Herman Hoeksema on the Twofold Kingdom | The Heidelblog

This interesting quotation from Robert Swierenga’s article, “Herman Hoeksema and the ‘Flag in Church’ Controversy,” was first published in Origins, the Christian Reformed Church archives-history periodical.

R. Scott Clark quoted a section from it on his blog last Friday (June 30, 2017), which I reference here. While Clark uses it in support of the Reformed “two kingdom view,” I find it also significant in connection with the Reformed view of church and state in light of our celebration of the U.S.A’s 241st birthday yesterday.

Here is a small portion of the quotation as found on “The Heidelblog”:

Hoeksema insisted that the Christian church, “as the manifestation of Christ’s body on earth, is universal in character; hence the church as an institution could not raise the American flag nor sing the national hymns.” The flag could be flown in the church edifice during choir concerts, Christian school graduation exercises, and similar events, but not during worship services. Members should also raise the flag at home, on the streets, and on all public and Christian school buildings. Hoeksema insisted that his congregants, as Christian citizens, “are duty bound to be loyal to their country” and to answer the call when needed for military service. Finally, he declared, “anyone who is pro-German in our time has no right to the name of Calvinist and is a rebel and traitor to his government.”

For the rest of the quotation by Clark, visit the link below.

I also did a post on this when this same article by Swierenga was republished in Leben magazine (the full article is now found online there). For that post, visit this link.

Source: Herman Hoeksema On The Twofold Kingdom | The Heidelblog

Jesus Christ: the True Fountain of Our Holiness

JCalvin1To prompt us toward righteousness more effectively, Scripture tells us that God the Father, who has reconciled us to Himself in His Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has given us in Christ a model to which we should conform our lives. You will not find a better model in the philosophers – in whom many expect to find the only correct and orderly treatment of moral philosophy. They, while doing their best to encourage us to be virtuous, have nothing to say except that we should live ‘ according to nature.’

Scripture, however, draws its encouragement from the true fountain. Its teaches us to contemplate our lives in relation to God, our Author, to whom we are bound. And, having taught us that we have fallen from the true state and condition of our original creation, Scripture adds that Christ, through whom we have been restored to favor with God, is set before us as a model whose form and beauty should be reflected in our lives.

What can be more effective than this? Indeed, what more is needed than this? We have been adopted by the Lord as children with this understanding – that in our lives we should mirror Christ who is the bond of our adoption. And truly, unless we are devoted – even addicted – to righteousness, we will faithlessly abandon our Creator and disown Him as our Savior.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017), pp.8-9 (slightly edited). For my previous post on this “golden booklet,” visit this page.

The Courage to Be Reformed – Burk Parsons

The May 2017 issue of Tabletalk magazine is a special one, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. With the theme “Why We Are Reformed,” the magazine highlights some of its history and some of the core doctrines of the Reformed faith it seeks to broadcast.

As pointed out in a previous post this month, featured articles are on God’s sovereignty (Derek Thomas), biblical authority (Stephen Nichols), justification by faith alone (Robert Godfrey), salvation by grace alone (Steven Lawson), God’s covenant people (Sinclair Ferguson), and a closing one on the courage to be Reformed (Burk Parsons).

It is that final article that I reference today, as we consider some of the thoughts of the editor (Burk Parsons) on what it means to be courageously Reformed in our day. For one thing, it means being like the Reformers of the sixteenth century:

The Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, along with their fifteenth-century forerunners and their seventeenth-century descendants, did not teach and defend their doctrine because it was cool or popular, but because it was biblical, and they put their lives on the line for it. They were not only willing to die for the theology of Scripture, they were willing to live for it, to suffer for it, and to be considered fools for it. Make no mistake: the Reformers were bold and courageous not on account of their self-confidence and self-reliance but on account of the fact that they had been humbled by the gospel. They were courageous because they had been indwelled by the Holy Spirit and equipped to proclaim the light of truth in a dark age of lies. The truth they preached was not new; it was ancient. It was the doctrine of the martyrs, the fathers, the Apostles, and the patriarchs—it was the doctrine of God set forth in sacred Scripture.

