Reflections on the RCN

It seems like I’m being rather curmudgeonly as of late.  Bear with me as I get one last burden off my chest.  I promise to turn things around from here on into the summer break (I always take a blog break in the summer).

Today’s reflections (that’s a nice way to put it) have to do with the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, the sister churches of the CanRC.  In Dutch, they’re known as the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland and the word Vrijgemaakt (Liberated) is often tagged on.  Our recent Synod set up a special ecumenical sub-committee to manage our relations with the RCN and to express our “concerns” and “grave concerns.”  Indeed, the reasons for concern keep piling up.

Dr. J. Douma was a long-time professor at the Theological University in Kampen.  This is the seminary of the RCN.  He was regarded by some as being one of the more “progressive” professors.  He has recently started up a website where he shares his concerns about the direction of the RCN.  Of course, the site is in Dutch, but you can get a very rough translation through Yahoo (for some reason Google doesn’t like Dr. Douma).  In his first installment, Douma speaks about the concerns he has about the authority of the Bible in the RCN, particularly what is happening at the Theological University.  He mentions Stefan Paas, whom I’ve blogged about before here and here.  Then he mentions somebody else: Koert van Bekkum.  I’ve heard of him before, but I didn’t realize that his scholarly work was controversial.

According to some news stories in Nederlands Dagblad (for which van Bekkum works as an editor), his dissertation argues that the sun did not literally stand still in Joshua 10.  Well, of course, we all knew that.  But we also knew that it meant that the day was lengthened so that the Israelites could be delivered from the Amorites.  Van Bekkum doesn’t appear to believe that.  Rather, it’s just speaking in a literary way about a great victory.  The miracle is the great victory, not the lengthening of the day.  And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

What about David and Goliath?  It’s an historical account, right?  Not necessarily, says van Bekkum.  This website (in English) quotes a 2003 article from van Bekkum in which he argues that it is an option for a Reformed biblical scholar to say that 1 Samuel 17 “in a spiritual and historic sense becomes exemplary for David’s struggle with the Philistines.”

In the June 4, 2010 issue of Clarion, Klaas Stam refers to Stefan Paas and this sort of biblical scholarship.  He says that he would rather go back to the hermeneutics of Dr. S. Greijdanus.  Sign me up too, Klaas.  In fact, for those who don’t read Dutch, I’ve got an English summary of Greijdanus’ excellent Schriftbeginselen ter Schriftverklaring (Scripture Principles for Scripture Interpretation).  Greijdanus had the goods.

Now you might say, all of that is taking place in the Netherlands.  Who cares?  Hardly any of us read Dutch anymore, and we’re increasingly going our own separate way.  Thankfully!  But yet over at Reformed Academic, Dr. Freda Oosterhoff and others want us to pay attention to the Dutch and their manner of doing hermeneutics.  Not so that we can see their mistakes, avoid them, and exhort our Dutch brothers to turn the ship around, but because they want us to emulate them and appropriate their hermeneutics.

Where that leads brings me to the next point of concern.  A while back, I posted an item regarding the organization ContrariO and it’s relationship to the GKV.  This is an organization that advocates for homosexual concerns.  Last week, this item appeared in the newspaper Nederlands Dagblad about the establishment of a new website for gay men in the RCN and other Reformed churches (rough English translation here).  The website is here in Dutch and here with Google Translate.  Maybe there’s some good, helpful thought there, but from what I’ve seen there’s also reason for concern.  For instance, ALTh. de Bruijne teaches ethics at the Theological University.  He describes his journey in understanding the place of homosexuals in the church (Dutch, English).  He was a pastor in Rotterdam and when he encountered gay people co-habiting he encouraged them to do so with a godly attitude and allowed them to go to the Lord’s Supper.  Later he describes homosexuals as having “a special calling in the light of the kingdom.”  I wonder if he would say that about pedophiles, serial philanderers, or those attracted to Fifi.  I recognize that de Bruijne and others are trying to address a serious pastoral issue.  Yet, when a pastor preaches a sermon in which he speaks casually about a “Christian” gay couple living together and occasionally falling into sin and it’s okay because they confess it and seek forgiveness — it should be obvious that the church has been compromised by the culture.  And part of that compromise undoubtedly has to do with the acceptance of critical hermeneutics that appear sophisticated, but don’t take the Bible seriously on its own terms.

Our Synod made the right decision.  Let’s keep talking with our brothers and sisters in the RCN and exhort them to faithfulness.  We have the advantage of being outside their culture and they should be able to appreciate that we bring a different perspective and not write us off for sorry sociological reasons like “immigrant churches are always more conservative.”  When you’re on the inside, it can be difficult to see when you’ve been compromised.  You need someone to call you on your wayward way.  The RCN’s David needs a Nathan.

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

3 responses to “Reflections on the RCN

  • Thea

    It remains to be seen whether the RCN is David or more like Solomon. David after all repented when Nathan pointed the finger at him.

  • svandyken

    I was looking through the Acts of Synod 2010 (CanRC) for specific reference to the CanRCs’ concern over growing tolerance for homosexuality in the GKN-v. Maybe I missed it, but I couldn’t find any reference to the issue and nothing about a “werkgroep” in those churches — let alone to the specific organization ContrariO.

    What would explain such reticence?

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