ARTICLE 27: False Doctrine

To ward off false doctrines and errors which could enter the congregation and constitute a danger to the purity of its doctrine or conduct, the ministers and elders shall use the means of instruction, of refutation, of warning, and of admonition, in the ministry of the Word as well as in Christian teaching and family visiting.

Texts of Implementation
Texts of Application
Bible Translation

GS 2016 – Article 111

3. Considerations

3.4    The appeal of Burlington-Fellowship gives reason to look back at the history of Bible translation committees in the CanRC. From the beginning years of the CanRC, Bible translation has been treated as a matter of the churches in common. Further, it has been the understanding that only translations recommended by a synod should be used. GS 1954 recommended only the KJV be used in the churches (GS 1968, p. 75[1]). Because GS 1954 had made this decision, it was deemed necessary for GS 1968 to speak to the matter of considering the RSV (GS 1968 Art. 45). GS 1968 appointed a committee to study the RSV, but indicated that churches should not use it until the study was completed. GS 1977 (Art. 107) left it in the freedom of the churches to use only the RSV and KJV. It added the NIV and NASB to the list of translations to be studied. GS 1980 added the NASB to the list of recommended translations (Art. 111 C.3). This synod finally recommended the RSV for use “in the worship services and for catechism instruction in order to come to uniformity of practice.” GS 1989 (Art. 88 D.2.a) instructed the CBT to study the NRSV. GS 1992 (Art. 35 IV) instructed the CBT to study the NASB, NIV and NKJV to determine which one translation can be positively recommended for use in the churches. This shows that since the beginning of the CanRC the understanding has been that only translations recommended by general synods should be used. The decision of GS 1995, referenced by Burlington-Fellowship, “to leave it in the freedom of the churches if they feel compelled to use another translation,” should not be read in isolation of the decisions of previous synods. Burlington-Fellowship therefore overstates the case when it speaks of a “hierarchical tendency of synodicalism” in the language pertaining to Bible translations since GS 1995.

3.5    While the matter of Bible translations is not prescribed in the Church Order, the churches have considered it beneficial to appoint a committee for evaluating Bible translations. The existence of such a committee has never been challenged. The task of evaluating Bible translations benefits from brothers with expertise in the matter. The recommendations of the CBT and the decisions of synods ultimately are advisory, as is evident in the way a synod does not prescribe but recommends translations for use in the churches. This approach has led to the situation where currently four translations are used in the federation, namely, the ESV, NIV1984, NASB and NKJV. Since the matter of Bible translation is not addressed in the Church Order nor specified in the confessions, a general synod may not forbid a church from using a particular translation.

4. Recommendations

That Synod decide:

4.1    To thank the Committee for Bible Translation (CBT) for its work and appoint a committee with the following mandate:

4.1.1     To solicit, receive and evaluate comments from the churches on the ESV;

4.1.2     To submit worthy translation changes to the ESV editorial committee;

4.1.3     To prepare and distribute a report to the churches in advance of the next Synod.

4.2    To recommend the ESV for use within the churches;

4.3    To acknowledge that while it may not be possible to recommend the NIV2011, a general synod may not forbid churches to use it if they so desire;

4.4    To consider the above as answering the appeal of Burlington-Fellowship.


[1] Being a reference to “Report of Advisory Committee III on the Revised Standard Version” in connection with GS 1968 Art. 45. The reference to GS 1954 would be Article 71.

GS 2013 – Article 97

4. Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

4.1.      To thank the CBT for their work.

4.2.      To refrain at this time from recommending the NIV2011 for use or testing in the churches.

4.3.      To recommend to the churches the use of the ESVand leave it in the freedom of the churches to use the NKJV, NASB or the NIV1984.

4.4.      To mandate the CBT as follows:

4.4.1.   To provide a thorough study of the effects of gender-inclusive translation philosophy in the NIV2011 and the ESV, comparing also the earlier findings on this subject by the CBT on the NRSV in 1992, to ascertain whether anything is lost from God’s revelation in the use of this philosophy and how it has affected each translation.

4.4.2.   To provide a thorough study of the ESV with special attention to its readability and to what degree the concerns expressed by previous iterations of the CBT about the RSV remain a concern in relation to the ESV.

4.4.3.   To solicit, receive and evaluate comments from the churches on the ESV, to submit worthy translation changes to the ESV editorial committee and monitor the response.