And so, Parsons calls us to be courageous – not as “closet Calvinists” – but as  truly confessional Calvinists, who love and live the Reformed faith in all of life – and not with the lip service of some in the Reformed and Presbyterian camp:

Reformed theology is also an all-encompassing theology. It changes not only what we know, it changes how we know what we know. It not only changes our understanding of God, it changes our understanding of ourselves. Indeed, it not only changes our view of salvation, it changes how we worship, how we evangelize, how we raise our children, how we treat the church, how we pray, how we study Scripture—it changes how we live, move, and have our being. Reformed theology is not a theology that we can hide, and it is not a theology to which we can merely pay lip service. For that has been the habit of heretics and theological progressives throughout history. They claim to adhere to their Reformed confessions, but they never actually confess them. They claim to be Reformed only when they are on the defensive—when their progressive (albeit popular) theology is called into question, and, if they are pastors, only when their jobs are on the line. While theological liberals might be in churches and denominations that identify as “Reformed,” they are ashamed of such an identity and have come to believe that being known as “Reformed” is a stumbling block to some and an offense to others.

That gives us good food for thought as we move into this new week as Reformed Christians. Are you and am I “TR” – truly Reformed – or is it just a hollow badge? And if we are truly Reformed in confession, does it show in all we say and do?

Source: The Courage to Be Reformed by Burk Parsons

A Look at Calvin College, Betsy DeVos’s Alma Mater – The Atlantic

As discerning readers, you know how much scrutiny our new United States Education Secretary, Mrs. Betsy DeVos, has generated (a West Michigan native). Not merely due to her wealthy background and associations, but also due to her strong Christian (and Reformed – Christian Reformed Church) background, Mrs. DeVos has come under the public’s critical eye, both during her confirmation hearings and now that she has begun her service as head of the Education Department.

That scrutiny now also includes her alma mater, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. In a major piece written by Emily DeRuy for The Atlantic on March 1, 2017, Calvin as both a Christian and Reformed college is closely reviewed. Her Kuyperian neo-Calvinistic philosophy is openly displayed, something our readers will also have a keen interest in.

Below is a portion of the article, available in full at The Atlantic link below.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—It would be easy enough to drive past Calvin College without giving Betsy DeVos’s alma mater a second thought. Six miles southeast of downtown, the school is a sprawling cluster of nondescript buildings and winding pathways in a quiet suburb. But to bypass Calvin would be to ignore an institution whose approach to education offers clues about how the recently appointed U.S. education secretary might pursue her new job, and about the tug religious institutions feel between maintaining tradition and remaining relevant in a rapidly diversifying world.

DeVos is now Calvin’s most famous alum, and in recent weeks, the school has been painted in some circles both online and in conversation as a conservative, insular institution that helped spawn a controversial presidential-cabinet member intent on using public dollars to further religious education. But that is a grossly simplified narrative, and one that obscures the nuances and very real tensions at the school.

And a bit further in her article DeRuy writes, referencing one of Calvin’s professors,

“Our faith commits us to engaging the world all around us,” said Kevin den Dulk, a political-science professor who graduated from Calvin in the 1990s, during an interview in the DeVos Communication Center, which sits across from the Prince Conference Center bearing the secretary’s maiden name. (Her mother, Elsa, is also an alum.)

Den Dulk’s words aren’t just PR fluff; it’s a concept borne out by the school’s 141-year history and the Dutch-influenced part of western Michigan it calls home. The Christian Reformed Church is a Protestant tradition that has its roots in the Netherlands and has been deeply influenced by the theologian Abraham Kuyper, a believer in intellectualism—specifically the idea that groups with different beliefs can operate in the same space according to their convictions while respecting and understanding others. “Fundamentalism is really anti-intellectual and Calvin is the exact opposite,” said Alan Wolfe, the author of a 2000 Atlantic piece about efforts to revitalize evangelical Christian colleges.

Source: A Look at Calvin College, Betsy DeVos’s Alma Mater – The Atlantic

The Prayers of J. Calvin (29)

JCalvin1On this third Sunday of Reformation month 2016 we return to our series of posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014, throughout 2015, and now in 2016), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979).

Today we post a brief section from his twenty-eighth lecture and the prayer that concludes it (slightly edited). This lecture covers Jeremiah 7:12-19, which includes Calvin’s comments on 7:15, “And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim”:

But we may hence learn this important truth, – that God had never bound Himself to any people or place, that He was not at liberty to inflict punishment on the impiety of those who had despised His favours, or profaned them by their ingratitude and their sins.

