Calvin Professor Delves into Rare Manuscript

This story was posted on the CRC website back in November of 2015, and I saved it for an archive/history post on some Thursday. Today we will post it and take a brief break from a PRC archive post (unless I change my mind later :) ).

Below is the opening to the story about a rare book at Calvin College’s Meeter Center. Read the full story at the link provided at the end. By the way, if you are in the Grand Rapids area and have never made a visit to the Meeter Center, you ought to do so. Very worth your time.

Tucked safely away in a climate-controlled space in Calvin College’s Meeter Center is a medieval devotional manuscript the college has owned since 1912.

It recently became an object of deeper interest to Frans van Liere, professor of history and a medieval studies specialist, when he needed an image to use as the cover art for his 2014 book, An Introduction to the Medieval Bible.

The cover art Van Liere selected from the medieval manuscript was a miniature of the angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, which is the only full-page picture in the manuscript.

“It led me to say maybe I should know a little more about this manuscript,” Van Liere said. “So I started looking into the manuscript, doing an analysis of the handwriting and the dating, and I discovered it’s a much greater treasure than Calvin probably thought they had.”

Source: Calvin Professor Delves into Rare Manuscript | Article | Christian Reformed Church

Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

Defending the Truth Concerning God by K. Scott Oliphint & Training Pastors by I.Martin

TT-Jan-2016As we have mentioned here before this month, the January issue of Tabletalk has the theme of “Apologetics: Giving an Answer for Our Hope.”

As Christians, we are called by our Lord to defend our faith and practice. And because that faith and practice centers on our Triune God, the central truth we are called to defend is that concerning our God Himself.

The second featured article on the theme in this month’s issue treats that very doctrine. Dr. K.Scott Oliphint in “God” tells us why and what we are to defend our faith as far as the true God is concerned. He does so by directing us to Exodus 3 and God’s special revelation to Moses at the burning bush.

This is how he ends his article:

In Exodus 3, therefore, God identifies Himself in two ways. He tells Moses that He is the covenant God, who is with His people, and that He is the self-existing God, who needs nothing in order to be who He is and to do what He purposes to do.

This brings us to the burning bush. The purpose of that miracle was not simply that Moses might be amazed; it was to display God’s own twofold character that He had announced to Moses. The burning bush illustrates what theologians call God’s trascendence and immanence. The revelation of the burning bush was a revelation that the “I Am” is and always will be utterly independent and self-suffiicient. He is fully and completely God even as He promises and plans to “come down” (Ex. 3:8) to be with His people and to redeem them. The burning bush points us to that climactic revelation of the One who is fully and completely the self-existing God, who comes down to redeem a people, and who is Immanuel (God with us). It points us to Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 1:2328:20).

The revelation of God’s twofold character in Exodus 3 is essential to grasp for all who seek to engage in the biblical task of apologetics. No other religion on the face of the earth recognizes this kind of God. The faith we defend is wholly unique. It begins and ends with the revelation of this majestic mystery of God’s character given to us in Holy Scripture.

To read the rest of Oliphint’s article on this subject, visit this link: Source: God by K. Scott Oliphint | Reformed Theology Articles at

Another fine article in this issue appears under the rubric “For the Church.” Rev. Iver Martin writes about “Training Pastors,” and has this to say about the church’s work through her seminaries:

A truly healthy church is one in which its members are theologians, coming to church each Sunday with a readiness to think and learn, with an insatiable appetite for more. A good pulpit ministry will richly edify God’s people. It is fatal to underestimate the perceptiveness of our congregations. As people discover what it means to follow Jesus, the intellect often comes to life and the gospel produces a hunger for knowledge that a pastor should be well equipped to satisfy.

To suggest that today’s pastors do not need rigorous seminary training because the disciples did not have it is a spurious argument. Their time with Jesus was a three-year intensive course, complete with internship and testing, and in which they discovered the Scriptures as never before. If the church in the twenty-first century is to thrive, it will depend on high-quality pulpit ministry and well-equipped pastoral skill. If training for the ministry comes at a high price, it is worth it. The church cannot afford otherwise.

To read the rest of Martin’s thoughts on this subject, follow the link given above.

Note to Self: Take the Word Seriously!