4.4.4.   To send the committee’s critical remarks and suggestions for improvement on the five texts pertaining to women in office (see Observation 2.10.4) to the CBTNIV and monitor the response.

4.4.5.   To serve the next general synod with a report sent to the churches at least six months prior to the next general synod.


Creeds and Confessions

GS 2016 – Article 123

3. Considerations

3.1    Burlington-Rehoboth is correct in pointing out that GS 2013 decided to change the wording of CO 59 to line it up with the wording of HC LD 27 Q&A 74 and supported its decision with a reference to GS 2007 Art. 172.

3.2    There is one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Our confessions do not distinguish between the meaning of baptism as it is applied to infant children of believers or to adults who have come to faith in Christ.

3.3    There is very little difference between the meanings of the words “engrafted” and “incorporated.”  These words are so close in meaning as to be interchangeable.

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide:

4.1    To deny the appeal of the Burlington-Rehoboth CanRC.


GS 2013 – Article 125

4. Recommendations:

That Synod decide:

4.1.      Heidelberg Catechism

4.1.1.   To adopt the recommendation of the SCBP to change the relevant sentence in the Preface/Introduction to read: “The National Synods of the sixteenth century adopted it as one of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed Churches…”

4.1.2.   To not approve the proposal of the SCBP to change the wording of Answer 115;

4.1.3.   To not approve the proposal of the church at Carman-West to include the full text reference “Matthew 22.37-40” in Answer 4;

4.1.4.   To adopt the recommendation of Carman-West to change the word “displeased” to “angry” in Answer 10;

4.1.5.   To not approve the recommendation of Carman-West to change the wording of the Apostles’ Creed in Answer 23 of the Catechism and in the ecumenical creeds section of the Book of Praise;

4.1.6.   To not approve the recommendation of Carman-West to change the word “death” in Answer 43;

4.1.7.   To not approve the recommendation of Carman-West to add the words “and broken” in Answer 75;

4.1.8.   To adopt the recommendation of Carman-West to change the words “everlasting life” to “eternal life” in Answer 75;

4.1.9.   To mandate the SCBP to increase the font size of the Heidelberg Catechism to make it the same as the other confessions;

4.2.      Belgic Confession

4.2.1.   To adopt the recommendation of the SCBP to remove the word “symbolical” from the Preface/Introduction;

4.2.2.   To approve the correction of the historical inaccuracy in the Preface/Introduction as the SCBP proposes;

4.2.3.   To adopt the recommendation of the SCBP to change the word “impulse” to “will” in Article 3 of the Belgic Confession;

4.3.      Canons of Dort

4.3.1.   To approve the SCBP’s correction of the introductory words to the Rejection of Errors after Chapter 1, to read “election and reprobation” instead of “the perseverance of the saints”;

4.4.      Church Order Article 59

4.4.1.   To adopt the recommendation of the SCBP to change “engrafted” to “incorporated” (Article 59 CO);

4.5.      Mandate Clarification

4.5.1.   To decide that all requests concerning factual errors, grammatical, typographical or other minor stylistic matters throughout the Book of Praise may be addressed by individuals or churches to the SCBP for their consideration and possible suggestion for change to a future synod. All requests concerning other changes to the contents of the Book of Praise (e.g. translation of confessions, changes to metrical psalms, rewording and rhyming of psalms and hymns, changes to liturgical forms) need to arise out of the churches in the ecclesiastical way, namely from consistory to classis to regional synod and general synod.


GS 2010 – Article 160

3. Considerations

3.1       While it is true that the original Greek text makes frequent use of the conjunction “and,” proper English usage does not always require its translation.

3.2       It is hard to see that the absence of this one instance of a conjunction in the Lord’s Prayer leads to an incorrect interpretation.

3.3       The request to change the English text of the NIV when it comes to the Lord’s Prayer would set a precedent and may well lead to more requests to depart from this recommended translation for what some would consider questionable reasons.

3.4       To change the text of the Lord’s Prayer in Lord’s Day 45 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is taken from the NIV, would represent an overreaction on our part.

3.5       It is clear from Ancaster’s letter that an elaborate interpretation is connected to this one instance of a missing conjunction and that not all biblical scholars would agree with this interpretation.

3.6       It should be noted that Ancaster’s letter is in regard to the text of the Heidelberg Catechism as found on the Canadian Reformed website and not the text in the 2006 edition of the Book of Praise. The future editions will follow the NIV text.

