘the insti­tution’ belonged, as Groen van Prinsterer saw it, still to the national Dutch Reformed Church as a community of true believers. To say it in other words: for Groen van Prinsterer the unity of the church both nationally and worldwide was first of all a unity of faith and not a unity in structures.
In this context he used to speak about ‘the Reformed persua­sion or party’ which united dissenters and orthodox and evangelical Christians in the Dutch Reformed Church and ultimately of true believers during the centuries and all over the world. The Reformed persuasion was for Groen van Prinsterer an expression to indicate the unity in the faith of the free grace of God revealed in Christ and applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit.
In the nineteenth century Dutch society Groen van Prinsterer was an advocate for the rights of the people of the Reformed persuasion in the church, the school and society. He looked forward to the restoration of the Reformed Church as ‘the soul of the nati­on’, in order that the dissenters could return to her.
His ideal was that in the Dutch constitution the Protestant character of the Dutch nation should be explicitly acknowledged. In a fierce way he turned himself against the harsh measures, which the government had taken against the dissenters. In 1837 he wrote his The measures against the Dissenters compared with constitutional law.
The government prohibited the meetings of the dissenters because they were seen as ‘a new religi­ous sect’, which could not claim religious freedom as stipula­ted by the const­itution which only guaranteed freedom for the existing religious persuasions.
But Groen van Prinsterer declared: ‘but the dissenters are no new religious sects, as they are members of the Reformed persuasion. It is very well known that they are Reformed, Reformed pre-eminently. Perhaps they are disloyal to the church as an institution, but surely they are loyal members of the Reformed persuasion, of the real church. The confession, which is the expression of the common faith, is the mark of this persuasion. The dissenters do not leave the Reformed confession, but they keep closely to it, they embrace it, if I may say it that way.’
The repression by the government of the dissenters was for Groen van Prinsterer the evidence that the so-called liberals were in fact very intolerant. The tolerance about which they spoke was only applied to those who held the views of the French Revolution.
So Groen van Prin­sterer could speak of the intolerance of the tolerant. Among other points, it is here that we perceive how very timely Groen van Prinsterer’s thoug­hts are. Everywhere in western society there are forces active that wish to impose to the whole of society their ideology of absolute equality.
By this ideology the differences between marriage and ‘other forms of living together’, and between the different positions of man and women in marriage, church and society are wiped out. When this ideology is not accepted they speak in a very misleading way of intolerance. Everyone who does not accept the ideology is considered as intolerant and sometimes it is suggested that they reject the ideology, must be compelled to be tolerant.