Note to Self

From a “new” book I picked up yesterday, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011). Pastor Sam Storms wrote the foreword and has some powerful things to say about the Word of God preached, read, and studied.

Here is just a sampling:

As if that were not enough, this ‘word’ is ‘living and abiding’ (1 Pet.1:23). It is ‘living’ because it has the power to impart life. It is abiding because the life it imparts is permanent and sustained and never dies. The contrast, of course, is not between the Word of God and literal grass and flowers. The latter are cited as representative or symbolic of anything in which we put our confidence, particularly things that are flashy and exciting and bring initial joy, but over time fade and diminish and lose their capacity to guide us and satisfy our souls, whether strength, power, wealth, beauty, or fame (p.14).

And then after some excellent applications concerning how those in the field of sociology, psychology, and philosophy, etc. try to set the latest trends for the church with regard to how to preach the Word to people – paragraphs that have Storms ending each one with this line: “And through it all the Word of God will have remained true and unchanging and ever powerful” – he adds these words:

The price of gold may rise and fall. The stock market may prove bullish or bearish. Your physical appearance will improve and then disintegrate. The loyalty of friends will come and go. Earthly fame will last but for a season. And through it all, the truths and principles and life-giving power of God’s Word will remain.

Let it be the anchor for your soul. Let is be the rock on which you stand. Let it be the compass to guide you through trials and tragic times. Let it govern your choices and renew your heart and restore your joy and ground your hope. Build your life on its moral principles. Embrace its ethical and moral norms. Believe what it says about the nature of God. Believe what it says about the nature of mankind (p.15).

More on the rest of the book in 2016. It appears to be the kind of book that is profitable reading on Saturday night and Sunday in preparation for worship – and especially for hearing the Word.

8 Things We Can Learn from Augustine – G.Bray

Two significant new books we have obtained for the PRC Seminary library of late are from the Crossway series “Theologians on the Christian Life,” which looks at the practical side (application) of some major theologians of the Christian church, past and present (See these previous posts on other volumes in this series).

Bavinck on the Christian LifeOne is by Dr. John Bolt of Calvin Seminary here in Grand Rapids, MI and titled Bavinck on the Christian Life: Following Jesus in Faithful Service (2015). About this work the publisher has this to say:

Herman Bavinck looms large as one of the nineteenth century’s greatest Christian thinkers, contributing much to modern Reformed theology. Yet, despite his theological prowess, Bavinck was first and foremost concerned with being “a worthy follower of Jesus.” In this book, John Bolt—editor of the English edition of Bavinck’s four-volume masterpiece, Reformed Dogmatics—brings the great Dutch theologian’s life and work to bear on following Jesus in the twenty-first century, helping us see the direct connection between robust theology, practical holiness, and personal joy.

Augustine on the Christian LifeThe other title is the one we highlight today – Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God (also 2015) by Dr. Gerald Bray. In a recent post on Crossway’s blog, Bray asked and answered the question, “Does Augustine still matter?” He gives an eight-part answer to that question, the first two of which are these:

1. The Importance of Real Relationship with God

The first thing we notice about him is the emphasis he placed on the relationship of the individual to God. He lived in a world that was rapidly becoming Christian, at least in a formal and public sense. It would have been very easy for him to have gone with the flow, as many of his contemporaries did. But Augustine confessed that he became a Christian only when the Holy Spirit of God moved in his heart, and not before.

He had to be brought face to face with his sinfulness and complete inability to save himself. He was forced to recognize that he had no hope other than to put his trust in Jesus Christ, who had died to pay the price of his sin. He had to learn that to be a Christian was to be in fellowship with the Son of God, to be united with him in a deeply individual union that rested on personal conviction, not on outward support or tradition. From beginning to end, his faith was a walk with God that could only be expressed as a dialogue between two spirits. Take that away and there would be nothing to speak of at all—no faith to confess and no life to live.

2. The Necessity of the Church

Next on the list comes his adherence to the church. Augustine knew that although every Christian must have a personal faith that is not dependent on outward rites and traditions, he also belongs to the universal church. Christians cannot leave the church and live on their own, as if nobody else is good enough for them. There may be good reasons for establishing new congregations, but believers ought to be in fellowship with others and not cut themselves off as if nobody else is quite as good or as pure as they are.