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide not to grant the request of the Church of Ancaster.


GS 2007 – Article 172

2. Observations

2.2   Lord’s Day 27, Answer 74, “… adults. Therefore, by baptism… they must be grafted into the Christian church.”

2.2.1   The committee notes that here the image of “grafting” is used, which probably has been taken from John 15. This gives the impression that a foreign element is included. The original German text is slightly different: “they, by baptism, as the sign of the covenant, also must be incorporated in the Christian church and from the children of unbelievers distinguished.” Here the difference is made between “belonging” to the covenant, and being “incorporated” in the covenant. The word “belonging” indicates the status, while the words “being incorporated” refers to the action that makes the status official. Children of believers are from the beginning in God’s covenant. However, through baptism they are officially included in the covenant and registered as such.

2.2.2   The committee therefore proposes to use the word “incorporated” rather than “grafted,” reflecting the original text.

2.2.3   The committee notes that if the above proposal is adopted, then the phrase “by baptism ingrafted into” in the form for the excommunication of communicant members (2nd line of the first announcement and 3rd line of the second announcement) should then be changed to “by baptism incorporated into.”

2.3   Proposed phrasing of Lord’s Day 37, A. 102 (13.2 of report):

2.3.1   The committee opines that the current phrasing “calling upon God” is linguistically problematic. This phrasing was compared with the original German while also proper language flow in English was considered. A literal translation does not work in this instance. In addition, the committee is of the opinion that the last line also requires changing. As it stands, “creature” receives the emphasis while the intention is to emphasize “honour.” The committee recommends that synod adopt the reworded Answer 102: “No, for a legitimate oath is an appeal to God, who alone knows the heart, to testify to the truth, and to punish me if I swear falsely. This honour does not belong to any creature.”

2.3.2   London is not convinced of the argument of the committee. The confessions, whose language and content is on the hearts and lips of the members of the churches, should only be changed when there is good and convincing reason to do so.

2.3.3   Fergus Maranatha opines that our current formulation is adequate and need not be changed. In fact “calling upon God” is preferred over “an appeal to God” and is more in line with the previous question and answer.

2.3.4   Orangeville is not in favour of the committee’s proposal to change the last line of the answer to “This honour does not belong to any creature” since this proposal removes the emphasis from the fact that no creature is worthy of such honour.

3. Considerations

3.1   re 2.2 – The committee’s suggestion is convincing.

3.2   re 2.3 –

3.2.1   the wording “a calling upon God” treats the verb “to call” as a noun. As such, though not wrong, it is linguistically awkward. The “calling upon God” is more in line with the previous Lord’s Day which is also about the third commandment. London is correct in stating that the wording of the confessions should not easily be changed.

3.2.2   The committee’s suggestion that “honour” should receive the emphasis in the last line of A. 102 is not convincing. The answer as a whole highlights the vast difference between God and creatures, and thus our current formulation is adequate.

4. Recommendation

Synod decide:

4.1   To adopt the proposal as found in observation 2.2.2 and 2.2.3.

4.2   To not adopt the proposals of the committee in observation 2.3.1.


Capitalization of (Divine) Pronouns

GS 2013 – Article 178

3. Considerations:

3.1.      Spring Creek has clearly demonstrated (Observations 2.2 and 2.6) that the matter of capitalization of pronouns referring to God has a long history in our federations of churches. Capitalizing referent pronouns, however, had not been closely scrutinized as a legitimate practice prior to the synods of 2007 and 2010.

3.2.      Spring Creek claims (Observation 2.3) that “Synod Smithers 2007 made the wisest choice… and Synod Burlington 2010 was not justified in overturning it.” This claim is a matter for debate. Synod Smithers 2007 approved the capital referents primarily on grounds of “past practice” (Observation 2.8). Synod Burlington 2010 overturned for the more compelling reasons involving the original languages, usage and biblical norms (Observations 2.8, 2.9).

3.3.      Spring Creek notes that the original languages don’t reflect the call to capitalize referents (Observation 2.10). They also cite the fact that English usage “allows for” the use of capital referents. It could be argued then, that neither the original languages, nor the conventions of current language require the capital referents. It remains, then, a personal preference rather than a matter of fully considering evidence.

3.4.      Spring Creek correctly notes (Observation 2.10) that both capitalizing and not capitalizing referents will lead to obscurity/ambiguity and subsequent interpretation. Spring Creek has not proven its claim that more obscurity results when capital referents are not employed.

