What to say to an abused child (of God): “You are beautiful. … You are the handiwork of the Creator. You are his best art, his poem, his portrait, his image, his face – and his child.” – W. Wangerin

little-lamb-wangerinOver the last few weeks we have been sharing with you some quotes from Walter Wangerin’s Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004).

As I have related, Wangerin is a master storyteller and a master with words. There are chapters here that make you laugh out loud (like the description of his son’s cartoon of his father’s nose – a caricature that came back to haunt the son when he grew into an adult and grew the same nose), and others that will make you weep. The author does not gloss over sin, even hard sin in the church and in Christian families, nor does he sugar-coat the effects of sin.

The section that bears the title of the book is actually a powerful statement (hardly the right word) about sexual abuse a young girl suffered. He writes forcibly to the perpetrator, calling him to deal with his sin and take full responsibility for it. But he also writes pastorally to the girl, calling her to see herself in Christ as God’s child and His beautiful creation. The end of this chapter is one of the most powerful in the book. I leave it with you this evening.

And you, the child whom he ravaged, must not call yourself ugly. You aren’t. His action does not define you.

You, child: you are soft as the blue sky. Touch your cheek. Do you feel the weft of life there? Yes: God wove you more lovely than wool of the clouds, smoother than petals of lily, sweeter than amber honey, brighter than morning, kinder than daylight, as gentle as the eve. Listen to me! You are beautiful. You are beautiful. If you think you’re ugly, you’ve let a fool define you. Don’t! Touch your throat. It is column of wind and words. Stroke your forehead. Thought moves through its caverns. Imagination lives in there. You are the handiwork of the Creator. You are his best art, his poem, his portrait, his image, his face – and his child.

And if the Lord God took thought to create you, why would you let a sinner define you?

God caused the stars to be, and then bent low to make you.

God wrapped himself in space as in an apron, then contemplated the intricacy of your hands; he troweled the curve of your brow; he fashioned the tug of your mouth and the turn of your tongue; he jeweled your eye; he carved your bones as surely as he did the mountains.

God conceived of time and in that instant considered the purposeful thump of your heart – and the blink of your eyelid.

God made galaxies and metagalaxies, the dusty infinitude of the universe – then filled your mind with dreams as with stars.

You are not an accident. You were planned. You are the cunning intention of almighty God. Well, then, shall you think ill of yourself? NO! You shall think as well of yourself as you do of any marvel of the Deity.

Please, my sister, do not allow a sinner to steal you from yourself. You are too rare. No matter what filth has befouled you, your soul is unique in the cosmos. There is none like you. Whatever thing you admire – a leaf, a little cup, a sunset – you are more beautiful.

Sleep peacefully, you. God loves you. And so do I. And so ought you in the morning light, when the dew is a haze of blue innocence, But sleep now, child, in perfect peace. You are God’s – and he spreads his wings above you now. [pp.101-102]

What’s New in the Seminary Library? April – June 2018 Additions

SemLibrary2

I recently completed my list of “significant additions to the PRC Seminary library” for the second quarter of this year (April – June). I began this two years ago for the benefit of the faculty and students as well as for the Theological School Committee.

You will notice that title says “significant additions.” The list I produce is not a complete list of everything added to the library in the last quarter, for there are actually many more (including small pamphlets and articles to the vertical files). But this list is designed to highlight some of the more significant titles in various categories, so that these titles are representative of what we obtain for and add to our library.

By the way, these lists are now being published in our PR Theological Journal, although our last issue (Spring 2018) was too full and we had to leave the last two quarters out. Hopefully, we can catch up in future issues.

I hope this list not only gives you a feel for the quality of resources we are adding to our library, but also inspires you to find one to read and perhaps even add to your personal or family library.