There is no such thing as a pure or perfect congregation, as those who have tried to establish such things have discovered to their cost. In every place, the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest; the sheep and the goats will only be separated at the last judgment. It was Augustine who first stated this clearly as the reason for not breaking away from the church, and his logic is as valid today as it was when he wrote.

Bray’s other six points are worth reading too, so that you may understand further why Augustine – a fifth-century church father – still matters. Follow the link below to read the full post.

Source: 8 Things We Can Learn from Augustine

PRC Seminary Makes Top Ten Seminaries of 2015! Reformation21 Blog


Perhaps you sense the above headline is a bit tongue-in-cheek. And you know it is Friday, which means a “Friday Fun” item is on the agenda.

But, the fact is, the PRC Seminary did make Reformation21’s “Top Ten Seminaries” list for 2015. #7 – not bad at all.

Yet there is a bit of a caveat. The list – while recognizing the top Reformed/Calvinistic seminaries in the U.S. (a fact we humbly and gratefully acknowledge) – is designed to be in jest. And, even more, to give a poke at each of these good seminaries.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here is the list and the poke at the PRC Seminary. I trust the friendly jab will not cause you consternation, but instead a good laugh. At least they know what we stand for!

Here at Reformation21 we skip the best books of the year and instead give you the “Top Ten Seminaries of 2015.” All of these seminaries provide a good theological education, especially when compared to what one finds in the rest of the world. America is spoiled for riches.
Honorable Mention: MARS: Alan Strange managed to argue from the OPC Form of Government that this list was unconstitutional, so MARS was not considered.
10. WSCAL: They merited 10th place even after admitting it was an imperfect year for them. Students are currently arguing over whether this list is law or gospel.
9. Covenant: “3 Points” off last year’s 6th place finish; one of the judges named Adam abstained.
8. Puritan: The men in black (suits) were helped by a late vote from a judge named Adam.
7. Protestant Reformed Seminary: They literally do nothing and remain 7th, having always been seventh, even in eternity.
6. Greenville: 6 days means 6th place; up from 24th place. 6-24 in one year…hmmm
5. SBTS: Their impending decision to allow students to drink wine for communion – albeit in tiny communion cups – brought them to #5.
4. RPTS: The imprecatory Psalm-singing was obviously effective against most of the seminaries.
3. Whitefield Seminary: Up into the top ten after thinking about getting accreditation.
2. RTS: Talk of ten new campuses for 2016 was enough to convince judges they should be second.
1. WTS: Van Til says we must presuppose WTS as number one and then we can make sense of the rest of the list.

Source: Top Ten Seminaries of 2015 – Reformation21 Blog


Published in: on December 4, 2015 at 9:20 AM  Leave a Comment  

George M. Ophoff’s Candidacy in “De Wachter”

Among her Reformed church magazine holdings, the PRC Seminary library has several volumes of the old Dutch Christian Reformed Church magazine De Wachter (meaning “watchman” or “guardian” – below is a scanned image of an ad for the magazine that appeared frequently in it).

wachter ad_Page_1

Thinking today about Rev. George M. Ophoff’s graduation from Calvin Seminary in 1921 (see my previous post), I had Kevin Rau browse through the 1921 year of bound Wachters to see if he could find notice of GMO’s candidacy.


And sure enough, he found it – in the June issue. Unlike later years where pictures of the candidates adorned the notices, this notice was simply a listing of the fifteen candidates. But there in the middle is “George Martin Ophoff” of Henry St. in Grand Rapids, MI.

Kevin also had fun pointing out the old ads in this Dutch periodical too – lots of good piano and cigar ads – and one for a “weather prophet” device from Zeeland, MI – promising accurate weather predictions from its special radio box.

One that caught my eye was from the Smitter Book Company. I think you will see why. :)


November 2015 PR Seminary Journal Is Out!

The latest PRC Seminary Journal – Vol.49, #1, Nov. 2015 – is back from the printer and was mailed out last Friday. But the current issue is also available on the Seminary’s Journal page in pdf form (the other digital forms will be available soon).


