PRC Archives: The First PR Theological Journal

Thinking about the publication of the latest issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal (see my previous post), made me think about the initial edition of the PRTJ. When do you think this Seminary periodical began?

If you pay attention to the volume numbers, you will note that the April 2015 issue is part of volume 48. And working backwards in years, that means that the first PRTJ was published in 1967. So, for our PRC archives feature today, Volume 1, No.1 is the item on display!

apr1967_Page_1

You will find this complete issue on the Seminary’s website under the “Journal tab” (r-h side), but I also made the first three pages into images, which I post here. These include the initial cover (above – the entire issue was published in syllabus form – 8.5 x 11 size pages), the introductory note by the editor (below), and the table of contents (Alas, there were no book reviews in that first issue. But many would come in time. :) )

apr1967_Page_2

apr1967_Page_4

I also thought you might like to see the progression in covers and design over the years. There were basically four styles – the one you see here; the one on the previous post (since vol.38, Nov., 2006 this has been the latest look); and then these two styles from the 1980 and 1990s.

PRTJ Covers-1986 & 1998_Page_1

If you are not a subscriber of the PRTJ, and would like to become one (whether the print edition or the digital version), let us know! You may contact the editor (Prof.R.Cammenga) or our Seminary secretary (their email addresses may be found on the Seminary’s website.). The price is right (free, because it is generously supported by the PRC membership!) and the content is always edifying and stimulating. It is truly a unique Reformed Journal in the church world.

Calvinism’s “Solas” – Prof.B.Gritters, April 15, 2015 “Standard Bearer”

SB-April15-2015In the latest issue of The Standard Bearer (April 15, 2015) Prof.Barry Gritters adds another installment to his series on “What It Means to Be Reformed”, a series begun in the February 15, 2015 issue. This new article lays out “Calvinism’s Solas – the great Latin mottos of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone – to be treated in a later editorial), solus Christus (Christ alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and soli Deo gloria (to God alone glory).

If you are not familiar with these expressions, or have forgotten why they are important – especially the sola (only or alone) part – then this is a good place to be reminded. For our purposes in this post, we take you to the end of Prof.Gritters’ explanation and defense of these solas. Here he shows why Calvinism’s solas end where they do – with all glory given to God alone.

Soli Deo Gloria

     So that we may always say, “To God alone be the glory!”

     To put these four solas together is not difficult:  Christ alone saves through faith alone for the sake of grace alone, in order that all glory may be given to God alone!  If any of salvation—even the tiniest bit—comes from outside of Christ, or if Christ comes to man through any other instrument than His free gift of faith, or on account of any merit in man, then the glory of that tiniest bit of salvation goes to man and not to God.  Against that “gross blasphemy” Reformed believers fight with all their might.

       Canons [of Dordt] I:7 teaches gracious salvation, beginning in salvation’s source—sovereign election:  “for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of His glorious grace….”  The fathers in this ecumenical synod were looking at Scripture’s call to give all glory, in all things, to God and to God alone.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings…in Christ…according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:3-6).  And the book of Romans does nothing if it does not teach that everything revolves around God’s glory.  The heart of the reprobate’s sin is a refusal to give glory to God (1:23).  Sin is a coming “short of the glory of God” (3:23).  Paul teaches that if Abraham’s justification were by works, he would be able to glory in himself (4:2); but Abraham “was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (4:20).   Paul’s conclusion of the doctrinal section of the epistle, where all the doctrines of sovereign grace are taught is, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.” (11:36).  And Paul’s own Spirit-inspired exclamation point of the epistle, his very last words before the final “Amen,” are:  “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever” (16:27).

     No one else saves but Christ!  Nothing but grace and faith explain our salvation in Christ!  For none but God may receive the glory!

This is exclusive, for false teachings must be excluded.  This is antithetical, for truth must be defended over against the lie.  This is distinctive, for biblical truth must be known and confessed clearly, sharply, distinctly.  There may be no doubt as to Who is worthy of praise.  All of it.  This is Reformed.