3.5.      A key element in Spring Creek’s appeal is that using capitals to refer to God’s pronouns is a legitimate way to give honour to His name. In Spring Creek’s view, “The sole purpose of capitalizing is to give recognition to the unique character of the Divine referent, namely, that he is the one, true God.” Moreover, they state that “we should use every means at our disposal to bring such honour… to God.” The element of praising God was, in fact, dealt with by Synod Burlington 2010, but it was deemed insufficient grounds to offset the other arguments presented. The onus is on Spring Creek to prove (with Scriptural, church orderly or confessional evidence) that Synod Burlington 2010 erred in its decision to remove the capital referents to God. Thus Spring Creek’s evidence only amounts to preference.

4. Recommendation:

That Synod decide to deny the appeal of the Spring Creek church.


GS 2010 – Article 109

3. Considerations

3.1       Synod Smithers bases its recommendation on four considerations. Closer scrutiny reveals that this recommendation really hinges on one recommendation namely 3.4 “While the points of Observation 2.4. have merit, to capitalize is consistent with how the pronouns have been capitalized in our forms in the past.” To base capitalization on what is done in the Forms in the Book of Praise instead of sound principles of biblical interpretation constitutes a very weak ground or consideration.

3.2       It needs to be noted that the former recommended translation in our federation, the RSV, and the current recommended translation in our federation, the NIV, do not capitalize pronouns for God. It should also be noted that the oldest, dominant English version, the King James Version, does not capitalize pronouns for God either. (Surrey is mistaken in its reference to the RSV.)

3.3    Surrey is correct when its states that “the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic text of the Bible have no such practice, current rules of English usage avoid this, the NIV does not use this, and there are no known biblical grounds for this convention.”

3.4       Surrey also rightly comments “using an uppercase initial letter may obscure the immediate Old Testament referent.” As well, it mentions “in some texts of the Old Testament it is not clear who is in view when pronouns or metaphors are used that have God as their referent.” This shows that capitalization is not just a matter of translation but can so easily become a matter of interpretation, and a wrong interpretation at that.

4. Recommendation

That Synod decide:

4.1     To sustain the appeal of Surrey-Maranatha.

4.2       To instruct the Standing Committee for Publication of the Book of Praise to bring all pronouns for God in the entire Book of Praise into conformity with the NIV.



Verifying Teachings

GS 2016 – Article 94

4. Considerations

4.1    When a person or ecclesiastical assembly cites a public work, there is no obligation to contact the author to verify his views. When a person or ecclesiastical assembly makes judgments on a brother’s doctrine or conduct based on that brother’s public works, they ordinarily have an obligation to verify that they have accurately represented that brother’s views.

4.2    By failing to give br. Sikkema opportunity to respond to the statements made about him in their overture to COW, Hamilton-Providence has failed to act in a brotherly manner toward him. Synod agrees with RSE’s Consideration 1, that “[Hamilton-]Providence and Classis Ontario West March 11, 2015 erred in their dealings with br. Sikkema. He ought to have been given opportunity to respond to the statements made about him in the overture.”

4.3    RSE considers that Hamilton-Providence judged br. Sikkema “rashly and unheard.” This phrase comes from Lord’s Day 43, which deals with the ninth commandment, in which God requires that we do not “condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.” To judge someone rashly and unheard means that one has come to a hasty judgment without due consideration of his position.

4.4    Hamilton-Providence testifies that the office-bearers had been reading public writings of br. Sikkema, on the Reformed Academic blog and elsewhere for some time. These writings included not only statements made by br. Sikkema, but also responses that he and others have made to various questions and criticisms of their views. The office-bearers also read and considered br. Sikkema’s February 27, 2015 response to what was written about him in their overture to COW. Hamilton-Providence may not have come to a completely correct assessment of br. Sikkema’s views, but they have considered his teachings extensively and over quite a long period of time.

4.5    Synod considers that Hamilton-Providence’s failure to provide br. Sikkema with a copy of its overture to change BC Art.14 is a significant failure. When an ecclesiastical body makes charges against a brother, they are morally responsible to verify with him that they have represented him correctly.

4.6    Synod also considers that RSE overstated what Hamilton-Providence did when it used the words “rashly and unheard” in its judgment.

5. Recommendation

That Synod decide:

5.1    To send the above considerations as an answer to the appeal of Hamilton-Providence.

ADOPTED with delegates involved in judging this matter at previous assemblies abstaining.

