In Review: Called to Watch for Christ's Return

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, by Martyn McGeown. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016. Pp. 286. [Reviewed by Rev. Ryan Barnhill]

Called to Watch for Christ’s Return began as a series of sermons preached by the author on the Olivet Discourse, a speech in which “Jesus proclaims his second coming, an event with which history will come to a dramatic and sudden close” (ix). These sermons covered Matthew 24:1-31, dealing with the signs of Christ’s coming—deceivers, the preaching of the gospel, the great tribulation, and more. These sermons also dealt with Matthew 24:32-25:46, treating the subject of watching for Christ’s return—the unknown time of his return, Christ’s coming as in the days of Noah, parables associated with his coming, and more. These sermons comprise the content of the book. We are thankful that these fine sermons have reached a wider audience through their publication in book form.

The main strength of Called to Watch for Christ’s Return is its exegetical precision and richness. The material is always mined from the text. Concepts are carefully defined and developed, and difficult passages are lucidly explained. Especially does this clarity of exegesis become important in passages that deal with such matters as the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-20) and the unknown time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36). Such passages are often misinterpreted, leading to a host of errors. Thus, proper, sober interpretation is critical in these kinds of difficult passages.McGeown’s work is a needed and timely contribution to the study of eschatology (the end times), for two reasons. First, there are so many today teaching unbiblical ideas about the end of the world. Called to Watch for Christ’s Return interacts with these systems of thought, dismantles them, and plainly sets forth the biblical, Reformed, amillennial position. Second, we live in the last days, and that alone makes this book important. We must know what to expect in these last and evil days, we must be admonished to watch for the coming of our Lord, and we must be comforted.

McGeown’s work is necessarily polemical. That is, it is a work which exposes and refutes the errors. Advocates of both postmillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism seek to find evidence for their views in Matthew 24 and 25. Postmillennialism teaches that the Olivet Discourse—at least some of it, if not all of it—is a reference exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This interpretation is fundamental to the postmillennial position, lest the events of which Jesus speaks interfere with postmillennialism’s future golden age. In contrast, premillennial dispensationalists claim that the Olivet Discourse refers exclusively to the future—not to AD 70, but to a future Jerusalem and a future temple. Negatively, the author exposes these errors, and demonstrates how a sober interpretation of Jesus’ teaching pulls the rug out from under these millennial systems. Positively, McGeown sees Matthew 24 and 25 as a blending of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, on the one hand, and Jesus’ second coming, on the other hand. The destruction of Jerusalem is a type or picture of Jesus’ second coming. This view, the amillennial view, and this view alone, does justice to Jesus’ words.

In a book on watching for Christ’s return, one would expect not only polemics, but also pointed instruction and warning for believers. After all, we are all prone to spiritual slumber instead of watching for Christ’s return. The command of scripture to watch for our Lord’s coming is a weighty command, and the author conveys it well: “Watch! Christ is coming. Let us not be found sleeping when he returns, but looking for his return. Let that watchfulness begin today if it has not been our habit before, so whether he comes on the clouds or calls us in death, we will be ready to meet him” (214). Called to Watch for Christ’s Return is a stirring call to stay vigilant in these last and evil days.

The book is also comforting and warm, an approach that arises from the author’s pastoral heart for God’s people who live in the perilous days prior to Jesus’ coming. This warm tone characterizes the entirety of the book, and climaxes in the last chapter; any reader’s heart will thrill in reading this last chapter, which explains, in part, the glories of the new heavens and the new earth. Read and meditate upon this breathtaking description of heaven: “Death, sin, and the curse will be absent—forever banished from the new creation. We will enjoy spiritual joy and satisfaction in abundance, for we will enter into the fullness of our inheritance. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit! That is life, eternal life, life that lasts forever and has no end. Life with Christ. Life in the presence of God, fellowshipping with him. That is blessedness and joy! That is worth waiting for! Do not fear the judgment day. Do not be weary with watching and waiting. But pray, even for that great day” (280).

Our Lord is coming. Watch. Watch—by reading. Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, as a faithful exposition of Jesus’ words, will instruct you, arm you against the errors, comfort you, and quicken your hope. Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. 

 

If you have not yet ordered your copy of this book, do so today! 

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IN REVIEW: The Reformed Baptism Form

The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, by B. Wielenga (Edited by David J. Engelsma and translated by Annemie Godbehere). Jenison, MI: RFPA 2016. 448 pages. $39.95 Hardcover. [Reviewed by Rev. Martyn McGeown]

The publication of this book will interest—and even excite—all those who love baptism, and in particular, all those who love the Form for the Administration of Baptism used in Reformed churches. Many church members and officebearers have heard the Form read, or have used the Form, hundreds of times as baptism has been administered to the covenant seed. But have we sufficiently pondered the beautiful language of the Form?

Bastiaan Wielenga (1873-1949) was a Dutch Reformed minister who not only studied the Form, but who loved the Form, and delighted in its clear, Reformed, biblical, devotional, and pastoral language. He wrote the commentary on the Form not for scholars, but for the ordinary child of God who loves the covenant and the God of the covenant. The RFPA has done the Reformed church world a great service by offering this book—the first English translation of a commentary on this priceless liturgical form—to the reading public.

Wielenga carefully explains (even exegetes) the language of the Form, dividing his material according to the divisions of the Form itself, the doctrinal section (misery, deliverance, and gratitude), a defence of infant baptism, the prayer before baptism, the questions to the parents, and the prayer of thanksgiving after baptism. However, he does not treat the section on the baptism of adults, which, although used on the mission field, is used less frequently in the established church.

Some of the outstanding features of the commentary are the following.

First, Wielenga’s writing is devotional. Wielenga is a very capable theologian and exegetes with the heart and language of a pastor, and even of a poet. The beautiful and moving passages in Wielenga’s writings are so numerous that a reviewer could not possibly do justice to them. Credit for this, of course, must also go to the translator, Mrs. Annemie Godbehere, with whom the reviewer was personally acquainted. Undoubtedly, it was her skill that helped bring Wielenga to life for an English readership. One example of Wielenga’s beautiful turns of phrase will suffice. In this quotation, Wielenga is explaining the need believers have for assurance and the richness of God’s supply in holy baptism:

Do we still need another seal? Does this confirmation need to be confirmed again? The seal sealed?
Yes, it must—because the Lord knows his people. He knows how they lack courage and how feeble they are. He knows that man, because he is in his own existence deceitful, distrusts and disbelieves others, even God.
Hence the Lord God, if he will ever see the mansions filled in his paternal home, cannot be stingy with promises, oaths, and seals. An overflowing source of assurances must let its streams of grace overflow the weak believer. Indeed, our covenantal God repeats his manifold declarations so many times that man, if he were less pathetic, with a dark purple blush of shame about his obstinacy would call out, “Lord, I do believe you; yes, Lord, it is enough, I know it already.”

Because it is exactly the opposite, and the godly constantly ask for stronger assurance, the cry of “Help thou mine unbelief!” does not grow silent before death closes their lips. Thereby God, who takes more pity on us than an earthly father, seals the covenant of grace in baptism. Even with this, he does not account the measure of his undergirding grace full, for in the Lord’s supper he has joined a second and no less royal and divine seal to the covenant (72-73).