For more on this issue, visit this news item on the PRC website. To start receiving the “SB”, visit the subscription page on the RFPA website.

“Tabletalk” Interview with Reformed Pastor, President, Professor W. Robert Godfrey

Reformed Pastor, President, Professor by W. Robert Godfrey | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

One of the first articles I read in this month’s Tabletalk magazine was the interview feature, in part because I always find these to be interesting, but mostly because the March interview is with well-known “Reformed pastor [United Reformed Church], president [Westminster West Seminary], and professor [of church history], Dr. Robert Godfrey.

Yesterday, because I was finished with all the other articles, I re-read this interview, and remembered that if I had the time and space, I would post a few parts of it here. You may find the entire interview at the Ligonier link above, but I found these sections of Godfrey’s comments on Seminary training to be interesting and edifying.

I find much of his comment and counsel relevant to our own Seminary setting as well, and trust that you will too.

TT: Why is seminary education necessary today, especially when the Internet makes so many resources readily available?

RG: As you cannot learn surgery on the Internet, as you cannot have a church on the Internet, so you cannot get a good pastoral education on the Internet. The Internet is valuable for various kinds of information, but it cannot provide the kind of personal interaction and mentoring necessary for seminary education. The community of faculty and students and the community of students interacting with fellow students are both crucial for learning academic and interpersonal skills.

TT: Is seminary only for men seeking ordination as pastors? Who else should consider attending seminary, and why?

RG: While our seminary is focused vocationally on the education of future pastors, it also o—ffers education in the Bible, theology, and church history to men and women who are interested in learning. They then can use that learning for their own personal edification, to teach in the local church, or to serve churches around the world.

TT: What are two ways that churches can better prepare young men for the pastorate?

RG: First, seminaries need the support of churches to do their work. Prayer and financial support from the churches are vitally necessary for the seminaries to do their work of pastoral preparation. We work for the future of the church, and we need the help of the churches to flourish. Second, churches need to take on seminarians as interns to give them experience and encouragement. Seminary can teach many things, but the actual experience of serving and working in a church can only happen in the church.

TT: What is the main challenge that U.S. Seminaries face today? How is Westminster California working to meet that challenge?

RG: A great challenge that seminaries face today is the increasingly poor preparation that many students receive in their undergraduate education. Too many are not prepared to read analytically, to write research papers, or to study a foreign language. Many also are far less familiar with the English Bible than was the case in earlier generations. So our seminary has introduced a series of entrance exams that determine whether a student needs to take specific remedial courses. We invest a great deal of time in the careful teaching of Greek and Hebrew because they are so foundational to everything else we do. We are excited by the emergence of a college like Reformation Bible College, which we hope will send us much better prepared students.

WIMTBR: Covenantal – Implications … for Marriage

SB-March15-2015In the latest Standard Bearer issue (March 15, 2015) Prof. Barry Gritters continues his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed” (WIMTBR), in connection with the 90th anniversary of the forming of the PRCA. He is answering this question by organizing the Reformed faith under five (5) “Cs”, the first of which is “Covenantal”.

In the March 1 issue he laid out the meaning of this primary Reformed truth, showing its distinctive unconditional and particular nature, especially as developed, maintained, and defended in the PRC. In this March 15 editorial Gritters draws out four (4) implications of this covenant doctrine. The last one is “The Covenant of Marriage”, and it is from this one that I quote today:

Finally, a Reformed church will be a church that defends the precious institution of marriage. If marriage is the preeminent biblical illustration of God’s covenant with His elect, what better way for the covenant seed to learn about covenant than by observing good marriages! If one were an enemy of God’s church, one of the main bulwarks he would assail – with mortar after mortar and one battering ram after another – would be the bulwark of Christian marriage. Thus, the institution we most earnestly defend is the institution of marriage.

No one can write such words in AD 2015 without feeling a great sense of sadness, and a good deal of righteous anger, that the devil had made such headway in his battle against the covenant by ruining so many marriages.