RCS-Jeremiah

Commentaries (series)

  • Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41) & Vol.3 (90-150), John Goldingay; Tremper Longman, III. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, c2006.
  • Focus on the Bible Series:
    o A Commentary on the Song of Songs / Richard Brooks. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 1999.
    o Matthew: The King and His Kingdom / Charles Price. — Revised ed., 2012
    o Ephesians: Encouragement and Joy in Christ / Paul Gardner. – Revised ed.; Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2007.
  • The IVP New Testament Commentary Series:
    o Romans / Grant R. Osborne; Grant R. Osborne, ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2004 (vol.6)
    o 1 Corinthians / Alan F. Johnson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2004 (vol.7)
    o Ephesians / Walter L. Liefeld; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, c1997 (vol.10)
    o Hebrews / Ray C. Stedman; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1992 (vol.15)
    o James / George M. Stulac; Grant R. Osborne, ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1993 (vol.16)
    o 2 Peter and Jude / Robert W. Harvey; Philip H. Towner; Grant R. Osborne. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c2009.
  • Mentor Expository Commentary:
    o Jeremiah, Chapters 21-52: An Introduction and Commentary, Volume 2 / John L. Mackay (2004).
    o Ecclesiastes, Richard P. Belcher, Jr. (2017)
  • Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT & NT (IVP) – Jeremiah, Lamentations / J. Jeffery Tyler, ed.; Timothy George, gen. ed. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2018.
  • Tyndale NT Commentaries: The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary / F. Foulkes, W. B. Eerdmans, c1963, 1975.
  • Understanding the Bible Commentary: Matthew / Robert H. Mounce. — 1st-reprint-pb. — Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Books, c1991, 2011

BTI-NT-Realized

Individual Biblical Studies Titles

  • Has the Bible Been Kept Pure?: The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Providential Preservation of Scripture / Garnet H. Milne; David J. Engelsma. Australia: Independently published, 2017.
  • How to Study the Bible / John MacArthur. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, c1982, 2009.
  • Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well / Glenn R. Paauw. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016.
  • A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized / Michael J. Kruger. ; J. Ligon Duncan III. ; Guy Prentiss Waters. ; Michael J. Kruger. — 1st-hc. — Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016.
  • Coping with Change: Ecclesiastes / Walter C. Jr. Kaiser. Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2013.
  • The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament [Isaiah 53] / John MacArthur. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018.
  • Interpreting the Parables / Craig L. Blomberg, 1955-. — 2nd, rev. and expanded. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, c2012.
  • Paul: A Biography / N. T. Wright, (Nicholas Thomas). San Francisco: HarperOne, 2018.
  • A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians / C. K. (Charles Kingsley) Barrett, New York: Harper & Row, 1968 (Harper’s New Testament Commentaries)
  • The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians: An Exposition / Charles R. (Charles Rosenbury) Erdman, 1866-1960. ; Earl F. Zeigler. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1966. The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Exposition was also added (1966)
  • Be Joyful: A New Testament Study – Philippians / Warren W. Wiersbe. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, c1974.
  • First & Second Peter / Louis Barbieri. Chicago: Moody Publishers, c2003 (Everyman’s Bible Commentary)

fatal-discord

Church History/Biography

  • Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact / Marvin D. Jones; Michael A. G. Haykin, ed. — Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014 (Early Church Fathers (Christian Focus Publications)
  • Cyprian of Carthage: His Life and Impact / Brian Arnold; Michael A. G. Haykin. — Revised ed. Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland : Christian Focus, 2017 (Christian Focus Publications)
  • Irenaeus: Life, Scripture, Legacy / Sara. Parvis; Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, c2012.
  • The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity / Robert Louis Wilken. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012.
  • The Reformation / Cameron A. (Cameron Alexander) MacKenzie. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing House, 2017.
  • Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind / Michael Massing. New York, NY: Harper / HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.
  • Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist/ John H. Gerstner. Orlando, FL: Northampton Press, 2018.

