Where Is the Word of God? November 2018 “Tabletalk”

The November 2018 issue of Tabletalk centers on the theme of “Living by the Word of God,” an extremely important subject in our day of moral relativism and Scripture-denying doctrine, and that within the nominal church and among many professing Christians. As Christians we claim to be “people of the Book,” the Word of God. But as this issue shows, that begins with a right understanding of what this Book is, and then with a practice that matches what we confess it to be. If this Book is indeed the Word of God, then we must truly live by it. If you are in need of those reminders (and aren’t we all?!), then read on!

In addition to the daily devotions (on the gospel of John), I have been working my way through the various articles, including editor Burk Parsons article titled “Our Only Infallible Rule.” He makes a powerful point in his introductory comments on the theme:

Anyone who says the Bible is boring isn’t reading the Bible with a heart of faith, and anyone who says the Bible is easy to read isn’t really examining the Bible. The Bible never actually calls us simply to read it. It calls us to study it, examine it, search it, meditate on it, hide it in our hearts, and let it dwell in us richly. Yet many Christians seem to read the Bible as quickly as they can so that they can tell everyone they have read it. We do indeed need to read the Bible—sometimes multiple chapters and entire books in one sitting—yet we are also called to study it so that we do not simply allow the sacred Word of God to pass before our eyes without properly considering its manifold splendor. Not only that, but many professing Christians don’t read the Bible much at all. Many are looking for a special word from God while their Bibles sit on their shelves gathering dust. If we want a special word from God, we need only open the Bible and read it, and if we want to hear a special word from God, we only need read the Bible aloud. For the Bible is the special revelation of God, and it is our only infallible rule for faith and life.

The first main article I read on Sunday is the one in the title to this blog post, “Where is the Word of God?” by Dr. Michael J. Kruger. After explaining that God’s Word is “the ultimate standard for all of life,” he goes into the importance of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura. But then he also issues some cautions about misunderstanding and misapplying this truth, one of which is this one:

Of course, like many core Christian convictions, the doctrine of sola Scriptura has often been misunderstood and misapplied. Unfortunately, some have used sola Scriptura as a justification for a “me, God, and the Bible” type of individualism, where the church bears no real authority and the history of the church is not considered when interpreting and applying Scripture. Thus, many churches today are almost ahistorical—cut off entirely from the rich traditions, creeds, and confessions of the church. They misunderstand sola Scriptura to mean that the Bible is the only authority rather than understanding it to mean that the Bible is the only infallible authority. Ironically, such an individualistic approach actually undercuts the very doctrine of sola Scriptura it is intended to protect. By emphasizing the autonomy of the individual believer, one is left with only private, subjective conclusions about what Scripture means. It is not so much the authority of Scripture that is prized as the authority of the individual.

The Reformers would not have recognized such a distortion as their doctrine of sola Scriptura. On the contrary, they were quite keen to rely on the church fathers, church councils, and the creeds and confessions of the church. Such historical rootedness was viewed not only as a means for maintaining orthodoxy but also as a means for maintaining humility. Contrary to popular perceptions, the Reformers did not view themselves as coming up with something new. Rather, they understood themselves to be recovering something very old—something that the church had originally believed but later twisted and distorted. The Reformers were not innovators but excavators.

Kruger has other good points that are worth your reading. Follow the link below to read his full article.

Source: Where Is the Word of God?

“If we would order our prayers aright, let us always begin with pleading that the Lord would be pleased to preserve this sacred community [that is, the church].” ~ J. Calvin

JCalvinPic6. Pray ye for the peace of Jerusalem.

David now exhorts all the devout worshippers of God to make supplication for the prosperity of the holy city. The more effectually to stir them up to such exercise, he promises that, in this way the divine blessing will descend upon them. The reason why he was so deeply concerned about the prosperity of Jerusalem was, as we have formerly stated — and he again repeats the same thing at the end of the Psalm—because the welfare of the whole Church was inseparably connected with that kingdom and priesthood.