…Reformed believers must give their entire life and all their energy, working and praying, that God preserve our marriages. We must preach and preach, and teach and teach, and then preach and teach some more, the biblical doctrine of marriage – preach that God ‘hates putting away;’ preach that, even if marriage is only temporal, it is still one of the most important temporal institutions God created in the beginning for the preservation of His covenant people.

…And may our gracious God forgive (and correct) what sins He may be judging in churches where the covenant perhaps is accurately taught but not truly lived, one of the most flagrant ways to offend the covenant God (272).

Where Does Scripture’s Authority Come From? – Keith Mathison

What We’ve Received by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015The above-linked article in this month’s Tabletalk is the third one centered on the theme of the March issue – “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

Dr.Keith A. Mathison is the author of this article, and in it he treats the authority of Scripture in connection with how we know in the first place what books belong to the Bible (its “canon”). As he shows us the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, he refutes Rome’s claim that the church is the body that determines the canon of the Bible and therefore she is the one who gives Scripture its authority. Mathison shows plainly that the Bible carries its own authority because it is the Word of God.

What I appreciated about this article is its solid historical and confessional foundation rooted in the great Reformation. Repeatedly Mathison takes us to the historic Reformed creeds of the Reformation (Westminster Confession, Scots Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.).

This is a lengthy article, but well-worth your reading. I give you a portion of it here, where Mathison gets at the heart of the controversy between the Reformed and Rome. Find the full article at this link (or the one above).

The question at the heart of the debate between Rome and the Protestants regarding the canon and the authority of Scripture may be stated as follows (using Michael Kruger’s terminology): Is the canon of Scripture community determined or is it self-authenticating? According to Rome, the authority of Scripture depends upon the authority of the church. The most fundamental problem with this view, however carefully it may be nuanced and qualified, is that it unavoidably and inevitably places the authority of God beneath the authority of the church. It completely reverses the true state of affairs. If we are to believe in the authority of Scripture, according to Rome, we must assume the authority of the church. But why should we accept the authority of the church? Is it self-authenticating? No, Rome says, and she appeals to Scripture to establish the authority of the church just as she appeals to the church to establish the authority of Scripture. The circular nature of this appeal has been pointed out since the Reformation.

To say that the canon and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating is to say what the Reformed confessions say. It is, to use the words of William Whitaker, to say that “the Scripture is autopistos.” It has “all its authority and credit from itself.” Why? Because it is the Word of the living God, and God does not have to appeal to the church in order to establish His own inherent sovereign authority. God is God. The church is not God.

So, how is it that the church has come to recognize the right books and only the right books? Jesus Himself gives us the answer when He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As Roger Nicole has pointed out, the best way to describe the way in which we know the canon is “the witness of the Holy Spirit given corporately to God’s people.” Recognition of the canonical books is due to the action of the Holy Spirit’s enabling God’s people to hear His voice.

The Prayers of J.Calvin (14)

JCalvinPic1We continue on this Sunday night our posts on the prayers of John Calvin (see my previous Sunday posts in Nov./Dec., 2014 and now in Jan./Feb./March 2015), which follow his lectures on the OT prophecy of Jeremiah (Baker reprint, 1979). Tonight we post a brief section from his thirteenth lecture and the prayer that concludes it.

This lecture covers Jeremiah 3:19-25, which includes this commentary on God’s word of mercy to His wayward people in v.19:

We now, then, perceive the meaning of the Prophet: for he humbles the Israelites by this ascribing astonishment to God, as though it was a thing very difficult to be done [that is, to deliver them from their sin]; but at the same time he gives them hope, because salvation was prepared for them, provided they called on God with a sincere heart, and acknowledged him as their Father, and that perseveringly, without ever turning aside from him. In  short, God intimates that the Israelites were like dead men, and that their salvation was hopeless, without a resurrection (p.190).