Second, Wielenga’s doctrine of the covenant is (mostly) orthodox and mainly in line with our Protestant Reformed understanding. Although he does slip into “agreement” language on occasion, and although he does make a few statements on conditionality within the covenant with which we strongly disagree, Wielenga does view the covenant as an intimate relationship between God and his elect people. “That the Father establishes a covenant with us and adopts us as his children is intimate. That Christ makes us members of his spiritual body is even more intimate. But that the Spirit comes to dwell in us is the most intimate conceivable intimacy” (103).

But baptism, this holy baptism, is a seal and indubitable testimony that we have an eternal covenant with God. It is a covenant not entered into for a time, but rooted in an eternal election. It is a covenant not established on the proof of and dependent on the goodness of men, but anchored in the mediatorial heart of Christ who paid for all the sins of his people and accomplished all obedience.

Note, this is the power and beauty of Reformed doctrine as it shines brilliantly in our form: salvation not promised conditionally, but absolutely guaranteed! (143).

There are places where Wielenga slips into conditional language, but they do not appear so frequently as to mar the book. The astute reader will take note of them.

Third, Wielenga defends that view of covenant children which regards them as regenerate in infancy, and as partakers of a real, spiritual, and not merely external, holiness. This view does justice to God’s promises, rightly explains the language of the Form, and gives great hope to Reformed parents in the rearing of their children. “Just as the children, included in Adam, their covenantal head, are partakers of an internal depravity, so also are the children, included in Christ, partakers of an internal regeneration and holiness” (155). “The compilers of this form also did not regard the children of the congregation as spiritually dead but as spiritually alive” (220). “We are certain that any view other than that of an internal sanctification is out of place in the baptism form and is also not in keeping with the doctrine of the covenant that predominated in the church of the Reformation” (326).

If this child, shortly after baptism, came to die, the parents, if they have come to understand something of the eternal comfort in life and death, may find in this baptism a ground for the hope that their early-deceased darling entered into glory. If the child grows up, the parents may proceed with the rearing from the supposition, or if this word displeases you, from the hope, the quiet expectation, that the God of the covenant has already laid the new germ of life into the child’s heart (407-408).

Wielenga regards the opposite view as Methodism, a Methodism increasingly common in Reformed circles today:

In contrast to the Methodist, who in the rearing only focuses on conversion, making of Sunday school and Christian education a conversion institute, the Reformed parent, who has learned to live out of the covenant, prayerfully looks to the God of the covenant. He pleads the promises of the covenant for his child so that he increases and grows up in the Lord Jesus Christ (408).

Fourth, Wielenga discusses a good number of practical questions concerning the ceremony itself, and there are times when he is unsparing in his criticism of certain practices that had arisen in the churches of his day: should baptism be delayed until the mother recovers or until relatives from out of town can arrive; who should hold the baby; how many times should the water be applied, once or thrice; and should the minister say “Amen” after the baptism? Although some of these matters are historical curiosities to us, some of them are still serious issues today.

Not out of custom! May this reverberate in our ranks. Let us battle against the great enemy of all spiritual life, called custom; against this large monster, which in its cold embrace spiritually smothers thousands—and by its icy breath spiritually murders thousands (286).

Every young parent—especially the fathers, who seek baptism for their children in the consistory room—would do well to read this book. It would be worthwhile for married couples to read this book as they rear the covenant seed. And it would warm the hearts of all Reformed church members to read this book carefully and devotionally, whether they have children or not, for the doctrine of the covenant and of salvation is the joy of our souls.

Reader, may the fruit of the joint contemplation of our precious baptism form be that the word with which this prayer and thus our entire form concludes may find in all our hearts a warm echo. That is to say, on all these truths, promises, and admonitions, may your whole soul pray and worship. Amen (425).

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RFPA Update newsletter - Winter 2017

 Click icon to read the full pdf version.

Some of the Articles in this issue:
Justification by Faith Alone: The Heart of the Reformation
RFPA Annual Meeting
Book Review: Christianizing the World
New RPFA Staff member

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Book Review (continued): In the Beginning God, Chapter 3

Chapter Three

This chapter was probably the one I most liked and resonated with throughout the book.  My sense is that Hoeksema’s own understanding and study of the topic shifted as he prepared for his speeches, but perhaps it also reflects a shift in my own opinion or expectation that made me increasingly favorable to Hoeksema's views and ways of expressing them.  In any case, I had expected a lot of outdated arguments and poor apology for creationism, as well as a general skepticism of science, in this chapter.  However, in most of the key points I am very much in agreement with Hoeksema.

A particular strength of this chapter, in my opinion, is Hoeksema's distinction of creationists, secular/unbelieving evolutionists and theistic evolutionists.  I am very glad he does not simply lump the latter two groups together into one reprobate mass of ungodly scientists, which the PRCA is prone to do, to our shame.  Rather, he points out that the mistake of theistic evolutionists is an inconsistent capitulation to secular scientists that blindly accepts the interpretations of those who hate and deny God.  That is, they are not the same, but have given in to aspects that deny the authority and authenticity of Scripture.

On this note, Hoeksema makes a great point about secular scientists on pg 95: "Because he is spiritually darkness, the ungodly scientist does not want God, and because he does not want God, he rules God out of his own book." What I would add here is that the doctrine of common grace is very much to blame for the death of antithetical science.  If one teaches that there is redeeming value in the works of reprobate man, and that God can actually reveal truth through such persons' efforts, it is very easy to capitulate to claims that science contradicts the Genesis account.  Who are we, after all, to doubt the work of such knowledgeable people?  God can use them to show us the way....right?  An antithetical view of unbelieving mankind's prior commitments here would make us think twice and be very discerning about what he or she has to say with regard to interpreting scientific data about origins, anthropology or cosmological timelines.

There are naturally a few things that I would either disagree with or want to clarify.  For example, on pg. 119 Hoeksema is clearly articulating some of the outdated arguments that evolutionary theory disregards the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.  These arguments have long ago been debunked, and I would cringe a bit to unequivocally recommend this chapter because of this.  But thankfully, he admits very early on that he is not a scientist, and doesn't try (too much) to argue against evolutionism on the field of scientific theory. 

I am also somewhat uncomfortable with Hoeksema’s personification of science.  He has a rather bad tendency of saying "science does this or that," which again tends to set up the false dichotomy of science-vs-religion.  That being said, he thankfully balances this careless use of the word “science with some very clear definitions, and a great deal of effort to make clear that there are Christian scientists, and that this is a realm that is not only open to, but honorable for the Christian to engage.  Likewise, he makes a clear point that Scripture and science are not (cannot be!) at odds since they are a two-fold revelation from and about God.  We can quibble about whether the distinctions of special and general revelation are appropriate terms, but whatever the case, I very much agree with Hoeksema's points regarding the primacy of scripture.