Now as each of us in particular, were the whole Church to be involved in ruin, must necessarily perish miserably, it is not surprising to find David recommending to all the children of God to cultivate this anxious concern about the Church. If we would order our prayers aright, let us always begin with pleading that the Lord would be pleased to preserve this sacred community. Whoever, confining his attention to his own personal advantage, is indifferent about the common weal, he not only gives evidence that he is destitute of all true feeling of godliness, but in vain desires his own prosperity, and will profit nothing by his prayers, since he does not observe the due order.

Similar is the drift of the promise which is added immediately after: They shall prosper that love thee; which, however, may be read in the form of a wish, May those who love thee prosper But the sense in either case is almost the same. Farther, although the Hebrew verb שלה, shalah, which the Prophet here uses, signifies to live in quietness or peace, yet as the Hebrew noun for peace, from which it is derived, is employed by him generally for a joyful and happy condition, I have no doubt that he here announces in general to all the godly who have the well being of the Church near their heart, that they shall enjoy the blessing of God and a prosperous life.

…Hence we learn that the curse of God rests upon all such as afflict the Church, or plot and endeavor by any kind of mischief to accomplish its destruction.

Taken from Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Psalms, in particular Psalm 122:6. Found on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library website.

PRC Archives – Mystery Church Buildings and a New H. Hoeksema Photo

For our PRC archives feature today, we present, first,  two pictures of buildings in which an existing PRC congregation met. Both images are photos of photos, which explains their low quality.

And, we will make this a mystery photo contest, so YOU tell us which congregation met in these buildings.

PRC-1st meeting place-1927

This one was her original meeting place, way back in 1927! I enhanced it a bit to make it as clear as possible.

PRC-1st building

And this was her building until 1981. Can you guess which congregation it is?

HH-1957-58-AdamsCS

Our second feature is a “new” photo (to our PRC archives) of Rev. Herman Hoeksema, long-time pastor of First PRC and one of the first professors in the PRC seminary.

This one has a great story behind it, because it was taken during the years when the PRC seminary was meeting in Adams Christian School (when it was on Adams St. yet, on the SE side of Grand Rapids, MI). Due to the 1953 split in the PRC over the doctrine of the covenant, the seminary temporarily lost its location in the basement of the old First PRC, and so met in a couple of different places until the building of First PRC was restored to Hoeksema and his congregation. One of these temporary locations was Adams CS. Interestingly, the school simply incorporated “HH” (and I assume the other seminary professors and students) into the school’s yearbook for the year referenced above (1957-58).

And, it would appear from the photo – pipe and all! – that “HH” rather enjoyed being part of that Adams CS yearbook. One can sense a school lad’s mischievous look in those eyes. 🙂

I looked up in the PRC Acts of Synod the history of this move into Adams CS, and in the 1955 Acts one finds this report in the Theological School Committee report:

Your Committee is happy to report that our School is now located in the N.W. room of the building of the Adams Street Prot. Ref. Chr. School. This change of location of our School is a wonderful improvement over the past locations in the basements of church buildings. These rooms have ample light in them, are well ventilated [for smoking profs?!] and really leave nothing to be desired, meeting all the specifications of the State Board of Education. We are able to obtain this room for $350 per year. The Lord has thus far bountifully supplied our every need. To Him alone be all the praise and the honor.” (Supplements, p.80)

So, there’s a little background to this move. Perhaps we might raise another PRC history question at this point. The report mentions “basements” (plural) of other church buildings. Where else besides First PRC did the seminary meet after 1953? Answer next week if you don’t come up with it!

New addition! Current Adams CS administrator, Rick Mingerink found the pertinent minutes relating to the school board’s decision to grant the request of the Theological School Committee’s request to use two rooms at the school for seminary classes. Here is an image of those two articles from the Sept., 1954 minutes:

Adams-Board-Min-re-Sem-rental-Sept-1954-2

For those who struggle to make out the cursive script, the articles read as follows:

Art.10 – Mr. S. Newhof and Mr. Harry Zwak of the P.R. Theological School Committee appear at the meeting and are given the floor. They present a request to move the Theological School to our building and that they be permitted to use two of the presently available rooms.