belgconf-comm-DJE-2018

Creeds/Confessions/History of

  • The Belgic Confession: A Commentary, Vol.1 / David J. Engelsma. Jenison, MI : Reformed Free Pub. Association, 2018.
  • By This Our Subscription: Confessional Subscription in the Dutch Reformed Tradition Since 1816 / Roelf C. Janssen. Kampen: Theologische Universiteit, 2009.
  • The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith / Stanley D. Gale. Grand Rapids, MI : Reformation Heritage Books, 2018

life-in-christ-garcia

Dogmatics/Theology/Historical Theology

  • Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastic Theology / Richard A. (Richard Alfred) Muller (2nd ed.) — Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, c1985, 2017.
  • Canonical Theology: The Biblical Canon, Sola Scriptura, and Theological Method / John Peckham; Craig G. Bartholomew. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2016.
  • In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective / Joel D. Heck. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, c2011.
  • The God of Creation: Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 / Richard D Phillips. Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP BOOKS, 2018.
  • Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: With the Pertinent Documents from the History of the Reformation / Kurt Aland; Martin Luther, 1483-1546. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing
  • Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Life / Edward. Engelbrecht. St. Louis, MO : Concordia Pub. House, 2011.
  • Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology / Mark A. Garcia. ; David F. Wright. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008 (Studies In Christian History And Thought)
  • Being In Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Investigation in a Reformed Perspective / Hans Burger. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, c2009.
  • Peter Ramus and the Educational Reformation of the Sixteenth Century / Frank P. (Pierrepont) Graves. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1912.
  • Cartesianism in the Netherlands, 1639-1676: The New Science and the Calvinist Counter-Reformation / Thomas A. McGahagan — Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1976.
  • The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes / Mark. Dever; Steven J. Lawson. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018. (A Long Line of Godly Men Profile)
  • A Covenantal Confession: Geerhardus Vos and the Doctrine of the Covenant in the Westminster Confession of Faith / Eric B. (Brian) Watkins. Reformed Theological Seminary, 2009.
  • A Question of Consensus: The Doctrine of Assurance after the Westminster Confession / Jonathan. Master. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015.
  • Jus Divinum: The Westminster Assembly and the Divine Right of Church Government / John Richard. De Witt. Kampen : J. H. Kok, 1969.
  • Debating Perseverance: The Augustinian Heritage in Post-Reformation England / Jay T. Collier; Richard A. (Richard Alfred) Muller. New York : Oxford University Press, 2018 (Oxford Studies In Historical Theology)
  • 20th-Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age / Stanley J. (Stanley James) Grenz, 1950-2005; Roger E. Olson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, c1992.
  • Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, and Human Responsibility / John C. Lennox. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018.
  • Kept for Jesus: What the New Testament Really Teaches About Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security / C. Samuel Storms. Wheaton, IL : Crossway, 2015.
  • High King of Heaven: Theological and Pastoral Perspectives on the Person and Work of Jesus / Michael Reeves; Paul Twiss; Mark Jones; John MacArthur. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018.
  • Retrieving Eternal Generation / Fred Sanders, (Fred R.), editor; Scott R. Swain, editor; Donald A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c2017.
  • Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation / Peter Mead. — Revised-pb. — Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2015.
  • Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology in Conversation / Robert Kolb; Carl R. Trueman. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017.
  • New Calvinism: New Reformation or Theological Fad? / Josh Buice. ; Paul Washer; Steven J. Lawson. — Revised ed. — Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2017.
  • A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Mary: Mother of God? / Leonardo de Chirico. — Fearne, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2017.
  • Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches About Life to Come / Derek Thomas. Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2018.
  • The Pleasures of God / John Piper, Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, c1991.
  • Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status / James Anderson. Eugene, OR: Paternoster/ Wipf & Stock, 2007 (Paternoster Theological Monographs)
  • Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics / Oliver Crisp, editor. ; Fred Sanders, (Fred R.) , editor. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
  • God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of Priesthood / Andrew S. Malone. ; Donald A. Carson. London/ Downers Grove, IL : Apollos ;InterVarsity Press, USA, 2017 (New Studies In Biblical Theology) vol. 43

expository-exultation-piper
Practical Theology – Church government, Counseling, Family, Marriage, Missions, Prayer, Preaching, Sermons, Worship