I would add one note of cautionary nuance to Hoeksema's insistence that scripture interprets itself, and that the findings of science may never be used to inform our understanding of the Word.  There are very clear cases of a misunderstanding of scripture that has been corrected by scientific findings, which have provided us with a better understanding of the original text.  The first case, to which I referred earlier, is the Copernican controversy in the medieval church.  Another is a more recent example, in which the term "species" and the biblical "kind" were equated.  With a proper understanding of science, one sees that this cannot be the case, though for many years conservative Christians (at least in the PRC for sure) insisted it was so in the face of very clear evidence to the contrary.  Perhaps a third example we could point to is the concept that God created different ethnicities/races at Babel.  Nowhere in the text is this a required interpretation; rather, a proper understanding of human genetics makes clear that this is unnecessary.  All of these are examples of places where science helps to clarify understanding of scripture, but all within the bounds of the timeline that is also established by scripture in Genesis.

My concern here is two-fold.  The first is that we not make supernatural miracles out of what is simply a providential mechanism in the creation order.  Why does this matter?  Not because I want to deny miracles in any way, but because it is important to see the explicit purpose of miracles, which always point to Christ.  Miracles point to him directly and inescapably.  When something in scripture is not easily explained, let us not quickly jump to the conclusion that some divine intervention in the normal order of providence is required.  This tends to diminish the significance and impact of true miracles, making them mundane. 

My second concern with regard to this issue is a counterpoint to what Hoeksema warns about on pg. 96: "The practical significance of this is that as Christians we must not gullibly accept all that is presented in the name of science in this scientific age.  We must evaluate critically and with spiritual discernment."  At the same time, we must also not foolishly contradict every finding or claim of scientists as wrong just because the man was not a believer.  Each and every point should be evaluated critically and with spiritual discernment in the light of scripture.  If it is compatible, then it may be integrated into our understanding of the creation.  It not, then it may be discarded.  Such are the findings of evolution.  We may accept many of the findings that show very real change in creation, so-called microevolution.  But inferences from these findings that suggest a very different narrative than that of Genesis 1-2 are clearly wrong, and to be discarded.  Throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater is foolish and destructive to the witness of Christians in this world.

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Book Review (continued): In the Beginning God, Chapter 2

Chapter Two

I am somewhat concerned that Hoeksema is setting up false dichotomy when he speaks of "the relation between creation and science's claims" (pg. 42).  Strictly speaking, science does not make claims—people make claims.  Unbelieving secular scientists make claims from many of the same pieces of data that believing scientists analyze.  The difference is all about interpretation, not the science per se.  By using this wording, a certain view of scientists becomes apparent.  That is, "they" are something other than "us."  I think that this is a dangerous path to start going down, because it makes scientists people we need to distrust and dislike rather than engage.  My sense is that Hoeksema primarily intends to distinguish between "false science" and "true science" (pg. 79), by which he is trying to say bad and good interpretations of scientific data. But the wording could make some conservative Christians worry about whether it's even possible for a Christian to be a scientist.

During the various speeches that Nate Lanning and I have given, one of our suggestions that met a bit of resistance was distinguishing between “evolution” and “evolutionism.”  I find it interesting that Hoeksema himself uses the latter term and implicitly makes this distinction, though perhaps not as consistently or clearly as we have suggested. In any case, he makes clear that evolutionism is a worldview that extends far beyond origins and cannot comport with orthodox Christianity.  On this we agree entirely!

Hoeksema shows remarkable insight into the real problem with theistic evolution, which is that it comes with a significant risk of much greater departure from the historic Christian faith.  For a long time, people in relatively conservative Christian denominations (including Reformed ones) have been comfortable holding to both theistic evolution and the orthodox understanding of Scripture as given in the creeds because they just don't see an issue that relates to salvation in Jesus Christ.  I think the developing history in the Reformed community bears this issue out pretty well.  But in being entirely consistent with the tenants of exegesis that come from reading Genesis 1-2 in a non-literal sense, it becomes impossible to hold onto a non-literal Genesis 1-2 and draw a sharp line at Genesis 3 as the beginning of literal exegesis.  Knowledge of this fact isn't new at all, but the consequences of consistency are only recently beginning to bear fruit in what were once conservative denominations.  This is a warning that we all should take very seriously. (https://www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/seminars/human-origins.html)

The real issue with theistic evolution emerges when exegetical license is extended further to the origins of man and sin, which is the logical result of capitulation to secular, atheistic scientists' view of scientific data in the first place.  If some Christians are concerned that the traditional Christian view of cosmology doesn't match the interpretations of secular scientists (and therefore accept theistic evolution as a synthesis), they will likely also have quite a bit of trouble with newer secular interpretations of human origins based on genetic data.  Synthesis in this area is a lot more difficult than simply allowing for a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2, which Christian scientists, theologians, philosophers and anthropologists are finding out.  This is because synthesis (or perhaps more accurately, accommodation) beyond Genesis 1-2 very quickly gets into trouble with the orthodox doctrines of anthropology and original sin, and therefore the doctrines of Christology as well.  When these doctrines come into question, the reality and foundation of the Christian faith crumbles—entirely! 

That really leaves only three viable options: 1) accept the Bible's account of creation as literal and as a consistent rule for the book of Genesis; 2) live with exegetical inconsistency while accepting the narrative and authority of Scripture contained in the orthodox Christian faith; 3) deny the literal account of creation consistently, along with the authority of Scripture altogether.  I believe that there are true Christians who fall into the second group, choosing to live in that frame of reference while holding to the orthodox Christian faith.  One cannot hold to the third option and maintain that he or she is an orthodox Christian.  Unfortunately there often times seems to be only a hair's breadth of difference between options 2 and 3.  This is the reason why I place myself in the camp of option 1.

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Book Review (continued): In the Beginning God, Chapter 1

Chapter One

Hoeksema's thoughts regarding the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture are well-stated and solid points.  I think that they ring true with regards to defending the truth of Scripture against secular atheist attempts to overthrow the Bible's authority with regards to interpreting the creation record.  However, for the most part, proponents of theistic evolution would agree with what Hoeksema is saying; that is, they do not deny the infallibility of Scripture.  Instead, the major issue of controversy is how to interpret what is meant in Scripture, particularly when it is clear that the authors were ignorant of the science behind their macroscopic understanding of creation.  The theistic evolutionists' central argument is not about inspiration, but about authorial intent. They would say, for instance, that Moses could not possibly have intended Genesis 1 to be a literal explanation of creation because he lacked the scientific knowledge to explain the physics, chemistry and molecular biology of God’s creative act.  Rather, his version of the creation account in Genesis 1-2 was simply pointing to the sovereignty of God in the act of creation, not the mechanisms by which he carried it out. As such, I’m not sure that Hoeksema’s arguments would convince one who is tempted to believe the teaching of theistic evolutionists.

More to the point on this latter issue, Hoeksema is attempting to close the door on theistic evolutionism by defining a right understanding of inspiration.  I appreciated the detail he takes in this section, but am not sure that the position he takes can be easily defended.  The distinctions of graphic, plenary and verbal inspiration discussed from pg.12-14 are important, for instance, but bring up the issue of how we should understand what appear to be archaic concepts in Scripture.  The expressions of the Psalmists regarding human physiology and the heavenly bodies, for example, express archaic understandings of science.  We understand what is meant by a "gut feeling" (i.e. “my reins [literally, kidneys] also instruct me in the night seasons”, Psalm 16:7), but the concept is based on a scientifically incorrect understanding of the seat of emotional feelings.  By Hoeksema's definition of "verbal inspiration" (pg 14) we may be left trying to explain how God doesn't understand human physiology or how the earth orbits the sun, which is clearly problematic.