And this ought to be carefully noticed; for we see that it is an evil as it were innate in us, that we become elated and proud whenever God deals bountifully with us; for we so abuse His favours as to think that more liberty is given us, because God has bestowed on us more than on others. But there is nothing more groundless than this presumption; and yet we become thus insolent whenever God honours us with peculiar favours.

Let us therefore bear in mind what is taught here by the Prophet, – that God is ever at liberty to take vengeance on the ungodly and the ungrateful.

With that general comment, Calvin turns his attention to the Romish church:

Hence it also appears how foolish is the boasting of the Papists; for whenever they bring against us the name of the apostolic throne, they think that God’s mouth is closed; they think that all authority is to be taken away from His Word. In short, they harden themselves against God, as though they had a legitimate possession, because the gospel had been once preached at Rome, and because that place was the first seat of the Church in Italy as well as in Europe. But God never favoured Rome with such a privilege, nor has He said that His habitation was to be there.

…Now, since Shiloh and Jerusalem, and so many celebrated cities, where the gospel formerly flourished, have been taken away from us, it is not to be doubted but that a dreadful vengeance and destruction await all those who reject the doctrine of salvation and despise the treasure of the gospel.

Since then God has shewn by so many proofs and examples that He is not bound to any places, how stupid is their madness who seek, through the mere name of an apostolic seat, to subvert all truth and all fear of God, and whatever belongs to true religion (pp.382-383).

And so Calvin concludes this lecture with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we are inclined not only to superstitions, but also to many vices, we may be restrained by Thy Word, and as Thou art pleased daily to remind us of Thy benefits, that Thou mayest keep us in the practice of true religion, –

O grant, that we may not be led astray by the delusions of Satan and by our own vanity, but continue firm and steady in our obedience to Thee, and constantly proceed in the course of true piety, so that we may at length partake of its fruit in Thy celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of Thine only-begotten Son. Amen

Note to Self: Be Humble in Your Theology

A good theologian is humble.

…The more robust, the more detailed your theology, the more humble you should become. Why? Because you did not figure God out; he revealed himself to you. Don’t you remember the words of Jesus to Peter when the disciple correctly acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah? ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but m y Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt.16:17) The theologian owes his knowledge to God himself, who has not only made himself known in creation and Scripture but has also opened our eyes to understand and embrace the truth.

…You understand that you did not uncover the truth of God like some kind of rock star archeologist. He sought you, caught you, and gave you sight, knowledge, and life. Humility should be borne out of your theology because you are so entirely dependent on God for it.

…It’s possible to be technically accurate in your theology and yet miss the mark of humility. Be passionate for God, fight for truth, content for the faith, but be humble. Your knowledge is a cause to be humble, not a reason to boast in your insight or tradition.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.10 “Be Humble in Your Theology” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.54-55.

Monergism Reading Guide 2015

MonergismLogoMonergism.com, the beneficial website promoting articles and books of Reformed/Calvinistic persuasion, published this reading guide today and I think it is worth posting here, for the reasons they give (Christmas gift-giving) as well as for building your own personal library or church library. Check out the site at the link below.

And if you have never visited Monergism before, be sure to poke around a while – including in their free ebook section. The latest free offering? J.Calvin’s On the Christian Life in multiple formats – otherwise known as the Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life (Baker, 1952).

If you are giving books as a gift to your friends and family this year, we have compiled a list of some of the best classic and contemporary books for beginner, intermediate and advanced readers.  If you work through the books on this list you will be devotionally enriched and will be giving yourself a solid theological education that you would not get at the vast majority of seminaries. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but a good foundation.

Source: Monergism Reading Guide 2015 | Monergism

Love for the Church – and Her Discipline: Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerFor the November 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer, editor Prof.B. Gritters submitted his latest installment in the series “What It Means to Be Reformed” (#10). Treating the subject of “The Church: My Chief Joy“, he writes in this third part about the third mark of Christ’s true church – Christian discipline.

