URCNA Synod 2010

I’ve been mulling over what happened in London last month.  Of course, in the meantime, some CanRC colleagues have weighed in with their opinions.  I think the approach that I find most agreeable is that of Dr. Jerry Visscher.  Unlike my colleague Bill DeJong, I appreciate the work that our brothers in the URCNA have done to expose and refute the grievous errors of Federal Vision theology and the like.  I don’t view FV, NTW, NS,or NPP as innocuous.  But at the same time, I’m deeply disappointed by the response of the URCNA to the CanRC further efforts towards ecumenicity.  Not surprised, but disappointed.  For instance, our Synod wrote a substantial letter to the URCNA Synod.  In the press releases and blog reports, I didn’t see any evidence that this letter was really taken seriously.  As another example, our Synod appointed men to various ecumenical committees with mandates to continue working with the URCNA.  From what I can tell, they didn’t reciprocate.  In the CanRC, we now have men marking time on basically useless committees.  All in all, when I consider the way the URCNA Synod dealt with the relationship with the CanRC, I don’t sense much respect.  Sure, they said that we are a “true church” etc., but that’s nothing new.  We’ve been saying that about one another for close to a decade already.  It’s difficult not to be cynical.

Where to go from here?  As I said, I appreciate Dr. Visscher’s suggestions.  I suppose we’ll have to be satisfied with the status quo.  I don’t see federational unity happening in my lifetime — and that breaks my heart.  It really does.  We belong together.

About Wes Bredenhof

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

66 responses to “URCNA Synod 2010

  • Wes White

    I think the major problem, from speaking with URCNA ministers across the nation, is an unspoken one. Until the CanRC makes a decisive move to reject and condemn FV theology in no unequivocal terms, I do not think that any ecumenical relations can move forward. Bill DeJong’s statements only heighten the concerns.

    Until these things are discussed openly, I do not see how there can be any move forward with the CanRC.

    I do appreciate your solid teachings, and I’m glad that you are in the CanRC.

    Blessings to you, Wes

  • Marnix

    Why should the CanRC condemn FV? It’s like asking the URC to condemn the teaching of H. Hoeksema (Prot. Ref.) that there are no conditions in the covenant of grace. Would they do that? I don’t think so. The FV did not originate with the CanRC nor with the URC. Did the URC make an extra confesional statement about the length of the creation days as was requested? We know they did not. Then why the 9 points of Schererville?
    There was no need for it either. Or were these 9 points meant against the CanRC as I read somewhere? It is well known that the CanRC think different on the covenant then the URC, one reason why the union is put on the back burner by the URC .
    Maybe the CanRC should do some soul searching to find out where they went wrong in the process in seeking union with the URC. Were they more interested in what united them then what divided them? Why did they push so hard for union? Was that needed? Is that Biblical not to count the cost first?
    We believe that, when The URC synod of 1997 refused to endorse its own committee report on the CanRC, the CanRC should have read the hand writing on the wall. That’s where the train left the tracks for the CanRC. I know there is much more to say on this union issue on both sides of the fence.
    I totally disagree with Wes White on the CanRC requirements with regard to the FV and I do agree with him that the ecumenical relations with the CanRC should be put on hold untill the URC endorses the Scriptural covenant view with the CanRC.

    Marnix
    By the way I am not CanRef.

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Marnix wrote:

      Did the URC make an extra confessional statement about the length of the creation days as was requested? We know they did not.

      My reply:

      But URCNA Synod Escondido did make a statement about creation and in it theistic evolution was ruled out of bounds. Meanwhile in the CanRC, we’re having discussions about theistic evolution with some fairly vocal and influential people arguing that there is or should be room for it in our federation — and some publicly holding to it and promoting it. It’s shameful and sad beyond words.

  • Marnix

    Synod Escondido ruled the creation issue out of bounds but that was an internal issue not like the FV. There was no disagreement with the CanRC on the creation issue like there is now with the FV. I did not see Synod Escondido make the statement Synod Schererville made against those “office-bearers suspected of deviating from or obscuring the doctrine” etc.etc and to deal with these office bearers according to the Church order.

    I am not sure but I do think that Synod URC 2010 has endorsed the 9 points. If so, it will be interesting to see if that would also be for the CanRC “shameful and sad beyond words”.