Art.11 – Mr. Newhof and Mr. Zwak discuss the various problems attendant to such an arrangement with the board. Mr. Pastoor informs the board the two rooms in question have an approximate yearly operating cost of $350 to $400. Motion follows to grant the Theological School use of the two west end rooms in the school for the present school year on a rental basis of $400.00. Carried.

Published in: on September 6, 2018 at 3:06 PM  Comments (5)  

PRC Seminary Convocation 2018 – Tonight at Providence PRC, Hudsonville, MI

SemCornerstone-1The PRC Seminary will hold its annual Convocation tonight  – Wednesday, September 5 – marking the beginning of a new season of instruction.

The program will be held  at Providence PRC (picture below) in Hudsonville, MI, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Prof. B. Gritters will be speaking on Acts 20:24 “None of these things move me…”

Providence_PRC-2015 (2)

On the printed program for the evening, Prof. Gritters has this fitting quote from John Calvin included (taken from his commentary on that passage):

“…it is a filthy thing for us to be so holden
with a blind desire to live, that we lose the
causes of life for life itself; and this do the
words of Paul express. For he doth not simply
set light by his life; but he doth forget the
respect thereof, that he may finish his course;
that he may fulfil the ministry which he hath
received of Christ, as if he should say that he
is not desirous to live, save only that he may
satisfy the calling of God; and that, therefore,
it shall be no grief to him to lose his life, so
that he may come by death unto the goal of
the function prescribed to him by God.

And we must note that which he saith,
with joy, for his meaning is, that this is taken
from the faithful by no sorrow or grief, but
that they both live and die to the Lord. For
the joy of a good conscience is more deeply
and surely laid up, than that it can be taken
away by any external trouble, or any sorrow
of the flesh; it triumpheth more joyfully than
that it can be oppressed.”

During the program special music will be provided by Crista Phelps (piano) along with Sam Bergman and Conner and Erin Courtney (violin).

After the convocation address the present student body will be introduced.

All in the West Michigan area are invited and encouraged to attend and in this way show your support for our seminary. It would thrill our souls to see you there!

For those unable to attend, the program will also be live-streamed through the seminary’s YouTube channel.

*NOTE: Due to connection issues, the live-stream on YouTube did not work. Our apologies! But Nick Kleyn recorded most of it and posted it on his Facebook page.

Published in: on September 5, 2018 at 9:33 AM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Seminary Dordt 400 Conference: The Website Is Up!

SynodofDordt1618-19

Next Spring (April 25-27, 2019) the PRC Seminary with help from Trinity PRC’s Evangelism Committee, will sponsor a major conference marking the 400th anniversary of the “Great Synod” of Dordt (1618-19).

Recently a new website was launched to promote the event and highlight the history and significance of Dordt – dort400.org – and the following announcement was sent out to advertise the event:

Dordt 400: Trinity PRC is hosting a 3-day conference for the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordt on April 25-27.   Mark your calendars and visit our website at dordt400.org

The Dordt 400 Conference includes a Writing Contest with great prizes.  If you are looking for a way to use your writing skills, visit our website at dordt400.org and start working on your essay.

Dordt400LogoRightMargin2

The website also has a blog, where you will find the first post to be a summary of the important dates involving the Synod of Dordt, penned by the seminary’s new professor, Douglas J. Kuiper and published in the August issue of the Standard Bearer. We reproduce that here for your interest.

The Synod of Dordt met from November 1618 to May 1619.

1604: Two professors at Leiden, Jacobus Arminius and Franciscus Gomarus, publicly debate the doctrine of predestination.

1607: Church delegates gather for a national synod to settle the issue. The national government refuses to call a national synod, in part because it is preoccupied with war against Spain. At this time, the national government sympathizes with the Arminians.