Here is part of what he has to say:

     Not many churches exercise discipline these days. Exercising discipline on people is hard. Exercising discipline on myself is hard too. But if a church does not exercise discipline on her members – loving, corrective, purifying discipline – she may not call herself Reformed, any more than I may call myself Christian if I do not discipline myself. Both are difficult; both are extremely painful; but both are necessary for survival. The Head of the church mandates it.

…When Christ lives in a church – Christ’s presence is the most basic way to know if the church is true – the church will not be sleeping. The true church, the Reformed church, will behave Christ-like in ‘putting away from among yourselves that wicked person,’ (1 Cor.5), in counting some unto them ‘as an heathen and a publican’ (Matt.18), as well as in ‘forgiving and comforting’ the penitent, lest they be ‘swallowed up with overmuch sorrow’ (2 Cor.2).

A Reformed man has a high view of the church. Which is not the same as going to church morning and evening every Sunday. It means that he regards the church and her offices, her formal worship, her official teaching, her requirement for membership, her determination to take all things seriously by discipline, as essential. He has a high regard of the institutional church, her offices, her assemblies, her worship, and her government (pp.77-79).

 

Herman Hoeksema’s Pre-PRC Writings: Social Christianity and Calvinism (1919)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) was ordained into the ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in 1916 and was early on involved in speech-making and writing, as many pastors were and still are.

One of his early speeches that was later published in his “Social Christianity and Calvinism”, which appeared in the August 1919 issue of Religion and Culture (Vol.1, No.2).  We have that issue in our Seminary library  (see image below) and one of our Christian school teachers recently called our attention to this speech and article. According to the footnote at the beginning of the printed form of this speech, it was “an address delivered before Corps: Credimus ut Intelligamus of Calvin College.” (That Latin phrase means “we believe in order to understand”, based on Augustine’s maxim.)

relig & culture hh 1919_Page_1

So, we feature it today and quote from it, because it is a powerful summary of how Calvinism gives us the proper world and life view and represents true “social Christianity.” I might add that it is striking how relevant for our times this speech is after almost 100 years. Perhaps we will quote from it further in the future, but for today this will suffice:

…Also Calvinism, holding the original goodness of the world, and still professing that the world as kosmos is not essentially bad but good, being the product of an Almighty and All-wise God, infinite in perfection, strongly repudiates the erroneous separation of nature and grace and always maintained that the power of redemption thru grace is not destined to remain a foreign element in the life of the world, but much rather to redeem that life in all its abundance and in every sphere. Calvinism has always sent its worshippers, equipped with a complete view of life and the world, into all the complex relationships of human existence to claim it for Christ our Lord. The truly Calvinistic Christian is a Christian everywhere and always. In the home and in the church, in society and in the state, in shop and office, in art and in science, in trade and industry, always and everywhere is the Calvinist a Christian, would he be consistent and in harmony with his own confession.

All life and all relations of life he claims must be based on and permeated by Christian principles. In a word I know of no view that is broader in its vision, that is more kosmological in its application, that is more all embracing in its powerful grasp, that is more truly liberating in its power than the Calvinist view of life and the world; and it may safely be said that, if an indictment is brought against the Christianity of former ages, as if it meant to be an anabaptistic separation from the world, Calvinism should straightway be acquitted, and may, indeed, go with a free conscience. There is, therefore, on the face of it an undeniable similarity between this Social Christianity and Calvinism (pp.22-23).

I also enjoyed the nice book advertisement on the back side of this magazine issue. While this Holland, Michigan publisher no longer exists, it once was a popular publisher of Reformed literature.

relig & culture ad for books 1919_Page_1

Word Wednesday: “Keep” – Rev.W.Langerak

For this Wednesday we will return to our word feature, in part because I wanted to call attention to something from the June 2015 issue the Standard Bearer. For that issue, Rev.W. (Bill) Langerak has written his latest installment for the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken.” And this time he has focused on the significant biblical word “keep.”

Below is that article in its entirety. For more on the content of the June 1 “SB”, see the cover image at the end of this post. For information on subscribing to this excellent Reformed magazine, visit the “SB” link above.

Keep

“Keep” is a biblical word that teaches both the preservation and perseverance of the saints.  Preservation of saints is God’s keeping them; perseverance of saints is their keeping God’s law by His keeping them.  Basically, “keep” means to exert careful attention (thus, to heed, obey, and observe), so that something precious and pure is guarded and protected from being defiled and destroyed by some evil power.  And with regard to keeping, Scripture teaches six grand truths.