This lecture Calvin ends with this plea:

Grant, Almighty God, that as we cease not, though favoured with many blessings, to provoke thee by our misdeed, as though we avowedly carried on war against thee, – O grant, that we being at length warned by those examples, by which thou invitest us to repentance, may restrain our depraved nature, and in due time repent, and so devote ourselves to thy service, that thy name through us may be glorified, and that we may strive to bring into the way of salvation those who seem to be now lost, so that thy mercy may extend far and wide, and that thus thy salvation, obtained through Christ thine only-begotten Son, may be known and embraced by all nations. –Amen (p.197).

“Think upon Christ in that upper room!” – Rev.M.De Vries

SB-March1-2015The March 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is out and it opens with a wonderful meditation by Rev. Michael DeVries, pastor of our Kalamazoo, MI PRC. Appropriate for the church season of remembering and reflecting on our Savior’s suffering and death, Rev. DeVries bases his meditation on the familiar passage in John 13 and the recorded event of Christ’s washing of His disciples feet.

He titles his meditation “Christ’s Example of Servanthood”, and after explaining its significance for Christ and His humiliation, he points us to its significance for us. It is from this section that I quote tonight, leaving you with some of his practical thoughts about what Christ’s example means for us, who also profess to be His disciples.

But what about this example?  Plainly there is a calling here that falls to each one of us in the communion of the saints:  “Ye ought also to wash one another’s feet”!  Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Master do this…”  What about it?  Is this beneath us?  Do we suppose that we are somehow exempt?  Or that we are too good, too important, too popular, too talented?  Are there some things that Jesus did that are simply beneath our dignity?  If this be the case, we are proud!  And we show that we have not learned the first thing about the kingdom of heaven.  “Be clothed with humility.”  That, is the heavenly example we must follow!  The followers of Christ are to manifest that humility that is in Him so beautifully and wonderfully!

What a struggle it is to count others better than ourselves, to be concerned, first, not with our own welfare and advantage but with the welfare of others.  Let us seek not the praise and honor of men, but the approval of the God of our salvation!  Our Heidelberg Catechism puts it so beautifully in Answer 55:  “… that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.”    Do you seek the good and spiritual welfare of the brother or sister?   That is the implication of washing one another’s feet.  Do you help one another in the daily battle of faith?  Do you do that as servant, not in haughty pride, not looking down your nose at the erring brother or sister, but in the humility of a servant, loving the brother, seeking the salvation of his soul?

How is that possible?   Christ is the power of our humility!  Always the humility that characterizes the life of the saints is a humility that is rooted in regeneration.  It is a virtue that comes by grace alone.  It is worked in us through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.  By His Spirit He works the humility of His own cross within our hearts.  Never does this humility come of ourselves!  God forbid that we should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14)!

…Let us pray then for the beautiful grace of humility!  May humility more and more characterize all of our lives.  Think upon Christ in that upper room!  Esteem each other better than yourself!  In love serve one another!  And in that way we truly serve our God.

To learn more about the contents of this issue of the “SB”, click on the cover image here. To learn about how to subscribe to this edifying Reformed magazine, visit the website link above.

“Our Name is Reformed” – Prof.B.Gritters

SB-Feb15-2015Such is the wording of a line taken from the February 15, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer. Specifically, this brief sentence is pulled from Prof. Barry Gritters’ editorial, in which he begins he series on “What It Means to Be Reformed.”

He does so in connection with the ninetieth anniversary of the forming of the Protestant Reformed Churches in 1925. This initial article is introductory, and part of that introduction includes explaining the name “Reformed” in this denomination’s name.

Here is a glimpse into what Prof. Gritters includes in his explanation of what it means to be “Reformed”:

For us, to be Reformed is to be biblical. It is simply to be Christian. Identifying as Reformed is not an attempt to be something other than what Christ calls His church to be. But since hundreds of groups, unfaithful to Jesus Christ and His Scripture, call themselves Christian, it is necessary to distinguish ourselves from them by our name.