This issue is an interesting and informative combination of articles and book reviews. Prof.R. Cammenga, editor of the Journal, gives this summary description of its contents:

  Welcome to the pages of the frst issue of volume 49 of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.  The frst article in this issue is the transcript of the speech that Dr. John Bolt gave to the student body and faculty of the Protestant Reformed Seminary, as well as area ministers this past Spring.  Dr. Bolt is familiar to the constituency of the Protestant Reformed Churches as an outspoken critic of the treatment of Herman Hoeksema by the 1924 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.  Besides critical of the treatment of Hoeksema, he also fnds fault with the doctrinal formulations of the 1924 Synod defining and defending common grace.  In his article, Dr. Bolt points out what he believes to be the inadequacies of the “Three Points” and offers alternative formulations.  Even though the very worthwhile question-and-answer session that followed Dr. Bolt’s speech cannot be reproduced here, we trust our readers will proft from the transcription of the speech.

Our readers are once again favored with an article by a familiar contributor to PRTJ, Dr. Jürgen Burkhard Klautke, professor in the Academy for Reformed Theology in Marburg, Germany.  This article is the transcription of a speech by Dr. Klautke at a conference sponsored by the PRCA denominational Committee for Contact with Other [Foreign] Churches. The speech is a stirring defense of the truth of God’s covenant of grace, according to which elect believers are “in Christ,” as is the language of our Lord in His High Priestly prayer. Along the way, Dr. Klautke engages in necessary polemic against those who have perverted the truth of God’s Word that believers are “in Christ.

This issue contains the frst three parts of an eighteen part “John Calvin Research Bibliography” by the undersigned.  This bibliography was constructed over the course of a number of years and copies of it were distributed to students who took a newly developed interim course on “The Theology of John Calvin.”  It was thought that publishing this bibliography would make available a valuable resource for any who are interested in doing research on the great Reformer John Calvin.  Each section of the bibliography corresponds to a class session devoted to that main topic, with the related sub-topics that were covered in the class listed beneath each main topic.

Prof. David Engelsma, emeritus Professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary, contributes a review article of Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Thought, edited by Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde.  The book examines the teaching of leading Reformed theologians of the sixteenth through the early eighteenth centuries on the freedom of the will.  It demonstrates that the Reformed tradition has consistently rejected the
error of “free will,” while at the same time upholding genuine human freedom.  Be sure to read this very worthwhile extended review—and then perhaps get the book and read it for yourself.

      As always, this issue of PRTJ contains a number of excellent book reviews.  This is a much appreciated feature of any theological journal, and that certainly is the case with our journal.  We take this opportunity to express our thanks to the men who regularly contribute book reviews.  Hopefully they know how much our readers anticipate their regular contributions in each new issue and beneft from them.

We remind our readers that our journal is made available free of charge.  The cost of its production and mailing are covered by the seminary.  Your gifts, therefore, are appreciated.  And many of you do send gifts periodically.  We are grateful for your support.

Now read and enjoy. Soli Deo Gloria!

If you wish to receive this issue or become a PRTJ subscriber, you may either stop by the Seminary, or contact the Seminary at the information given on its homepage.

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).


Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers, and to the Sexually Broken – S.Lucas and R.Butterfield

Source: Ministering to the Abused and the Abusers by Sean Michael Lucas | Reformed Theology Articles at

TT-Nov-2015Two excellent back-to-back articles in this month’s Tabletalk address specific aspects of “The Christian Sexual Ethic” – the one linked above, which addresses the church’s calling to minister both to those who have been sexually abused and to those who do the abusing, and a second by Rosaria C. Butterfield, which addresses ministering to the sexually broken, including those involved in homosexuality – a sin in which she herself was once enslaved before God’s grace broke her chains.

I read both articles yesterday and found them very direct, uncompromising, and yet expressive of God’s love and gospel hope in Christ alone. I give you a portion of both today, encouraging you to read the complete articles at the links provided (see title to Butterfield’s article below).

First, here is part of what Dr.Sean M. Lucas has to say in terms of gospel hope for abused and abuser:

Both the perpetrator and the victim of sin need the same thing: the gospel of Jesus. Those who commit sexual sins—whether sexual immorality, adultery, or even sexual abuse—need to hear the gospel. The entire point of discipline is to confront the sinner with the claims of Christ, to call for repentance, but also to seek new patterns of obedience that can come only as the sinner runs daily to Christ.