Texts of Commentary
Bible Translation - Gender Neutrality

GS 2016 – Article 111

3. Considerations

3.3    The CBT has shown that the gender-inclusive translation philosophy in the NIV2011 does not result in losing anything from God’s revelation. This leaves the questions regarding texts pertaining to office. Brampton-Grace clearly shows that the primary texts pertaining to office are proper translations. Of the five problem texts brought forward, three of the texts (Phil. 1:14; 1 Tim. 2:12, and James 3:1) are acceptable translations. Only two (Romans 16:1,2 and 2 Tim. 2:2) remain problematic. Brampton-Grace has a valid point when it states that the NIV2011 should not be rejected on the basis of two problematic texts. Since the concern regarding the NIV2011 comes down to two problematic texts, there is no need to mandate the CBT to further study.

GS 2013 – Article 97

3. Considerations

3.5.      Synod Lincoln 1992 observed that the then-current report of the CBT flagged concerns about gender issues concerning the NRSV. The CBT stated, “…it is unacceptable for use in the Canadian Reformed Churches because its preoccupation with the gender issue has resulted in a translation that changes the intent of the text, hinders an understanding of prophecy and introduces new teachings” (Acts of Synod Lincoln 1992, Article 35, II.). It would be worthwhile for the present CBT to compare the CBT findings of 1992 on this issue with the translation philosophy and practice of both the NIV2011 and ESV to see whether any of those earlier concerns may hold for either or both of them.

Confessions, Doctrinal Affirmations, Position Papers, etc.

GS 2016 – Article 77

3. Considerations

3.3    The clarification by the URCNA regarding Doctrinal Affirmations is helpful for understanding the role of such statements in the URCNA. It is regrettable, however, that the URCNA maintains Doctrinal Affirmations which are binding on office-bearers. To the CanRC these still appear to be extra-confessional statements, and as GS 2013 stated, “the CanRC does not want to be bound by ‘extra-confessional’ statements” (GS 2013 Art. 129 Cons. 3.4).

GS 2016 – Article 90

3. Considerations

3.3    The Testimony of the RPCNA is to be appreciated for its presentation of Reformed doctrines and practice, but questions remain about some teachings of the Testimony. The RPCNA teachings regarding covenanting and exclusive psalmody were questioned by the CCCNA report and some of the churches. CO 50 stipulates that “on minor points of Church Order and ecclesiastical practice churches abroad shall not be rejected.” Covenanting and exclusive psalmody can be considered “minor points,” but they have confessional status in the RPCNA. RPCNA practice allows for “exceptions” to certain teachings, but this does not change that the Testimony includes points that would be disputed by the CanRC.

GS 2013 – Article 129

3. Considerations:

3.4.      It would be beneficial for the coordinators to seek clarification on the authoritative status and definitions of the different categories of doctrinal statements adopted by recent URCNA synods; for example, whether a “Doctrinal Affirmation” binds the church membership or ministers in any way. Further, clarity is needed on the categories in which the Nine Points and Fifteen Points are found and discussion should be continued on their content. It is important that the coordinators do not officially endorse the Nine Points or the Fifteen Points, as the CanRC does not want to be bound by “extra-confessional” statements.

Infallibility of Scripture

GS 2013 – Article 148

3. Considerations:

3.4.      The Scripture-critical views of Dr. Paas and Dr. van Bekkum are important because they are both on the teaching staff of the TUK and therefore directly involved with the training of ministers. The comment of the subcommittee – that we do not judge the personal faith of these brothers – is relevant and needs to be remembered and respected. What is most important, though, is that the people who sit in the pew every Sunday must be taught that the Bible is really true and that the events described in the Bible really took place. While synod expresses this concern, this does not take away our impression that most church members in the RCN hear solid Biblical preaching from Sunday to Sunday.

Binding Character of Exegesis

GS 2016 – Article 90

3. Considerations

3.4    Abbotsford is correct to observe that speaking of a “CanRC exegesis” is saying too much. The churches are bound to the confessions but not to a specific exegesis of a particular Bible passage.

Culture and Doctrine

GS 2016 – Article 104

3. Considerations

3.6    Synod recognizes that the GKv are facing many challenges in its Dutch context. To one degree or another, however, we all live in a cultural context that is hostile to God’s Word. Nevertheless, the authority of Scripture transcends culture and needs to be maintained in any cultural context.