  • Sunday / W. B. (William Bouverie) Trevelyan, 1853-. ; W.C.E. and Darwell Stone Newbolt. — London, New York, Bombay: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903 (The Oxford Library of Practical Theology)
  • Lutheran Worship: History and Practice / James Leonard. Brauer; Fred L. Precht. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, c1993.
  • Out of the Blues: Dealing With the Blues of Depression and Loneliness / Wayne Mack. Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing (MN), 2006.
  • Reformed Theology and the Style of Evangelism / John H. Leith. ; James C. IV Goodloe. — Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2010.
  • Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving / Bob Burns, 1950-. ; Tasha Chapman; Donald Guthrie. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2013.
  • Spiritual Leadership / J. Oswald (John Oswald) Sanders, 1902-1992. 2nd ed. Chicago: Moody Press, c1994 (Commitment to Spiritual Growth Series)
  • The Heart of an Executive: Lessons on Leadership from the Life of King David / Richard D. (Richard Davis) Phillips. New York: Doubleday, c1999.
  • Leading One Another: Church Leadership / Bobby Jamieson; Mark Dever; Jonathan Leeman. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012 (9Marks: Healthy Church Study Guides)
  • God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer / Bart D. Ehrman. New York: HarperOne, c2008.
  • A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Foundation for a Vibrant Church / William Boekestein; Daniel R. Hyde; Cornelis P. Venema. Welwyn Garden City, UK: Evangelical Press, 2015.
  • Elders and Deacons and Saints, Oh My!: Defining Biblical Roles, Structure and Organization for a Team Ministry That Achieves the Fivefold Purpose of the Church / James Kirkland. Bloomington, IN: Crossbooks, 2011.
  • God’s Solutions to Life’s Problems: Radical Change by the Power of God / Wayne A. Mack; Joshua Mack. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2014.
  • Broken Vows: Divorce and the Goodness of God / John Greco. Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2013.
  • Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching As Worship / John Piper, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018.
  • Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Loss / Paul. Tautges. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 2014 (Practical Shepherding)

Misc. (Apologetics, Culture, Education, Music, Politics, Science, World Religions, etc.)

  • God Among Sages: Why Jesus Is Not Just Another Religious Leader / Kenneth R. Samples. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017.

Periodicals (Old & New)

  • Davenant Digests (from Davenant Institute)
  • Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology

The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil (3)

no-other-macarthur-2017We conclude tonight our look at chapter three of John MacArthur’s recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation Trust, 2017). In this chapter MacArthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

Last time we looked at this chapter we saw how the author explained that God is absolutely sovereign over all things, including evil – evil events, evil people, and evil angels (Satan and his host – he points to Job and Peter as biblical examples). But we also said we would return to hear his answer to the questions of why and to what end or purpose God determines and controls evil. In his own words, “Why did God permit evil in the first place? Why does He sovereignly, willingly allow it to keep infecting and distorting His creation? In His unfolding, preordained plan, what is the presence of evil accomplishing?”

To which he answers in the first place:

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul gives us the answer. He writes, ‘If our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?’ (Rom.3:5). Our unrighteousness demonstrates (Greek sunistemi) the righteousness of God.

…Unrighteousness therefore puts God’s righteousness on display. Paul again says, ”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8). The presence of sin allows God to demonstrate His righteousness and love. How else could He show the character of His great love that rescues enemies and sinners if there were no enemies and sinners? ‘What if God, although willing [i.e., determining] to demonstrate [Greek endeiknumi] His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?’ (Rom.9:22). He demonstrates His righteousness against the backdrop of sin and evil, showing, by contrast, how utterly holy He is. God demonstrates His love at a level that would have been impossible without sin. We see and appreciate the radiance of God’s love more, having endured the darkness and distress of a universe cursed by evil. ‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them’ (Isa.9:2). The presence of evil provided the perfect opportunity for God to display His wrath and justice along with His redeeming grace and infinite mercy, as He loved sinners enough to send His Son to die in their place.

And, as he goes on to show, the second and more important reason is that God might glorify Himself. Referring again to Romans 9:22, he writes:

Literally, the verse’s phrasing is ‘God determined to demonstrate for Himself.’ God demonstrates His attributes for the sake of His own glory. Without sin, God’s wrath would never be on display. Without sinners to redeem, God’s grace would never be on display. Without evil to punish, God’s justice would never be on display. And He has every right to put Himself everlastingly on display in all the glory of all His attributes. [pp.62-63].