…In the past, when a distinctive confession of faith was valued, churches understood the need for a distinctive name – a kind of flag they hoisted on their ship.  Thus Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Methodists, and all the other church groups were plainly identified in their faith and life by their name. Our name is Reformed.

Holding convictions and announcing them in a name is not smug arrogance. It is not sectarianism. Holding convictions about faith and life and announcing them in a name is a desire to be faithful to God and His Word, and transparent to those who may want to join our churches. It’s also a recognition that the ecclesiastical landscape is strewn with churches that are not true churches any longer, because in their history they lost a conviction that Christ is truth, lost the boldness to broadcast their faith, lost a sense of who they were historically, and lost the realization that churches are destroyed under the judgment of God for lack of knowledge. …Here the point needs to be made that convictions and transparency about those convictions are vital.

Not to hold convictions and publicize them in a name may well indicate the sentiment that one form of Christianity is as good as any other. And that’s one step away from becoming a false church.

Early CRC Life in Orange City, IA – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn his “semi-autobiographical story” titled Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), John J.Timmerman, long-time professor in the English Department at Calvin College (my alma mater), reflects on his early years in Orange City, IA, where he grew up as an adopted son of a CRC minister (Jan Timmerman).

I found his thoughts on his family and church life in NW Iowa in the early twentieth century to be a fascinating look at the nature of Reformed church life in our “mother church”, so on this archive/history day this is part of our history lesson.

Orange City, Iowa, in 1909 was a little town almost lost in the endless prairies. Most of the members of my father’s church were survivers, sturdy people of great faith and superior intelligence who had refused to be conquered by successive waves of crop-devouring grasshoppers.

…The city, as it called itself, was to a large extent a Dutch town. Dutch was spoken in the stores, on the porches, in sermons and catechism classes; even the horses understood some of it. The city paper, ‘Volksvriend’, was a Dutch paper. It was a very civilized city: I don’t remember if it even had a jail; and I never saw a drunk. The congregation was, as my father often said, well above average in intelligence and reading habits, and some of them read Kuyper and Bavinck instead of merely displaying their works. Religion was at the core.

As a little boy, I has no awareness that our church was a citadel of conservative and exclusivistic religion. From the perspective of a boy, we were, as a church and individuals, in the infallible hands of the Lord, God’s eye was upon us, especially during the three Sunday services, devotions at every meal, and evening prayers – but everywhere else also. I remember my mother saying, when some children were missing in a storm, ‘De Heere Jesus zal de kinderen wel bewaren’ (‘the Lord Jesus will surely care for the children’). Life in those days was often harsh: childhood diseases were less curable; pitiful accidents occurred on the farms; great storms ravaged the land; hail wiped out crops. Tornadoes were eerie and devastating. However, nothing – nothing at all – was outside the pattern of the Lord. Religion was a comfort in life and death, and the grave a resting place before glory (7-8).

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21.

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent on the church’s calendar – at least if you are Roman Catholic (preceded by “Fat Tuesday” and Mardi Gras, those paragons of piety!), Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican (especially later).

But of late it has also become fashionable for Protestant groups (“evangelicals”) and even Reformed folk to get excited about Lent and start practicing its customs, from fasting and fish-feasting to having ashes put on one’s forehead.

That’s why I appreciated Carl Trueman’s forthrightness in addressing this evangelical trendiness in this online article posted at Reformation21. He makes some excellent points about why Reformed Christians do not need Lent – with or without its ashes.

I give a few paragraphs here, encouraging you to read the full article at the “Ref21″ link above.

It’s that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent’s virtues to their own eclectic constituency.

… The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are ‘shriven’ or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God’s Word, particularly the Law, followed by a corporate prayer of confession and then some words of gospel forgiveness drawn from an appropriate passage and read out loud to the congregation by the minister.

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God’s grace and the helplessness of sinless humanity in the face of God. The Lord’s Supper, both in its symbolism (humble elements of bread and wine) and its meaning (the feeding on Christ by faith) indicates our continuing weakness, fragility and utter dependence upon Christ.

…Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.

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