Furthermore, the fourth point that Hoeksema makes about "organic inspiration" seems to contradict his definition of "verbal inspiration".  If men wrote Scripture according to their "peculiar personalities, styles, circumstances, experiences and times" we can understand why the Psalmist explains concepts in terms of archaic physiology (eg. "my reins instruct me").  If, however, this is verbally the precise set of words that God used (verbal inspiration) then the text is problematic regarding the omniscience of God.

While I understand what Hoeksema is trying to say in his defense of the sufficiency of Scripture (pg. 34), I am concerned that he is overstating his point.  To say that issues of creation and evolution must be solely determined by Scripture fails to deal with the fact that Scripture is largely silent about many of the observations we make in science.  I would unconditionally agree that all of our scientific findings must be interpreted "in the light of" Scripture and be consistent with its teachings. But to say that our understanding of the creation must be "decided solely on the basis of" Scripture is perhaps too strong.  What I would prefer to say is that we hold to both special and general revelation, and that these two means of revelation are both God-ordained and therefore must be consistent with each other.  What is fallible and errant is our interpretation of these revelations, not the revelations themselves.  I would argue that sometimes we have to reevaluate our interpretation of both sources, though our understanding of Scripture (special revelation) is far more advanced than our understanding of the creation (general revelation).  As such, I am inclined to reevaluate my understanding and interpretation of scientific observations much more quickly than the orthodox understanding of Scripture.  Nonetheless, we cannot be so rigid as to believe that we understand and interpret what the Bible is saying perfectly—today or ever.  The Copernican controversy in the late medieval church is instructive in this matter. (http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2009/11/conflict-for-the-copernican-controversy/)

Another issue that Hoeksema might have discussed with a bit more detail is his reference to theistic evolution as "heresy" in and of itself.  My understanding of the word "heresy" is that it is a teaching that contradicts the orthodox understanding of the Christian faith that is circumscribed by an official, written decision of the church at some point in time.  It should be noted that Reformed persons who teach theistic evolution often point out that no Reformed creed precisely distinguishes six, twenty-four hour periods of time as the days of creation (though the Westminster confession does so).  As such, they will argue that the teachings of theistic evolution are not heretical in the orthodox—or even Reformed—Christian faith.

What has become increasingly clear of late is that consistent explanation of the implications of theistic evolution very easily leads to explicit heresy regarding the origins of man and his original sin (see below).  If these aspects of theistic evolution are taught, then the theory does undoubtedly become heresy in the technical sense.  But if the issue of six, twenty-four hour periods is questioned with regard to the creation account, I am less sure that the term heresy can be applied without distinction.

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Book Review: In the Beginning God

As the guest blogger here for the RFPA it is my privilege to welcome another guest, Dr. Brendan Looyenga.  Dr. Looyenga is an associate professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department of Calvin College.  He is also a member of the congregation I have the privilege of pastoring, Faith PRC in Jenison, MI.  Over the course of probably four installments we will be posting Dr. Looyenga’s comments on In The Beginning, God by Rev. Homer C. Hoeksema.  The reader should know that the review, while complementary at times, takes issue with Rev. Hoeksema’s argumentation in many instances.  We welcome the frank discussion of all the important issues regarding the doctrine of creation from Dr. Looyenga and hope to see your comments below. 

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In The Beginning, God. by Homer C. Hoeksema. RFPA (2015), Second Edition (First - 1966). 

As is made clear in the preface, “In the Beginning, God” is essentially an edited compilation of three speeches given by Professor Homer Hoeksema (b.1923 - d.1989) from the point of view of a pastor and theologian who lived in the mid-to-late twentieth century. Given that the speeches were directed at a largely non-scientific audience of like-minded believers, their content is fairly cursory in scientific depth and sophistication, which is to be expected. For better or worse, the book reflects this tone and does not address from a scientific point of view any of the pertinent issues at hand regarding evolution and creation. Instead, this book represents Hoeksema’s theological understanding of how an evolutionary worldview is incompatible with Scripture, and how science and scientists should be viewed as such.

Hoeksema’s clear and strong defense of the primacy of Scripture in the debate over creation v. evolution is certainly the correct starting point from which a Christian should strive to gain understanding of the issues at hand.  As he states early in the book, “essentially all of these discussions involve the inspiration, infallibility and authority of holy Scripture" (pg. 5).  Hoeksema rightly points out that these issues are matters of faith, not logic, and as such the believer ought to use the utmost caution in approaching science from an intellectual or rationalistic point of view.  Such an approach removes the greatest asset we have, which is the inspired Word of God presented in the Bible. 

Although Hoeksema’s emphasis on biblical integrity is the great strength of this book, I also appreciated his discussion of the compatibility of Scripture and science, though it unfortunately failed to show up until the third chapter.  He contends that “Scripture and science, properly conceived, are compatible” because “there are not two different, unconnected revelations of God, but one two-fold revelation” (pgs. 82, 90).  In the context of the creation v. evolution debate, Hoeksema suggests that apparent conflicts between the Bible and science are rather the result of improper or speculative interpretations of scientific findings, a contention with which I thoroughly agree.  Practically speaking, this means that Christians can be profitably involved in science, providing they keep the importance of God’s inspired Word foremost and limit their interpretation of science to theories that harmonize with Scripture.

Despite the strong points noted above, I think it would be a mistake to view “In the Beginning, God” book as a definitive apology for creationism, particularly given the span of time that separates the origin of this book from today.  It will be clear to many readers who have followed the creation v. evolution debate since 1966 that many of the arguments and objections Hoeksema raises against evolution are dated, and have been long ago discarded by more recent proponents of Biblical creationism.  This weakness parallels his tendency to set up “straw man” arguments that are easily destroyed, but only represent caricatures of the position that secular or theistic evolutionists actually take.  There is also a notable lack of precision in Hoeksema’s use of various terms, such “evolution” and “evolutionism.”  Though he is very clear with his definitions in some places, this is not consistently true throughout the book, which can be confusing to readers. Equally unsettling is Hoeksema’s tendency to set up a contrast between orthodox Christianity and “science” as a whole.  Though he does in some sense counter this tendency in the third chapter (as noted above), I found myself—as a conservative Christian scientist—somewhat taken aback by the broad (and inaccurate) strokes with which Hoeksema paints science and scientists earlier in the book.

While the liabilities noted above may perhaps be excused by the fact that this book was originally published a half-century ago, there are other problems that also make me hesitant to endorse this book unequivocally.  The most troubling of these is Hoeksema’s tendency to make very strong assertions without clear demonstration of why these statements are Biblically or logically true.  The simple defense of “because I said so” will satisfy individuals who know and appreciate Hoeksema as a Protestant Reformed theologian, but will not likely satisfy others who remain uncertain in their understanding of biblical creationism.  If the intent of republishing this book in the early twenty-first century is at all evangelistic—as seems to be the case—I think it falls short. 