1610: Some Arminian sympathizers write five position statements. The statements are called the Remonstrance, and the Arminians became known as the “Remonstrants,” because the word “remonstrate” can mean to present a written demonstration of error or protest. The five heads of the Canons correspond to the Remonstrance.

1611: A conference between Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants (representing the truly Reformed position) fails to help settle the issue.

1617, Nov: The national government, now opposed to the Arminians, approves calling a national synod.

1618, Oct. 17: The national government designated this day one of fasting and prayer for God’s blessing on the synod.

1618, Nov. 13: Synod begins. It treats matters of Bible translation, Heidelberg Catechism preaching, baptism of slave children in the Dutch East Indies, and the training of ministers.

1618, Dec. 6: Synod begins treating the Arminian controversy.

1619, Jan. 14: President Bogerman dismisses the Arminians with a memorable speech.

1619, Mar. 25-Apr. 16: Synod recesses while a committee drafts the Canons of Dordt. The word “Canons” refers to a rule or standard; the Synod of Dordt adopted the Canons of Dordt as the standard of orthodoxy regarding the five contested points of doctrine.

1619, May 6: The date on which the Canons were officially adopted in their final form.

1619, May 9: The foreign delegates are dismissed. Synod adopts the Church Order, an official translation of the Belgic Confession, the liturgical forms, and the Formula of Subscription. It also gives its pronouncements regarding Sabbath observance.

1619, May 29: Synod adjourns.

We hope you will plan to attend and participate in every way you can. Subscribe to the blog posts and look for more content to be added in the months leading up to the conference.

And, yes, look for some books and other items of interest on this synod and its anniversary here in the months ahead too. Here’s one you may start with, currently offered at a 40% discount from the publisher:

voice-of-father-hch

New from Simonetta Carr: “John Newton”

We have featured the titles of Reformed author Simonetta Carr before, and tonight we do so again, because there is a new release from her and Reformation Heritage Books in the “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series. That new title is John Newton (2018).

jNewton-Carr-2018

This fine series has books for young readers on such major church history figures as Augustine, Irenaeus, John Calvin, Martin Luther, and John Knox among others) and this new addition also looks to be a valuable contribution.

The publisher provides this description:

John Newton’s life was full of adventure, danger, travels, exotic places, and romance. Young readers will encounter each of these things in Simonetta Carr’s carefully narrated and charmingly illustrated book. But more importantly, readers will come to appreciate the way Newton’s life was changed for good, even when he was attempting to run as far as possible from God. In spite of Newton’s rebellion and sin, God’s grace finally won—a grace that Newton recognized as amazing, invincible, and completely undeserved.

Besides covering the life and work of this noteworthy Anglican churchman and hymnwriter, Carr includes at the end a timeline of Newton’s life, a “Did You Know” section, and a sampling of his writing. The book is beautifully illustrated by Amal.

The contents of John Newton are as follows:

Introduction

Chapter 1 – A Boy at Sea

Chapter 2 – Seabound

Chapter 3 – God’s Hand at Work

Chapter 4 – New Start

Chapter 5 – Pastor, Hymn Writer, and Friend

Chapter 6 – Opposing the Slave Trade

Time Line

Did You Know?

From Newton’s Pen

If you are willing to write a short review of this book for the Standard Bearer or for Perspectives in Covenant Education, this title is yours. You may contact me by email or in the comment section of this post.

And if you haven’t started collecting these books for your family library, it is high time you did! We have a nice selection ourselves for grandchildren reading and browsing.

Humble Soldier-Servants in Christ’s Church – Clement of Rome

Chap. XXXVII. Christ is our leader, and we his soldiers.

Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.

Chap. XXXVIII. Let the members of the Church submit themselves, and no one exalt himself above another.

Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made, who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Roots-of-faith-deweyer-1997This quote from Clement of Rome in  “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” is prompted by some readings in the book Roots of Faith: An Anthology of Early Christian Spirituality to Contemplate and Treasure, ed. by Robert Van De Weyer (William B. Eerdmans, 1997).