    It may be shameful that discussions are taking place in the CanRC on the creation issue. However I have not heard a Synod in that federation deal with those people as Schererville did in the 9 points.

    At the same time one should not be to surprised that these discussions on theistic evolution are taking place in the CanRC. Judging from the article by Ed Helder in the issue of Reformed Polemics Vol. 10, May 2010
    there are “Winds of Change in the CanRC”. According to the author
    “Either the fededration will collectively awaken, return and reform or she will continue on her current path away from her roots, away from the basis: the Word of God as expressed in the Three forms of unity and as federated under the Church order of Dordt”

    That’s quite a statement and I have not heard or seen any reply to it. Maybe somebody can enlighten me if there was a reply or comment to this article since the author also writes about issues in the CanRC that are “shameful and sad beyond words”.

    Marnix

  • Tom Skerritt

    Marnix,

    Could you please explain what you mean by “Scriptural covenant view” and tell us where the URCNA holds to such a position?

  • Marnix

    Hello Tom.

    God made His covenant with “Abraham and his seed”. Not just with believers and not with unbelievers, no, it says ‘with his seed”. That is with Jacob as well as with Esau. The promises are for all the baptised children.

    I do not read that in point 6 of the 9 points of Synod Schererville. Rather I read a rejection of what I stated above.

    What is then the covenant view of the URCNA? I believe they make a distiction between those children that are IN the covenant and those that have only an outward relation with the covenant. I have heard that also in other Reformed churches. They teach that you are either IN or OF the covenant.

    It is not clear what the official teaching is of URCNA. There are those that say that God establishes His covenant without conditions. But if that is the official view of the URCNA is not clear.

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Marnix,

      Do you believe that there are covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers, faithful and unfaithful participants in the covenant of grace? Can we make that distinction?

    • svandyken

      Could you explain what conditions God requires in the covenant of grace? And who keeps these conditions? If I am by nature inclined to hate God and my neighbor, how can I hope to keep conditions and thereby merit God’s favor (as opposed to His wrath)?

      I am not surprised that you are not Canadian Reformed — I have never heard your spin on the covenant from anyone I know in the Canadian Reformed Churches. But I’ve never heard it from anyone in ANY Reformed church, which makes me curious that your theology might be “at home” somewhere. Of which church are you a member?

  • Marnix

    Hello Wes.

    Yes, that is exactly right: There are covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers.
    And I would like to add for those who say that there are no conditions in the covenant: God says” be ye holy for I am holy”. And that encompasses all of life.
    Much more can be said because God’s covenant is so rich and full of promises but I will quit with this saying: seek comfort from your baptism for what God promised is true and sure.
    Thanks Wes

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      So you agree then that there are two ways of relating to the covenant of grace?

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      Marnix: you say “seek comfort from your baptism for what God promised is true and sure.” Can you honestly say that to a modern-day Esau? Judas? Ananias? . . . and sleep well?

      H.C. Q&A 1: What is your ONLY comfort in life and death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has FULLY paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has SET ME FREE . . . .

      I strive to live a holy life out of thanksgiving for this rich, undeserved gift — not out of a need to show God that I’m really, really (_really_) trying my best to meet His demands.

      Where you would find your view of the covenant of grace described in any of the Three Forms of Unity is beyond me. Again, of which church are you a member?

  • Marnix

    If you mean covenant-keepers and covenant breakers I say: Yes.
    If you mean the covenant demands and the promises I say: Yes

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Well, I think that’s exactly what point 6 of the Nine Points of Schererville is designed to safeguard. As I understand it, it is designed to stand against those who would argue that every baptized person is in relation to the covenant in precisely the same way. You and I have both agreed that there are two ways. Thus, you have nothing to fear from point 6, nor do I. You might not like the language of “outward relation,” but if you see that as another way of saying “unfaithful” or “covenant breaking,” then there’s no problem.

      • Tom Skerritt

        Then why all the talk about this?

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Because CanRC folks get cagey about language like “outward relation” and distinctions between external/internal, especially if there’s even a hint that this might be connected to an unhelpful formulation of the relationship between covenant and election. We see that language and many of us see the ghost of Kuyper. Meanwhile, the language is directed towards erroneous FV formulations, not us.

  • Rev. Paul R. Williams

    A Lutheran outsider like myself will need a little help with abbreviations like FV, NTW, NS, NPP! What do these mean?