Praying the Passion Psalms with the Messiah – D.Bonhoeffer

Book of Psalms

God’s holy history [cf. our previous post on the section “Holy History”] comes to fulfillment in the sending of the Messiah. According to Jesus’ own interpretation, the Psalter has prophesied of this Messiah (Luke 24:44). Psalms 22 and 69 are known to the church as the passion psalms.

Jesus himself prayed the beginning of Psalm 22 on the cross and so clearly made it his prayer. Hebrews 2:12 places verse 22 in the mouth of Christ. Verse 8 and verse 18 are direct predictions of the crucifixion of Jesus. David himself may have once prayed this Psalm in his own song. If so, he did this as the king, anointed by God and therefore persecuted by men, from whom Jesus Christ would descend. He did it as the one who bore Christ in himself.

But Christ himself used this prayer and for the first time gave it its full meaning. We can thus pray this Psalm only in the fellowship of Jesus Christ, as those who have participated in the suffering of Christ. We pray this Psalm, not on the basis of our fortuitous personal suffering, but on the basis of the suffering of Christ which has also come upon us.

But we always hear Jesus Christ pray with us, and through him that Old Testament king; and repeating this prayer without being able to experience it or consider it in its deepest sense, we nevertheless walk with the praying Christ before the throne of God.

Quoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the tenth section, “The Messiah” (pp.36-37), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

Found: 3 Poisonous Books in a University Library – Atlas Obscura

Beware of poisonous books! Manuscripts laden with what – arsenic?!

Read on, as the folks at Atlas Obscura tell a tale of bookish woe – one of the few times we have to warn you about getting too close to books. 🙂

Here’s part of the story; visit the link below to read the rest.

The librarians at the University of Southern Denmark weren’t looking for poison. They just wanted to read the scraps of manuscript used to make the covers of three rare books from the 16th and 17th centuries.When they put the books under X-ray analysis, though, they found they had a real danger in their hands, they write at The Conversation. The books’ covers were suffused with arsenic.

For years, in the 19th century, arsenic was considered dangerous to eat but safe enough to use in other ways, including as dye in postage stamps that were meant to be licked or in green dresses worn to fancy balls. It was regularly used as an ingredient in green paint, to help the color last longer. Now, though, we know that when arsenic is used in paint, it’s still very dangerous. It can form microscopic particles that can make their way into people’s lungs. In some circumstances, arsenic paint can even give off a poisonous gas.

One of the most dangerous books ever created was meant to warn against exactly this danger. In the 1870s, an American doctor tried to raise awareness of the hazards of arsenic-laced wallpaper by creating a book of potentially poisonous samples and sending it around to libraries. The intent was to help people identify dangerous wallpaper in their homes, not to poison librarians. Today, only four copies of that book still exist, and they’re treated very carefully.

Source: Found: 3 Poisonous Books in a University Library – Atlas Obscura

Published in: on July 13, 2018 at 7:06 AM  Leave a Comment  

PRC History – H. De Bolster on Learning the Doctrine of Election from H. Hoeksema

Debolster-cover-2003A recent addition to the PRC Seminary library is a book that came with some things from bookseller Gary Vander Schaaf. The title is Struggles and Blessings: The Pilgrimage of Henry R. De Bolster (self-published in 2003).

Initially, the book did not capture my attention because it seemed only to be the personal story of another Christian Reformed Church minister. But when I started to catalog it, I learned that De Bolster had a PRC connection. Turns out he immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands after WW II, as did many Hollanders, and was sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Peter Alphenaar in Kalamazoo, members of the PRC in that city.

Thus, when he made his way to Grand Rapids with another young man (Henk De Raad), they came to attend (and eventually join) First PRC, where Herman Hoeksema was minister, along with H. DeWolf and C. Hanko. And, in fact, De Bolster and De Raad both began to pursue the ministry in the PRC, attending our Seminary in 1950.