In the following—admittedly extensive—set of notes, I have provided a more extensive critique of each chapter.  As you will see, I found much of the book very profitable and helpful, so please understand that my hesitation in endorsing it is not at all absolute.  As a historical document, it is most useful.

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The Fruit of the Spirit: Longsuffering

The Queen of Virtues

Longsuffering begins, Rev. Smit writes in chapter five of The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, “the second main group” of the fruit of the Spirit. The first group of three virtues is inward looking, while this second group of three “seems to highlight virtues that are evident in our outward dealings and communication, especially with those of our church families and covenant homes.” Just as the importance of love is highlighted by its position at the head of the first group of virtues, so longsuffering is highlighted because it is first in the second group – before gentleness and goodness. Love is first, the king of all virtues. And longsuffering, according to Rev. Smit, “certainly must be queen.”

If you have seen another translation’s rendering of Gal. 5:22-23, then you know that the word the KJV translates as longsuffering is often translated as patience. We use these words interchangeably, Rev. Smit notes, in our “common daily conversation,” Rev. Smit writes, “Although they may seem to be almost identical terms, according to Colossians 1:11 patience and longsuffering are shown to be both closely related and yet distinct virtues.”  

Because patience is closely related to longsuffering Rev. Smit briefly defines and explains patience.  What is patience? How did saints in the Bible demonstrate patience? Does God have patience? Do you have patience? Pages 70-72 will help you answer these questions.

Because longsuffering is distinct from patience Rev. Smit gives it separate treatment. He writes, “Longsuffering is the virtue that applies to the persons whom God providentially places upon [the child of God’s] divinely determined pathway and, as a result, with whom he cannot avoid communication and dealings.” I added the emphasis to the word persons in order to indicate that longsuffering is a virtue that has to do with our relationships with other people. Patience is broader than longsuffering, as you will discover if you read Rev. Smit’s treatment of patience. Longsuffering is narrower. It is patience with people.  In longsuffering we have to do with the neighbor and our calling to love him or her as ourselves.  

Rev. Smit continues his treatment of longsuffering by explaining that God is longsuffering. Do you know what it means that God is longsuffering toward his people? Read the bottom of page 72 and the top of page 73. Amazingly, God shares his attribute of longsuffering with his saints. Saints who are longsuffering are a reflection of God!

What is the longsuffering of saints? Rev. Smit writes that it means saints “bear with the weaknesses of others.” Rev. Smit provides a helpful explanation of how this longsuffering is shown to the neighbor, of the motivation for showing this longsuffering, and how this longsuffering is not a toleration of sin. Then he provides helpful biblical examples of longsuffering in action.    

Are you using the Bible to regulate your relationships with the people God has placed in your life? Do you love your neighbor(s) as yourself? Do you respond biblically to the weaknesses and sins of others? This is a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that God calls his people to cultivate in their lives. I highly recommend you read this chapter for help and encouragement.

 

Other articles by Rev. Spronk on The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ:

The Fruit of the Spirit: An Introduction

The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

______________________________________________________________________________________

This article was written by guest blogger Rev. Clayton Spronk, pastor of Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. Rev. Spronk will be blogging for us several times a month, taking us first through a brief study of Richard Smit's newly released book, The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. If there is a topic you'd like to Rev. Spronk to address, please contact us.

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RFPA Update Fall 2013

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Schism of 1953 within the Protestant Reformed Churches. In the newest issue of the RFPA Update, learn about the role of the Standard Bearer throughout the schism and read a review of our most recent book publication which also details much of the history of the schism. Click here for to view the entire Update as a PDF.

 

 

The SB and the PRC: A Trumpet Blast and Reformed Testimony

by Prof. David J. Engelsma

Rightly, both friend and foe of the magazine perceive the Standard Bearer (SB) as the literary voice of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC). That the SB is published by a “free” association, that is, an association that is independent of the churches, does not affect the perception. All hear this voice as a trumpet—a clear, loud sounding of the Reformed faith as purely known and boldly confessed by the PRC.

In an address at the 1945 RFPA annual meeting, the cofounder and first editor of the magazine, Herman Hoeksema, said, “The Standard Bearer wants to send forth a trumpet blast of no uncertain sound. It purposes to send forth a testimony that is very specifically Reformed.” Hoeksema added that the “very heart” of this specifically Reformed truth, that the SB would clearly and loudly testify, is “the idea of the covenant of grace.” And the truth of the covenant of grace “dare not be divorced from the doctrine of sovereign predestination.”

Little did Hoeksema know that in a few years the SB would have to give a “trumpet blast of no uncertain sound” regarding the doctrine of the covenant for the defense of the Reformed faith within the PRC themselves. But this it did, for the preservation of the churches in the pure Reformed faith, for the development of the doctrine of the covenant by means of controversy, and for the public exposure of grievous heresy regarding the covenant with believers and their children.

The year 2013 is the sixtieth anniversary of a notable schism in the PRC. The issue was the doctrine of the covenant, whether having its source in the eternal decree of election and, therefore, made unconditionally with Jesus Christ as head of the covenant and with all the elect in him (Gal. 3:16, 19, 29), or cut loose from election and, therefore, made conditionally with all who are baptized. Involved in the controversy was also the conception of the covenant as a living, warm bond of intimate fellowship, reflecting the life of the Trinity, rather than a cold contract or agreement, patterned after a business deal or a political alliance. In June, 1953, the large, influential First PR Church in Grand Rapids, mother church of the PRC, was divided over the issue of the covenant. In September, 1953, the schism spread to Classis West of the PRC. In October, 1953, the schism sundered the churches in Classis East, thus becoming denomination-wide.

To celebrate schism in the church of Jesus Christ, schism being a gross, public sin that does damage to the visible church of Christ, is inappropriate. We mourned the schism. Sixty years later, we still mourn the schism. But we celebrate the work of Christ in and by the wicked, hurtful schism. That work was the preservation of the PRC in their belief and confession of salvation by sovereign, particular (unconditional) covenant of grace. We celebrate also the work of Christ by the schism of bringing about development of the doctrine of the covenant; of causing a Reformed denomination officially to adopt and confess orthodox Reformed principles of the doctrine of the covenant (in the PRC’s Declaration of Principles); and of exposing and condemning a perennial threat to the truth of the covenant and the gospel of grace in Reformed churches.

The main instrument of the Spirit of Christ in this work, other than the sermons preached by the faithful PR ministers, was the SB. Beginning in 1948 and continuing through the heat of the controversy in the early 1950s, the SB explained the issues of the controversy and defended the truth of the covenant, crossing swords with the enemies of the truth in the PRC. Thus the magazine preserved the PRC, though in much smaller size than before the schism.

The crucial importance of the SB for the PRC and their confession of the truth of the gospel of grace in the schism of 1953 was not the first time the magazine had functioned in this capacity in hard times. The SB was instrumental in forming the PRC in March, 1925. The first issue of the SB was published in October, 1924, when Hoeksema, G. M. Ophoff, and H. Danhof and their congregations were still members of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).