Praying the Psalms as the Church in Christ – D. Bonhoeffer

Augustine-psalms

[Speaking of the Psalms on the great theme of the church – “Jerusalem, the City of God” – D. Bonhoeffer writes:

…The present and gracious God, who is in Christ who in turn is in his congregation, is the fulfillment of all thanksgiving, all joy, and all longing in the Psalms. As Jesus, in whom God himself dwells, longed for fellowship with God because he had become a man as we (Luke 2:49), so he prays with us for the total nearness and presence of God with those who are his.

God has promised to be present in the worship of the congregation. Thus the congregation conducts its worship according to God’s order. But Jesus Christ himself has offered the perfect worship by perfecting every prescribed sacrifice in his own voluntary and sinless sacrifice. Christ brought in himself the sacrifice of God for us and our sacrifice for God. For us there remains only the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in prayers, hymns, and in a life lived according to God’s commands (Psalms 15 and 50).

So our entire life becomes worship, the offering of thanksgiving. God wants to acknowledge such thanksgiving and to show his salvation to the grateful (Psalms 50 and 23). To become thankful to God for the sake of Christ and to praise him in the congregation with heart, mouth, and hands, is what the Psalms wish to teach us.

Quoted in 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 eleventh section, “The Church” (pp.40-42), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

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.

July 2018 “Tabletalk” – The Eighteenth Century of the Church

The July 2018 issue of Tabletalk continues a series Ligonier has been doing for some years now on the centuries of church history. As you will judge from the cover, this one focuses on the eighteenth century (Can you identify the significant man whose image is on the cover?).

If you are like me, you probably do not know a lot about the history of the church in that century. Maybe in part because we so focus on the sixteenth century and the Reformation that we ignore God’s work in His church in subsequent centuries. But we ought not do that. If we believe, as our Heidelberg Catechism teaches us in Q&A 54, that Jesus Christ is at work gathering, defending, and preserving His elect church in every age (from the beginning of the world until the end!), then we may not neglect to study each century of church history. This month’s issue of “TT” will help us overcome both our ignorance and neglect of the eighteenth century.

Burk Parsons introduces the issue with his editorial “To the Ends of the Earth.” Pointing out that this was an era of mission fervor as well as of personal piety, Parsons tells us what we can gain from studying this century:

We study church history not merely to learn from and remember the past but to help us wisely serve and glorify God now and for the future. We look to the great figures of eras gone by in order to learn from their successes and failures. We examine their lives that we might be encouraged to imitate them insofar as they followed Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). For until Christ returns, we must be concerned to see the conversion and discipleship of our neighbors and the nations. As we labor toward this end, we must rest in the glorious truth that God is sovereignly fulfilling His purposes as He sovereignly works in and through us as His instruments. As some have said, history is a story written by the finger of God, and that story is centered around the history of the cross of Christ Jesus, who is coming again at the culmination of His mission, when the Great Commission has been fulfilled and all the elect have been saved from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

The first featured article is an overview of the century, and well worth your reading. “The Eighteenth Century: An Overview” by Dr. Nick Needham is linked below, but we quote from a portion of it here. Needham covers these main topics: “Enlightenment and Religion,” “The Kantian Revolution,” “Moravian Missions,” “The Church in America,” “Rome and the East,” and “Machines and Music.” How’s that for a  variety of significant subjects covering this century? While we could reference any of these sections this evening, I chose the last subject from which to quote. Let that be a good reason to read the rest of Needham’s article linked below.

Machines and Music

One last word on the eighteenth century—another paradox. On the one side, it was the century that witnessed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution—the birth of the machine age, with all its transforming impact on technology, society, and human thought patterns.

On the other side, the same “century of the machine” witnessed an outpouring of creative musical genius perhaps unsurpassed in history. Composers including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) ensured that music would never quite be the same again. Many of their works are explicitly Christian in nature and have provided spiritual as well as aesthetic inspiration to millions. Karl Barth captured this in a beautiful if half-humorous saying: “When the angels play music for God, they play Bach. When they play for themselves, they play Mozart.”

Tolle lege!

Source: The Eighteenth Century