The Conclusions of Synod Utrecht (1905)

[as published in J. L. Schaver, The Polity of the Churches, 3rd edn (Chicago: Church Polity Press, 1947), 2.34–37]

A. Infra- or Supralapsarianism

In regard to the first point, infra- or supralapsarianism, Synod declares:

that our Confessional Standards admittedly follow the infralapsarian presentation in respect to the doctrine of election, but that it is evident both from the wording of Chapter I, Article 7, of the Canons of Dort and from the deliberations of the Synod of Dort, that this is in no wise  intended to exclude or condemn the supralapsarian presentation;

that it is hence not permitted to present the supralapsarian view as the doctrine of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, but neither, to molest anyone who personally holds the supralapsarian view inasmuch as the Synod of Dort has made no pronouncement  upon this disputed point.

Furthermore, Synod adds the warning that such profound doctrines, which are far beyond the understanding of the common people, should be discussed as little as possible from the pulpit, and that one should adhere in the preaching of the Word and in catechetical  instruction to the presentation offered in our Confessional Standards.

B. Eternal Justification

In regard to the second point, eternal justification, Synod declares:

that the term itself does not occur in the Confessional Standards but that it is not for this reason to be disapproved, any more than we would be justified in disapproving the term Covenant of Works and similar terms which have been adopted through theological usage;

that it is incorrect to say that our Confessional Standards know only of  a justification by and through faith, since both Gods’ Word (Rom. 4:25) and our Confession (Article XX) speak explicitly of an objective justification sealed by the resurrection of Christ, which in point of time precedes the subjective justification;

that, moreover, as far as the matter itself is concerned, all our churches sincerely believe and confess that Christ from eternity in the Counsel of Peace undertook to be the Surety of His people; taking their guilt upon Himself as also that afterward He by His suffering and death on Calvary actually paid the ransom for us, reconciling us to God while were yet enemies; but that on the basis of God’s Word and in harmony with our Confession it must be maintained with equal firmness that we personally become partakers of this benefit only by a  sincere faith.

Wherefore Synod earnestly warns against any view that would do violence either to Christ’s eternal suretyship for his elect, or to the requirement of a sincere faith to be justified before God in the tribunal of conscience.

C. Immediate Regeneration

In regard to the third point, immediate regeneration, Synod declares:

that this term may be used in a good sense, insofar as our churches have, over against the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches, always professed that regeneration is not effected through the Word or Sacraments as such, but through the Almighty and regenerating operation of the Holy Spirit;

that this regenerating operation of the Holy Spirit, however, should not be in such a way divorced from the preaching of the Word as if these two were separate from each other. For though the Confession teaches that we should have no doubt concerning the salvation of our children dying in infancy despite the fact that they have not heard the preaching of the Gospel, and though our Confessional Standards nowhere express themselves about the manner in which such regeneration takes place in these and other children, it is, on the other  hand, no less certain that the Gospel is a power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, and that in the case of adults the regenerating operation of the Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of the Gospel.

Even though Synod does not dispute that God is able also apart from the preaching of the Word as, for instance, in the pagan world to regenerate those whom He will, yet Synod judges that on the basis of the Word of God we are not able to make any declaration in respect to the the question whether this actually occurs, and that, therefore, we should adhere to the rule which the revealed Word offers us, and we should leave the hidden things to our God.

D. Presumptive Regeneration

And finally, in regard to the fourth point, presumptive regeneration, Synod

that according to the Confession of our churches the seed of the covenant, by virtue of the promise of God, must be held to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until upon growing up they should manifest the contrary in their way of life or doctrine;

that it is, however, less correct to say that baptism is administered to the children of  believers on the ground of their presumed regeneration, since the ground of baptism is found in the command and promise of God;

that furthermore, the judgment of charity with which the Church regards the seed of  the covenant as regenerated, does not at all imply that each child is actually born again, seeing that God’s Word teaches that they are not all Israel that are of Israel, and of Isaac it is said, “In him shall thy seed be called” (Rom. 9:6–7), so that it is imperative in the preaching constantly to urge earnest self-examination, since only he  that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

Moreover, Synod in agreement with our Confession maintains that “the  sacraments are not empty or meaningless signs, so as to deceive us, but visible signs and seals of an inward and invisible thing, by means of which God works in us by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Article 33), and that more particularly baptism is called “the washing of regeneration” and “the washing away of sins” because God would “assure us by this divine pledge and sign that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are outwardly washed with water”; wherefore our Church in the prayer after baptism “thanks and praises God that He has forgiven us and our children all their sins, through the blood of His beloved son Jesus Christ, and received us through His Holy Spirit as members of His only begotten Son, and so adopted us to be  His children, and sealed and confirmed the same unto us by holy baptism”; so that our Confessional Standards clearly teach that the sacrament of baptism signifies and seals the washing away of our sins by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, that is, the justification and renewal by the Holy Spirit as benefits which God has bestowed upon our seed.

Synod is of the opinion that the representation that every elect child is on that account already in fact regenerated even before baptism can be proved neither on Scriptural nor on confessional grounds, seeing that God fulfills his promise sovereignly in His own time, whether before, during, or after baptism. It is hence, imperative to be circumspect in one’s utterances on this matter, so as not to desire to be wise beyond that which God has revealed.

The Conclusions of the Synod of Utrecht, the Netherlands, were adopted there in 1905. In 1908 our agreement with these Conclusions was declared (Acts 1908. Article 58, pp. 81ff.). They are published in Supplement XII of the Acts of that year. For their official translation see Acts 1942, pp. 79, 352–54. [Editor’s note: The Conclusions of Utrecht were re-affirmed by the CRCNA in 1962 but were “set aside,” in 1968.

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