Quite directly, the SB occasioned the formation of the PRC as a separate Reformed denomination. Rather than the churches producing the magazine, the magazine helped to produce the churches. The deposition by CR classes of Hoeksema, Ophoff, and Danhof and the expelling of their congregations from the CRC were due, in no small part, to the ministers’ publishing of the SB and writing against the doctrine of common grace, which the synod of the CRC had adopted in the summer of 1924. A ground for the deposition of Danhof and Ophoff and their consistories was their “association with the SB.” Although his involvement in the SB was not mentioned in the grounds for Hoeksema’s deposition, it was mentioned in the proceedings that led up to it (Herman Hoeksema, The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, 1947], 252, 158).

In the early years of the PRC, the SB was the main means of the expansion of the denomination among Christian Reformed people who shared the PRC’s rejection of common grace and convictions concerning particular grace and the antithesis.

The SB vigorously and uncompromisingly defended the unconditional covenant during the internal struggle of the PRC in the early 1950s that culminated in the schism of 1953. This defense is shown today as a glorious defense of the gospel of grace by current developments concerning the covenant in many reputedly conservative Presbyterian and Reformed churches in North America. The heresy of the federal vision, which is widespread and entrenched in these churches, openly denies justification by faith alone—the heart of the gospel—and thus all the doctrines of grace confessed by the Canons of Dordt with specific regard to salvation in the covenant. For the Reformed critique of the theology of the federal (covenant) vision, see my Federal Vision: Heresy at the Root (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2012).

By its own admission the federal vision is nothing other than the development of the doctrine of a conditional covenant that the PRC repudiated in 1951 by the adoption of a synodical document called the Declaration of Principles, and in 1953 by the discipline of a minister who was preaching the conditional covenant. For the full account of the adoption of the Declaration of Principles, including its contents, and an account of the schism itself, see Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2013). The witness of the SB in the late 1940s and early 1950s to the unconditional covenant, now summed up in the Declaration of Principles would be the salvation of Reformed churches in North America, if only they would give heed to it.

The important work of the SB on behalf of the PRC and the Reformed faith and life is not finished. What this work—a calling—continues to be is indicated in the statement of the SB’s purpose by the founders of the magazine. Originally, the purpose of the magazine was to develop and defend the truth of particular grace against the theology of the three points of common grace adopted by the CRC synod of 1924 (cf. Hoeksema, PRC in America, 134–35). The importance of this calling of the SB, still today, in AD 2013, is evident from the appalling apostasy of the CRC, both in doctrine and in life, as that church goes on foolishly and wickedly developing and applying its doctrine of common grace.

In their announcement to the CRC that they intended to publish the SB, Danhof and Hoeksema advised the CRC that the magazine would testify that “the doctrine of common grace necessarily leads to world conformity” (Om Recht en Waarheid [For justice and truth], Kalamazoo, MI: Dalm Printing, n.d., 46; the translation of the Dutch is mine). This warning, many other Reformed churches besides the CRC need to hear. They criticize the CRC for its falling away, while themselves embracing, defending, and preaching the false doctrine that has destroyed that church.

As editor Herman Hoeksema declared in his address to the annual meeting of the RFPA in 1945, the calling of the SB is to sound a “trumpet blast of no uncertain sound” that is “very specifically Reformed.” And the “very heart” of this “very specifically Reformed” blast is “found in the idea of the covenant of God,” which “dare not be divorced from the doctrine of sovereign predestination.”

If ever there were a time when such a blast should be sounded throughout all of Reformed Christendom, it is the present. The churches are plagued either by the absence of a covenant consciousness, as Arminian evangelicalism corrupts the churches, or by the heresy of a conditional covenant that is deliberately divorced from sovereign predestination and is, therefore, also the Arminian error.

For such a time as this, God has raised up the PRC and their SB.

In carrying out this calling, the SB must not only be positive, but also negative. The constitution of the RFPA requires the SB “to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant [to the Word of God as expressed in the Reformed creeds].” The SB must be polemical—a fighting magazine. The wars of the Lord did not end in 1953. And the Lord’s wars intend the destruction of the foe.

For this warfare courage is demanded. The magazine must be willing to endure slander and ridicule, while persevering in the conflict without wavering. Love of the truth must outweigh the suffering of the hatred of men.

This means that the editors and writers of the magazine must be willing to be studiously ignored by the wider Reformed community in their magazines and journals, as though the content of the SB is unworthy of consideration. They must write without desiring or expecting the praise of men, in anticipation of the only commendation that matters—the Lord’s “well done, good and faithful servant.”

But if history lasts another one hundred years, Reformed scholars somewhere in the world (for the Reformed faith will endure; God grant that it may be in the PRC) will write that, in the midst of shameful embarrassment at the Reformed, Christian faith and life and in an environment of dreadful apostasy, there was a magazine known as the SB that kept and fought for the faith of Jesus Christ according to the Reformed religion.

 

In Review: Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant

David J. Engelsma
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Jenison, MI, 2013
Hardcover, 304 pages; $28.95
Reviewed by Justin Smidstra

Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant is a timely publication, examining the controversy over the doctrine of the covenant. This treatment is merited not only by the present need to preserve the history of the schism of 1953, which becomes more distant with each passing generation, but also by the present ecclesiastical landscape in which conditional covenant theology is rampant even within the walls of conservative Reformed churches. This book is an important historical study readily applicable to the lives of contemporary Reformed Christians.

Historically, the book covers the provisional adoption of the Declaration of Principles in 1950, through the tumultuous period of controversy leading up to and following the synod of 1951, and concludes with the schism of 1953 and the subsequent return of the schismatic churches to the CRC. The commentary on this history is engaging as the author not only recounts these events but analyzes them, explains their meaning for the churches, and provides insight into why they occurred.

The author focuses primarily on the Declaration of Principles, the document that precipitated the controversy. This Declaration, as the author maintains, is a landmark document in the history of Reformed Christianity. This is not because it teaches anything new. Rather the Declaration articulates that which the PRC has always confessed, namely that the covenant is sovereignly established by God with the head of the covenant Jesus Christ and the elect seed of believers. The covenant is therefore governed by election and is dependent for its fulfillment solely on the gracious work of God. In the course of the book, the author articulates this covenant doctrine and decisively refutes the disguised Arminian view of the Liberated, which divorces the covenant from election.

The author also draws out some important implications of the Declaration for Reformed churches today. First, the doctrine of the unconditional covenant is not a peculiar creation of the PRC alone; rather it is a doctrine that necessarily arises from a consistently applied Calvinist theology. This is accomplished by proving the complete harmony of the Declaration with the confessions. In this way, by illustrating the soundness of the Declaration’s creedal argument on behalf of the unconditional covenant, the author demonstrates that all Reformed churches who subscribe to the three forms of unity are bound to confess that the covenant is unconditional. It is a matter of creedal fidelity.