Often, those who commit messy and heinous sins believe their sins are too great to forgive. They need to be reminded that “there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent” (Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4). Such genuine repentance is drawn out by the “apprehension of [God’s] mercy in Christ to such as are penitent” (WCF 15.2). How great is God’s mercy in Christ? So great that He sent His one and only Son to die for sinners—and that death is sufficient to cover all our sins, even the most heinous ones.

Victims, too, need the gospel of Jesus: that Jesus is a Savior who does not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20); that He identifies with the hurt and broken and grants liberty to those oppressed by sin (Luke 4:17– 21); and that He likewise asked, “Why?” when the pain and godforsakenness was overwhelming (Matt. 27:46).

But victims of sin also need to know that Jesus does more than identify with us in our hurts—He actually has done something about them. Through His resurrection, He is able to bring new life and new hope in the present as well as the future. There is power to move forward through the pain they know. In addition, the gospel provides us with the basis for forgiveness, knowing that we, too, have committed heinous sins against God (Eph. 4:32).

And this is how Butterfield opens her article on “Ministering to the Sexually Broken”:

Coming to Christ is the ultimate reality check, as it makes us face the fact that our sin is our biggest problem. Every day, a believer must face the reality that original sin distorts us, actual sin distracts us, and indwelling sin manipulates us. This distortion, distraction, and manipulation create a wedge between us and our God. We are in a war, and the sooner we realize it, the better.

Sexual brokenness comes with boatloads of shame, as sexual sin is itself predatory: it hounds us, traps us, and seduces us to do its bidding. Sexual sin won’t rest until it has captured its object. When our conscience condemns us, we sometimes try to fight. But when shame compels isolation, we hide from the very people and resources that we need. We whiteknuckle it until Satan deceptively promises that sweet relief will come only from embracing that lustful glance, clicking that Internet link, or turning off the lights to our bedrooms and hearts and embracing the fellow divine image-bearer that God forbids us to embrace.

We sexually broken sheep will sacrifice faithful marriages, precious children, fruitful ministries, productive labor, and unsullied reputations for immediate, illicit sexual pleasure.

We may pray sincerely for deliverance from a particular sexual sin, only to be duped when its counterfeit seduces us. When we pray for deliverance from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, this means that I know the true nature of sin, not that I no longer feel its draw. If you want to be strong in your own terms, God will not answer you. God wants you to be strong in the risen Christ.

Thomas Bradwardine: Defender of God’s Sovereignty – Rev. C.Griess

SB-Reform-Nov-2015Back on Reformation Day 2015 (Oct.31), I called attention to the latest special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer. This issue focuses on the period of the Middle Ages and the pre-Reformers the Lord raised up to give light to His people who sat in darkness.

Today I call your attention to one of the special articles in this issue – an article that introduces us to a man I would guess few of us know or at least know very well; Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349). In his fine piece on this godly man, Rev. Cory Griess calls him the “defender of God’s Sovereignty”.

This is how Rev.Griess opens his article and explains his significance in the history of the church in the Middle Ages:

     It is always a wonderful thing to find another who loves the sovereignty of God as the truth of God revealed in scripture. It is especially wonderful to find such in the Middle Ages. Thomas Bradwardine, though little known, is such a man. If Gottschalk is rightly remembered in particular for His defense of sovereign predestination in the Middle Ages, Bradwardine ought to be remembered for His defense of the absolute sovereignty of God during the same era.
Bradwardine was born in England sometime around 1290 AD. He was a brilliant man earning him the nickname, “The Profound Doctor.” He produced accomplished works in many areas of study, including logic, geometry, and physics, and some of his works are still required reading for advanced research in math and science today.

But his main contribution was in theology which he studied and later taught at Oxford. His great work as a theologian is De Causa Dei (The Cause of God), which was written against the Pelagians who were prevalent in his time. The title helps up know not only the content of the book, but Bradwardine’s own view of his role in God’s kingdom in in the 13th and 14th centuries. Bradwardine rightly viewed himself as a defender of the sovereignty and supremacy of God in the midst of a philosophical climate that exalted man and dethroned God. Gordon Leff describes Bradwardine’s purpose with the book and his life, He was “concerned to cut, root and branch, at that outlook which started from men, not from God…to rebut the consequences which flowed from such a wrong attitude and to win back all attention to God.”

TBradwardineTo read all of this article and the other special ones in this “SB” Reformation issue, visit the home page to receive a copy and/or to subscribe.


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