Now you will remember that the early 1950s were tumultuous years in the PRC, as the controversy on the vital Reformed doctrine of the covenant was brewing (especially whether it was conditional vs. unconditional, and involving Dr. K. Schilder and many Dutch immigrants who came into the PRC and CRC during those years). De Bolster found himself in the middle of that controversy and ended up siding with Schilder and De Wolf (and many others), which meant he left the PRC and her seminary. The author has some harsh criticism of Hoeksema and the PRC related to that controversy and the way he claims he was treated. I will not quote from those portions of the book or comment on his portrayal of the controversy.

Rather, I will reference his favorable comments on Hoeksema, because early in De Bolster’s years in the PRC he had some good things to say about his minister and seminary instructor. Specifically, he has a positive perspective on what “HH” taught him about the doctrine of election. I quote:

The first few months of my study [in the PRC seminary] were enjoyable. Through Hoeksema’s teaching I gained a fresh and joyous appreciation of the doctrine of election. As a young man I always wondered whether I was one of the elect. I remember thinking about that question quite a bit. It made me restless. If I was not of the elect everything I pursued would be useless. It was all in God’s book.

Hoeksema made me see that election is the comfort God gives His people in a world of doubt and insecurity. I am your God and I shower all my gifts on you, even the gift of faith. You cannot believe without being elected, Hoeksema would say. Election is the way by which God allows His children to hear from God Himself that they are safe in His hand. Election is like the foundation of a house. When the foundation is secure, the house is solid and can weather any storm. Hoeksema reminded us that in order to get into that solid house you do not crawl through the foundation, but enter through the door. That door is Christ.

I had heard all this before but because of his constant emphasis on election this comfort permeated my consciousness. No matter what, the Lord will not forsake me, because I am His elected child. Election does not depend on my doing, it is the gracious gift of God. I cannot comprehend this with my finite mind, but God reveals it in his infallible Word. Thanks be to God!

Today we can be thankful that this emphasis was given to this young man (and to many others who heard “HH” preach) and that it influenced his faith and life for good. It shows not only how strongly Hoeksema emphasized this fundamental biblical truth in his preaching and teaching, but also how practical he made this truth in terms of comfort and assurance for believing souls.

“They took their Baby B to the steadfast arms of the Father so that whatever happened, the love of God would hold it.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

little-lamb-wangerinI mentioned last week that one of the books I took along on vacation for continued reading was Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004). While reading a couple more sections, I came on some great quotes. I shared one last week; tonight I give you another.

This one is from Part II of the book, where the author relates the raising of his own family while serving as a Lutheran pastor. In one of his churches Wangerin served as the godfather of a boy whom he calls “Baby B” (for Brandon – the chapter title is “I Love Thee, Baby B”). The boy became ill and crippled due to a tumor near his thighbone. While the parents and congregation were anxiously waiting for the biopsy and then the surgery, they joined  in prayer together for the child. Especially the parents.

Writes Wangerin:

You have bold parents, B. They are patient and faithful. Their patience may – as with silly physicians and sillier children – come sometimes to an end. But never their faith.

They said to the doctor, ‘Yes, schedule a biopsy. Schedule a biopsy. But we, in the meantime – we will pray for our son.’

We all prayed for you, then, Brandon Michael Piper. You won’t remember. But the aunts and the uncles, your parents and grandparents and godparents and the whole congregation of Grace commended to heaven both your big name and your little leg.

It is at this point that Wangerin has some marvelous thoughts on the nature of prayer for a sick child – thoughts that are applicable to all our trials.

Someone worried about the intensity of your parents’ praying. He said, ‘But what if the boy’s too sick? What if he doesn’t get well? Doesn’t it scare you that you might lose your faith if God doesn’t answer the prayer?’

But your parents said, ‘We will pray for our son.’

You see, Brandon, this was their faith: not that they felt God had to heal you on account of prayer, but rather that they wanted never to stand apart from God, especially not now. Yes, they were scared for you. But they were never, never scared of God, nor ever scared to lose God. They took their Baby B to the steadfast arms of the Father so that whatever happened, the love of God would hold it. Might there be a healing? Then give glory to God. Must there be a worse hurt? Then let the dear Lord strengthen everyone when strength would be most needed.

Their prayer was meant neither as a demand nor as magic, neither an ultimatum nor manipulation of the Deity. It was love. It was their highest expression of faith – not faith in your healing, Brandon (though they yearned that) but faith in God.