Second is the application of the Declaration to the current controversy surrounding the federal vision, a theology that teaches on the basis of the conditional covenant that God gives the covenantal promise to every baptized child and that the fulfillment of that promise depends upon the child’s fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant. This latest mutation of “salvation by works” theology that now plagues numerous Reformed Churches is essentially the same covenant theology that was unmasked and defeated by PRC in the 1950s. The Declaration holds the cure, but few have sought to learn from history’s light. Indeed the Battle for Sovereign Grace shows that this battle is an ongoing battle between the true gospel and the false gospel and, as members of the church militant, we are called to fight the good fight on behalf of God’s truth.

In this regard this book is a very worthwhile read for anyone, young and old alike, who cherish the truth of the covenant and who desire to see this heritage preserved for the good of the church and the glory of God.


Mr. Justin Smidstra is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI, and will be entering the Protestant Reformed Seminary this fall, the Lord willing.

 

Catch Up with Calvin for only $31.45!

Click here to purchase. Valid through October 31, 2013.
*Book Club or any other discount does not apply. Book club members will not be charged for shipping.

As the anniversary of the celebrated Protestant Reformation approaches, let us give thanks to God for John Calvin and the wonderful reformation he also brought about, by God’s power.

Calvin’s Calvinism features the treatise written by Calvin in 1522 on the doctrines of predestination and providence represents his mature thoughts on these subjects. The Reformed Faith of John Calvin is the perfect book for those in search of a succinct summary of the Calvin’s Institutes.

Stock your shelves with these two valuable volumes and catch up with Calvin!

 

From Our Readers

Thank you for your valuable publication of the eBook version of the Church Order Commentary. I have already learned much from it and am very grateful for yet another outstanding RFPA publication (as always, the best that there is)!
—Reader from Tennessee

In the last year I was introduced to the Standard Bearer. I have found so much already that has helped us grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. This is a Reformed journal to which every Reformed believer should be a subscriber. When I finish each issue, I leave it in the narthex of my church for others to read. Thank you for maintaining fidelity to God’s Word as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity.
—Reader from New York

I received Reformed Dogmatics by Hoeksema. Thank you for sending along a free copy of Our Goodly Heritage Preserved and a free copy of the Standard Bearer. I thoroughly enjoy reading the SB and read many SB articles online while deployed in Afghanistan.
—Reader from Michigan

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RFPA Update Winter 2013

Wondering about RFPA book distributors, the success of the warehouse sale, or what books are on special this spring? Read about it all in the newest issue of the RFPA Update! Click here for to view the Update as a PDF.

 

Spreading the Truth...One Book at a Time

Do you imagine the woman in Europe studying the truth of God’s word, whose bookshelf of RFPA publications is her most prized possession? Or the man in Asia just hearing about the Reformed faith for the first time? Do you think about the group of Reformed believers in Africa, eagerly awaiting a translation of Doctrine according to Godliness in their own language? What about the young converts in Singapore, who worship and study despite their families’ outrage?

The purpose and mission of the RFPA has always been to testify to the truth of Scripture as understood and developed in the Reformed tradition. What use is this testimony unless the RFPA actively proclaims it throughout the world, making our good, Reformed material available to believers of every nation, tribe, and tongue? We give thanks to God for the following three bookstores that help make this happen.

Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Bookstore
Northern Ireland
 

The Covenant Protestant Reformed Church Bookstore (CPRCB) is the RFPA’s distributor to its UK and European readers. Up and running for approximately 30 years, the bookstore is currently located in the manse of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church (CPRC) and operated by Rev. Angus Stewart and his wife, Mary. Rev. Stewart is the pastor of CPRC.

“The bookstore was opened in order to spread the Reformed faith, to strengthen and grow the CPRC, and to get the Protestant Reformed authors better known,” said Rev. Stewart. “We are trying to reach anybody and everybody with the truth of the Reformed faith, especially those in the UK and Europe.”

The Stewarts and other members of the CPRC use diverse means to sell books and to get them into the hands of people all over the world. They have a comprehensive website (www.cprf.co.uk/bookstore.htm), including translations of parts of 30 RFPA titles in 13 different languages. The CPRCB is active in the community, having hosted booths at agricultural shows, markets, and other community events. Rev. Stewart (along with Rev. Martyn McGeown of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in the Republic of Ireland) sells RFPA books at CPRC conferences and frequent lectures throughout the UK. The CPRCB advertise the books in their monthly paper, The Covenant Reformed News, and through Facebook. 

And these efforts have certainly been successful, by God’s grace. On average, the CPRCB sells approximately 320 RFPA books each year, including several of the most popular titles (Doctrine according to Godliness and When You Pray). In 2010, the RFPA sent nearly 700 books overseas to replenish the CPRCB’s supply, the largest order in the history of the RFPA.

The Philippines Bookstore
Philippines
 

The Philippines Bookstore is a relatively new operation, run by Rev. Daniel Kleyn and his wife, Sharon. Rev. Kleyn currently serves as a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches to several groups and churches in and around Manila. The bookstore opened just two years ago and has proved to be an asset to the mission work being done in the Philippines and throughout Southeast Asia.

“The costs for the bookstore are funded by generous collections in the Protestant Reformed Churches. They enable us to pay for shipping the books and also to sell the books here at a discounted price, so that the Filipinos can more easily afford to buy them,” said Sharon.

In the two years since the bookstore opened, the Kleyns have sold more than 750 books plus many Bibles and Psalters to the members of the churches and the groups with whom they work. Many of these people have also spread the word to their friends and acquaintances, resulting in the spread of RFPA books all over the Philippines and even as far as Indonesia and Korea. One pastor in the Manila area uses sections of Doctrine according to Godliness (which has now been translated in its entirety into Tagalog) for his weekly radio broadcast.

“Thank you for making these books available at discounted prices,” said one customer. “I have learned so many things from what I have already read. By God’s grace, the Lord gives me opportunity to share what I am learning with others here at church, especially with my elders.”

Covenant Reformed Book Centre
Singapore
 

Located in the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church (CERC), a sister church of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, this small but energetic operation is not so concerned with making a profit as it is to encourage people to read doctrinally sound Reformed books.

Run by Suet Yin Goh and Daisy Lim along with help from the church’s Ebenezer bible study group, the Covenant Reformed Book Centre (CRBC) has been in operation for quite some time, although not always under this name and management. Many years ago, donations from the Protestant Reformed Churches were given to the church in Singapore as a start-up fund for a bookstore, the fruit of which the Singaporean saints have been enjoying for years.

“We are grateful that Prof. Herman Hanko and Prof. David Engelsma have faithfully documented their wealth of knowledge in writing the many books. We hope that more professors and ministers would set aside time to write books,” said Daisy. “Books help us to reinforce our understanding of the sound doctrines of Holy Scriptures. Whenever we forget what we heard in the preaching, we can always re-read the books.”

Daisy’s words give testimony to the value of the written word. The CERC is a growing church with many young members, passionate about the Reformed faith. The book centre, carrying over 70 RFPA titles, has been invaluable to this growth. Popular titles include God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace, Doctrine according to Godliness, and Mysteries of the Kingdom.

 

New Book, New Author! The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

 

This beautiful paperback is the perfect gift book for anyone, young or old. This book discusses the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (found in Galatians 5:22, 23), encouraging believers unto a life of good fruit-bearing. 