     First:  Our main calling is to keep.  Adam’s duty was to keep the garden.  That also implied evil was afoot; angels who kept not their first estate intended to destroy the place (Gen. 2:15; Jude 1:6).  When Adam failed, other angels had to keep it (Gen. 3:24).  Keeping was the earthly vocation of many Old Testament saints.  Cain wouldn’t keep his brother, but Abel kept sheep (Gen. 4:4).  So did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David.  Kings were called to keep the kingdom, priests the tabernacle, and prophets the Word (I Sam. 13:13; Num. 1:53; Rev. 22:9).  So we are also keepers.

     Second:  The essential thing we must keep is God’s Word.  The whole duty of man is to keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13).  The frequent Word to Israel was to keep His statutes, judgments, and laws (Lev. 18:5).  Their calling was to keep the covenant, the service, the feasts, and the Sabbath of the Lord (Gen. 17:9; Ex. 12:25); keep their soul, mouths, and hands from evil (Ps. 39:1; Is. 56:2); keep knowledge, truth, righteousness, and wisdom (Is. 26:2; Mal. 2:7; Prov. 2:20).  And this does not change in the New Testament.  God still calls us to keep His Scripture, the faith and ordinances delivered to us by the apostles (Luke 8:15; I Tim. 6:20; I Cor. 11:2); to keep ourselves pure, in the love of God, unspotted from the world, and from idols (I Tim. 5:22; James 1:27; I John 5:21); and to keep our garments, the unity of the Spirit, and our hearts though Jesus (Rev. 16:15; Eph. 4:3).

     Third:  Keeping God’s Word is the only and necessary way of blessedness and life.  There is no other way.  Blessed are they that hear the Word and keep it (Luke 11:28).  In keeping God’s law there is great reward and it goes well with us forever (Ps. 19:11; Deut. 4:40).  Whoever keeps Jesus’ sayings shall not see death, and whoever keeps His commandments dwells in God and God in Him (I John 3:24; 8:51).  But cursed are those who keep it not; they will be cut off, perish, die, and be cast away from God forever (Deut. 28:25; I Chr. 28:9; Rev. 22:19).

     Fourth:  No man has kept God’s Word.  Except Jesus.  He kept the commandments of God (John 15:10).  But not Israel.  They kept not His covenant, judgments, ways, temple, feasts, or Sabbath (Ezek. 20:21).  Neither their wisest kings, princes, priests, or fathers kept His law (I Kings 11:10; Ezek. 44:8; Neh. 9:34).  Nor do we.  For if we keep the whole law but offend at one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10).  If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar (I John 1:10).

     Fifth:  And yet…saints do keep the Word of God.  Scripture says Abraham kept the law and covenant of God (Gen. 26:5).  So did Job (23:11), David, and others (Ps. 18:21).  So do we.  For if a man loves Jesus, He will keep His Word (John 14:15, 23).

     Sixth:  Saints not keeping, but keeping God’s Word is no contradiction.  Nor is preservation (our keeping) and perseverance (God’s keeping) of the saints.  First, because God is our keeper (Ps. 121:5).  It is the Lord who keeps our soul, keeps us alive, keeps His truth, and keeps us from presumptuous sins, falling, the wicked, snares, and evil (Ps. 17:8; 19:13; 25:20; 41:2; 140:4; 141:9).  Abraham kept God’s law because God kept Abraham (Gen. 28:15).  Israel kept God’s way because His Angel kept that way (Ex. 23:20).  We keep His covenant only because He keeps His covenant to us (Deut. 7:8-9).  Secondly, because all keeping of God’s Word is by faith.  Faith now, not in one’s merit, power, or ability, but in Jesus the original Shepherd, who kept the law for us, keeps those given to Him, and keeps God’s covenant forever (Jer. 31:10; John 17:11; Ps. 89:29).  Indeed, we both keep and are kept by the power of God through faith that commits the keeping of our souls to Him by the Spirit dwelling within us (II Tim. 1:14; I Pet. 1:5).

SB-June-2015_Page_1