Which leads him to conclude with these words:

This is an important distinction which, in the future, you must remember. Your parents’ faith did not depend upon God’s ‘correct’ answer to their prayer. Instead, the reality of their prayer depended upon their faith. With prayer they encircled you as tightly as you do hug my neck on Sunday mornings – and behold: that circle of faith was the arm of the Almighty. [pp.83-84]

Do we “hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching”? (Hint: You will hear it on the Lord’s Day)

Acts2-42

Once more I am going to quote from the ninth chapter  of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). That chapter, from which I have quoted thrice already, is titled, you may remember, “God’s ecosystem.”

In that chapter Horton is stressing the organic idea of the church – the saints’ spiritual life together in Christ, which is ever being sustained and growing in God’s garden through the “ordinary” means of grace, especially the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments.

Toward the end of this ninth chapter, Horton stresses the vital importance of ensuring that the young people of the church (recall that last time we quoted something about the importance of having the children of the church in the worship services) not only have their times of fellowship and activity together, but that they also are taught well the doctrines of their faith, so that they are grounded in Christ and His truth. In that connection he makes some closing points about their life in the church too, which is applicable for them but for all of us who are members of Christ’s body in its visible form on earth.

Listen carefully to these words also:

But it’s not only a matter of the right content and method of instruction. [He is referring to good catechism teaching by the pastor.] We also grow more and more in our union with Christ and his body through intentional and structured social practices ordained by Christ. Recall the ordinary [There’s that key word again!] weekly ministry in Acts 2: ‘So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (2:41-42).

What place does my baptism have even now in daily life? What does this tell me about who my closest relatives are? Even more than husband and wife, we are brother and sister in Christ. Even more than children in a natural family, we are coheirs and adopted children together with the Father, in the Son, by  the Spirit. Am I the beneficiary of and submissive ‘to the teaching and the fellowship’ of Christ’s undershepherds? What is being given to me, done for me and to me, in the Lord’s Supper, as I am drawn out of my self-enclosed cocoon to cling to Christ in faith and to my brothers and sisters in love?

How do ‘the prayers’ shape my own participation in Christ and his body, so that even when I pray in private or with my family, I am still doing so with Christ and his church? Some of the prayers are sung as well. Do these songs make ‘the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Col 3:16)? Are youth group trips planned in sync with the wider church activities, or do they regularly draw the young people away from the church, even on occasion the ordinary public service on the Lord’s Day?

And then Horton closes this chapter with these inspiring words about our life together in the church in light of our glorious hope:

Yet it is especially in Christ’s body that the new world – the real world – comes alive to us. Observing the health, wealth, and happiness of the wicked, Asaph confesses, ‘My feet almost stumbled’ (Ps 73:2). But then he entered the sanctuary and everything began to fall into place (73: 16-28). Similarly, every time we hear God’s Word, witness a baptism, receive the Supper, and join in common confession, prayer, and praise, the familiar world of the work week seems like a passing shadow. Its siren songs become faint as we hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching. We begin to taste morsels of the wedding feast that is being prepared. Even through these ordinary means, something extraordinary has arrived, is arriving, will arrive. But we wait for it patiently [pp.187-89].

Does that not fill you with longing for the morrow, and another day in God’s house with His saints?! There is no greater privilege, no higher blessing than this. Do you “hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching”?

For God and Country – The U.S. 4th of July 2018

For our Reformed reflection on this Independence Day 2018, I reference again (I did so also in 2012) a pamphlet with the above title written by Rev. Aud Spriensma, a home missionary-pastor of Byron Center (MI) PRC and former chaplain in the U.S. Army. This pamphlet is based on a speech he gave shortly after the traumatic event of 9/11 in this country, when patriotism not only ran high, but when there also seemed to be a greater national consciousness of God and an openness to the gospel (which quickly waned).

As one who has served our country as a military chaplain and who serves the church as a Reformed pastor, Rev.Spriensma is qualified and equipped to address the calling we Reformed Christians have toward “God and country”. Hence, his speech and the printed pamphlet that followed.