New author Richard J. Smit first wrote about the fruit of the Spirit in a series of articles that appeared in the Standard Bearer. Smit has served as a minister in several charges in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America and currently serves as a missionary to the Philippines.

 

RFPA Annual Meeting 2012 Recap

The RFPA annual meeting took place on September 27, 2012 in Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church with board president Henry Kamps leading the proceedings. Sixty-four association members attended and sixteen men requested membership. What a thrill to have men passionate for the work of the RFPA! 

The treasurer, Jeff Kalsbeek, reported on various financial details including a net income deficit for both the book and Standard Bearer divisions. In both cases, the deficits showed only a slight variance to the budgeted amounts, and funds were made available from restricted accounts to cover these deficits. Book sales were near all-time highs at $207,651, and although SB hardcopy subscriptions have dipped, eSubscriptions are gaining in popularity. The RFPA has zero debt and its net worth continues to grow. The balance sheet showed amounts in accounts reserved for designated and special situations, such as  future building maintenance and office equipment.

Cal Kalsbeek, secretary of the board, presented his report on highlights of the previous year, calling it the “Year of the epub,” making reference to our transition into the eBook industry. The transcript of this report was printed in volume 89 issue 4 of the Standard Bearer. Professor Barrett Gritters presented the keynote address entitled “Church Membership in a Postmodern Era,” the text of which will be published in upcoming issues of the Standard Bearer. Thanks were given to retiring board members Tom Bodbyl, Ryan Brunsting, Ed Hoekstra, and Henry Kamps. New board members were elected for three-year terms.

 

Photo | The current RFPA board (from left to right): Dave Harbach, Cal Kalsbeek (secretary), Joel Bodbyl (chairman of marketing and membership committee), Tom Bergman, Dan DeMeester (vice-all and chairman of book and Standard Bearer committee), Michael Bosveld (president), Jon Engelsma (vice president), Jeff Kalsbeek (treasurer and chairman of finance committee), Dan Van Uffelen, Matt VanOverloop, Dan Kalsbeek, and Doug Mingerink Jr.

 

 

Warehouse Sale an Encouraging Success!

Six hours. Roughly 325 customers. Approximately 460 bags. More than 10,100 books sold. Seven new Book Club members. Yes, by all accounts the RFPA warehouse sale was a smashing success!

Customers were invited to visit the RFPA on Saturday December 15 and fill a bag with books (choosing from 40 select titles) for only $25. And the people came in droves! The staff and board members were available to answer questions, assist customers with checkout, and restock the books on special. The most popular book, selling 402 copies? Portraits of Faithful Saints. The Unfolding Covenant History series was close behind, at about 380 copies of each volume.

One of our goals is to help young people and families establish a solid Reformed library, and we are thrilled to report that a large number of young people and families came out for the sale. What an encouragement it is to see so many, both young and old, excited to read about the truth of God’s word! It is our prayer that the books purchased will be well-used as resources for instruction and comfort for years to come.

Now that we have cleared some much needed space in the warehouse, we can prepare for the next several book projects! We ask for your continued prayers and monetary support as the urgent work of proclaiming the Reformed truth is carried out.

 

A Review of A Pilgrim’s Manual: Commentary on 1 Peter

Herman Hanko
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Jenison, MI, 2012
Hardback, 352 pages; $32.00
Reviewed by Charles Terpstra

Protestant Reformed Seminary Professor Emeritus, Herman Hanko, has done it again! He has penned another fine exposition of a portion of Holy Scripture, this time on the book of 1 Peter. As he did with The Mysteries of the Kingdom (on Jesus’ parables) and Justified unto Liberty (on Galatians), so now with A Pilgrim’s Manual Hanko has given us a rich exegetical commentary on a precious New Testament book. He has captured the heart of this epistle and woven its theme throughout this work. He will not have us forget that 1 Peter is indeed a pilgrim’s manual, inspired by the Holy Spirit and inscribed by Peter to guide God’s pilgrim-stranger people through this world on the way to their heavenly home.

Hanko is a skilled exegete in his own right (gifted by the Lord, of course). Having preached through the epistle in his early ministry, and having taught New Testament Greek for many years in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Hanko develops the concepts and truths of this letter even further. In fact, Hanko is not afraid to differ with Herman Hoeksema and others at points. The result is a commentary that is fresh, deep, and rich in doctrinal teaching. 

Still more, because Hanko writes as a churchman who is bound by and faithful to the Reformed creeds, his work breathes the beautiful truths of the Reformed faith, especially the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of his grace to his people in Christ Jesus. And because he writes as a Protestant Reformed churchman, he emphasizes especially God’s sovereign, particular grace and his unconditional covenant with his elect people in Christ. For the same reasons, Hanko exposes the heresies and errors of our time, with clarity and compassion. 

Nor does Hanko avoid the “difficult” doctrines presented in this epistle, such as Christ's being the chief cornerstone of his church while also being the “stone of stumbling” and “rock of offence” to the wicked unbeliever—and both aspects being according to God’s sovereign predestination (election and reprobation, 2:4–9). Or the tough practical issues involving the true Christian’s persecution by this ungodly world (chaps. 2, 4) and the callings of the Christian wife and husband in marriage, even mixed ones (3:1–7). In the face of ecclesiastical mushiness on doctrine and outright wimpiness on morality, Hanko issues a clear sound of faithfulness to the text of Scripture, letting God’s word speak plainly and powerfully for the instruction, correction, and guidance of God’s people (2 Tim.3:16).

Yet this new work is also more than rich in exegesis and doctrinal commentary. Warmly dedicated to his wife “Wilma, my fellow pilgrim,” A Pilgrim’s Manual is also rich in devotion and practical application. Hanko writes this commentary as a redeemed and devoted Christian pilgrim, himself making the journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. And because he is a mature and experienced pilgrim, filled with the light of God’s word, he is able to provide us, his fellow pilgrims, with wise counsel for our journeys. In reading this commentary you will not lack for comfort and hope.

We sincerely welcome and heartily recommend A Pilgrim’s Manual to Christian readers everywhere. It will serve as a profitable addition to your personal or family library. It will feed your soul and strengthen your faith whether you use it for your group Bible study or for your personal devotions. Above all, this work will confirm you in the one hope we have as believers—the hope of our everlasting home with the Lord. By all means get this book, study the manual, and then press on, pilgrim!

Mr. Terpstra currently serves as the librarian and archivist (among other responsibilities) at the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grandville, MI, and is the book review editor for the Standard Bearer.

 

Bound to Join  and A Defense of the Church Institute- BOGO!  (reg. $17.95 each)

Click here to purchase! Valid through April 15, 2013.
*Book Club or any other discount does not apply. Book club members will not be charged for shipping.

These books by David J. Engelsma are must reads in an age when many Christians neglect their duty regarding church membership. In Bound to Join, Engelsma explains, in the form of letters, the importance of church membership in the twenty-first century. In the sequel, A Defense of the Church Institute, Engelsma defends the doctrine of church membership and demonstrates that love for the universal, invisible church invariably expresses itself by love for the manifestation of this church in the church institute.

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