I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’ve accepted a call to the Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania. That happened back in September of last year. Since then, we’ve been working to get everything in order for this move to happen. Today we received the news that our visas have been approved. We’re now permitted to immigrate to Australia and take up permanent residency there. God willing, that will take place towards the end of September. Between now and then, there are countless things that we need to give attention to. Consequently, this blog is going to go quiet for a while. I have every intention of resuming once we get to the other side and get settled in. I plan to give things a fresh look here, but the content will continue to be much the same. However, you might notice me beginning to speak with a strange accent…
Free Reformed Church in Launceston.
Tasmania will defy your preconceived notions of Australia!
But yes, they do have beaches! This one is on lovely Dove Lake.
I’m working on my review of Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, also known as the Leiden Synopsis. This is an important piece of our Reformed theological heritage. It was first published in 1625 and served as a reliable theological handbook for many years. It’s only just appeared in English translation. My review is being submitted to The Confessional Presbyterian, by the way. Let me just share a brief excerpt from my review:
The Leiden Synopsis is surprisingly relevant on some important theological issues facing the Church today. For example, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy continues to be debated, with some claiming that it is a modern invention, perhaps dating back to the nineteenth century at the earliest. However, in disputation 2, we find Walaeus writing, “It is made clear to us that the authority of Holy Scripture is much greater than that of the Church by the fact that the Church is capable of erring while Scripture cannot” (71). Sometimes it is claimed that biblical inspiration or inerrancy only extends to doctrines. In other words, the core teachings of Scripture are inspired and even inerrant, but this does not apply to peripheral matters. This notion existed in the days of the Leiden Synopsis already and Walaeus had a ready answer in thesis 28:
And here one ought not to pay heed to Socinus and several other Christians who grant that Holy Scripture is divinely-originated in issues of special importance, but that its authors in situations and circumstances of lesser importance were abandoned by the Holy Spirit and could have erred. Because this opinion paves the way for contempt, and expressly contradicts Scripture which testifies that “everything that was written was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4), and “all Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). Likewise, “no Scripture is of one’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20); indeed, “not even one iota will disappear from the Law” (Matthew 5:18). “And it is not permitted for any man to add or to remove from it” (Deuteronomy 4[:2], Revelation 22[:18-19].” (69)
In a footnote, the editors point out that besides Faustus Socinus, Walaeus noted elsewhere that Erasmus displayed “the same pernicious view.”
So am I going to recommend the Leiden Synopsis? Absolutely! More information about the book can be found here.
Imagine someone saying the following: “The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to accept. On the one hand, reason tells me that this doctrine is impossible. Three persons in one being is illogical. On the other hand, the Bible seems to be pointing in the direction of the Trinity. But we have to acknowledge that our human interpretations of the Bible are fallible, so we might be mistaken in believing that God is Triune. I’m faced with a conflict between what reason says and what the Bible appears to be saying. Therefore, I’m going to suspend judgment for the time being. Perhaps in the future there will be more clarity on this matter and then I can make a responsible judgment.” If we heard someone talking like that, we would recognize that there are significant problems in this reasoning. When all the evidence is considered, the Bible is clear about the doctrine of the Trinity. Yes, there have been numerous heretics over the centuries who’ve drawn this doctrine into question. Yet the consensus of the Church has always been that God is Triune. It’s in our creeds and confessions. Christians are called to accept and believe what the Word of God teaches, not to suspend judgment on it. As the Belgic Confession puts it in article 5, “We believe without any doubt all things contained” in these holy and canonical Scriptures. Moreover, we also “reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule” (BC 7). It sounds humble to suspend judgment and it might be when it comes to assertions from human authorities. But when it comes to divinely authoritative Scripture, nothing could be more arrogant.
We can see that suspending judgment is not an option when it comes to the Trinity. Why should it be when it comes to other vital areas of Christian theology, such as origins? I urge you to read this important post from Dr. John Byl illustrating one example of someone trying to argue in this manner and why it doesn’t work.
The Synod concluded on Wednesday evening. Wednesday’s Acts are filled mostly with discussions and decisions regarding various foreign churches. The FRCA will stay the course with their sister churches in South Africa and Indonesia. There was a proposal to enter into a sister-church relationship with the Reformed Churches of Brazil. The synod elected not to do this since, according to the Acts, geography makes it impractical and since theological, academic, and financial support can still be given apart from a sister-church relationship. That’s unfortunate: the Brazilian churches are small too and they could really benefit from the closer tie that a sister-church relationship entails, i.e. regular contact, encouragement, and advice. As far as geography goes, the FRCA are now pursuing relations with the URCNA. The distance from Perth, WA to Escondido, California (the nearest URCNA): 15,078 Km. The distance from Perth, WA to Curitiba, Brazil (the nearest IRB): 13,447 Km. Both are huge distances, but obviously one is a bit bigger than the other.
The Synod wrapped up with various appointments. The next Synod is scheduled for 2018 and will be convened by the Bunbury FRCA.
BTW, the Press Release for Week 2 can be found here.
Coming soon from Inter-League Publication Board.
Publisher’s blurb from the back cover:
“In this book Rev. Bredenhof explains the covenant of grace in simple terms, and clearly explains how this doctrine sets us apart from most other “New Calvinist” churches. He also delves into how this affects the way we raise our children, and the way we conduct our worship services. Whether you read this on your own for personal edification or as part of a study group in the communion of saints, you will see that in the doctrine of the covenant of grace we find comfort, hope, and joy in Jesus Christ. In this doctrine, we discover the gracious way of life given by God and the blessed way of life before God.”
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – Introducing the Big Idea
Chapter 2 – Promises and Obligations
Chapter 3 – Dying and Living in the Covenant of Grace
Chapter 4 – Our Children in the Covenant of Grace
Chapter 5 – The Covenant of Grace and Public Worship
Appendix – Seven Essential Distinctions in the Doctrine of the Covenant of Grace
Recommended for Further Study