I will quote only a small portion of it (different from the previous time); you may find the entire pamphlet here. It would make for good reading and discussion at some point today. May we remember today, as we celebrate our nations 242nd birthday, that we are to live as those who are both for God and for country – true Reformed patriots.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Fourth Book, especially chapter 20, John Calvin argues against the notion that government is a polluted thing with which the Christian has nothing to do. Calvin writes: “The political state has indeed functions directly connected with religion. Government protects and supports the worship of God, promotes justice and peace, and is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven; as necessary as bread and water, light and air; and more excellent in that it makes possible the use of these and secures higher blessings to men.”

Notice how important government is. Rather than disparaging it as something corrupt and something to be avoided, John Calvin says it “is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage … as necessary as bread and water, as light and air, and more excellent…” Over against the Anabaptists, Calvin insisted that government is not of Satan, but is God-given, a benevolent provision for man’s good, for which man should give God thanks.

We need to hear that. Perhaps our cynicism has not been as great since 9/11. But cynicism is always there. Now several years later, when we discover that the reasons we went to war were flawed, the cynicism is rampant. We are able to find all kinds of abuses in government and then laugh and put government down. As believers, we need rather to give thanks to God for government. John Calvin writes in his Institutes, “the function of the magistrate is a sacred ministry, and to regard it as incompatible with religion is an insult to God.”

Politics is a rotten, dirty business? Patriotism is an idolatry? Absolutely not! Rather, we must insist that it is only the child of God who can really be patriotic; the Christian makes the best citizen because he obeys for God’s sake. He is subject to the powers that be because he loves God. Not only is it true that a Christian should be patriotic, but ultimately it is only the Christian who is truly patriotic. That is the kind of patriotism that should be taught to our children.

“…Struck dumb by the impossible beauty” of God’s grace – W. Wangerin, Jr.

little-lamb-wangerinOne of the books I took along on vacation last week to continue reading was Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004. Mine is a first ed., hardcover).

As I have mentioned here before, Wangerin is one of my favorite Christian (Lutheran) authors. He has a way with words – sometimes humorous but always serious – as well as keen insights into the historic Christian faith and life. I came across some gems last week and decided to share a few of them here with you.

The first is taken from a chapter with the title “How Precious Did That Grace Appear,” which you may recognize as taken from the hymn “Amazing Grace.” As Wangerin describes his Lutheran confirmation ceremony (similar to our profession of faith), which involved answering questions about the Christian faith in front of the congregation (based on the Bible and the catechism of Luther), he relates the wonder of the truth of God’s saving grace – a blessed reality he came to experience more fully as he matured.

He tells of how he answered publicly and with conviction the question of his pastor “What is grace?” by quoting Eph. 2:8-9. But then, powerfully, he says this about the nature of the grace he just confessed:

I was a smart kid.

And yet I did not really know what I was talking about. I had just accomplished this most difficult task. I did it. Therefore, although I could speak well and wisely of grace, that was in itself the problem which condemned me: I could speak of grace, even glibly and casually. I was not struck dumb by the impossible beauty of the thing. I was not overwhelmed by the absolute absurdity, the flat illogic, the utter conundrum of this act of God.

Grace should not be.

In fact, by every moral and human right, grace cannot be.

Nevertheless, it is.

And without it, we die.

One ought to lay one’s hand upon one’s mouth in the presence of such a thaumaturge [that’s a great Greek-origin word to look up!] and answer nothing. One ought to confess that he has spoken without knowledge, that he has uttered things too wonderful for him, and so repent in dust and ashes.

But I was self-important in those days. I had not actually experienced love when I knew I didn’t deserve it.

Doctrine may teach us the definitions of our faith’s most fundamental truths; but the truths themselves elude us until we meet them ourselves and experience them: meet them, greet them, and find ourselves to be borne aloft by them. Then we know what hitherto we’d only learned by rote.

Wangerin is a faithful Christian husband and father and I highly recommend this book about his own godly rearing as a child and then his experience as a parent raising his own children. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will grow in the knowledge and experience of that “precious grace” of our perfect Father.

 

I have another gem for you – this time about praying for a sick child. Marvelous!