    Rev. Paul R. Williams

  • Marnix

    Sorry, I’m not sure if we are on the same page.
    Point 6 does not speak of covenant keepers or breakers nor of covenant promisses or demands. It only rejects the errors of those who say that God ‘s promises are the same for all covenant children. I think that’s quite clear.

    You write:” You and I have both agreed that there are two ways”
    I do not recall agreeing that there are two ways in the covenant, an inner and a outer covenant. You might say that point 6 is safegarding an inner and outer covenant because it rejects that God’s promises are the same for all baptized covenant children. I stated that Jacob and Esau were both in the covenant, and I may add that they received the same and identical promisses.
    If you’r familiar with the struggle between the Liberated and the Prot.Ref. churches then you will find that the Prot. Ref. view of the covenant is widely believed in the URC. Point 6 is only the top of the ice berg.

    I’m surprised you don’t have a problem with point 6. Many in your Churches would disagree with you. I believe the Bible does not speak of “outward relation” in God’s covenant, neither does the Confession. You may want to reconsider that there is no problem with point 6.

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Marnix:

      This is what point 6 says, word for word:

      6. who teach that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace in precisely the same way such that there is no distinction between those who have only an outward relation to the covenant of grace by baptism and those who are united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone (HC 21, 60; BC 29);

      That does not say anything about denying that the promises are the same for all covenant children. In fact, when I read URC authors (Clark, Venema, etc.), they clearly acknowledge that all baptized children receive the promises. The issue is whether they receive what is promised. That’s where the two ways of relating to the covenant of grace come in. You agreed that there are in fact two ways and that’s the key to bridging the distance. You might not like the language of external/internal and that’s fine as long as you are with the concept of it. After all, the concept is biblical (Romans 9:6). And I stress again, that with that concept, all baptized children receive the promises. Some of them appropriate those promises through faith, sadly others don’t.

      BTW, I’ve never encountered the PR view of the covenant in the United Reformed Churches.

      • Tom Skerritt

        And the “PR” (Protestant Reformed, Herman Hoeksema, Kuyper) view would be to rationalize that in some cases baptism doesn’t “work?”

      • Wes Bredenhof

        This is from the Declaration of Principles:

        “If we compare with these statements from the Heidelberger what was taught concerning the saving efficacy of the death of Christ in Canons II,A,8, it is evident that the promise of the gospel which is sealed by the sacraments concerns only the believers, that is, the elect. ”

        That is not a view that I have ever heard from anyone in the URCNA.

      • Rick Duker

        Hello Wes. My compliments on your website. Would you say that in the CanRC we distinguish in some way between those who have received the promises (all baptized members) and those who respond positively to thos promises via Public Profession of Faith (communicant members)? So in the CanRC I think we do already make that distinction.

        My problem with a synod giving the churches pastoral advice is that what status do they have in the churches? The URC doesn’t even know themselves! It also has the potential for starting a “witch hunt” among the office-bearers. We elect office-bearers who then must sign the form of subscription. Currently, that does not include the view on creation days, covenant views, etc. Do you think maybe it should?

  • Rev. Paul R. Williams

    OK–I beginning to figure them out. FV is Federal Vision, right?

  • Tom Skerritt

    I think Schilder, borrowing from Bavinck thought it more helpful to speak of a “Legal and Vital” distinction. Although I don’t have all the details fleshed out it seems to be a little “friendlier” to my somewhat Berendsian way of thinking about these issues. Am I on to something?

  • Tom Skerritt

    I wonder how PRs explain how baptism could ever fail to work?

  • svandyken

    Dr. Bredenhof:

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. I’ve read both Dr. Visscher’s and Rev. DeJong’s posts. The former is thoughtful, respectful, helpful, and germane. It is troubling that such gratuitous name-dropping from Rev. DeJong — of men cast aside by virtually all our NAPARC brethren — should come so close on the heels of Dr. Visscher’s even-tempered plea for CanRC ministers not to fan the flames of suspicion among URCNA brethren by so warmly embracing those working outside the walls of Reformed orthodoxy.

    A side-by-side comparison of the two posts (Visscher’s and DeJong’s) speaks volumes about what is right and what is wrong within the CanRC today.

  • Marnix

    The statement of 6:11 about the CanRC folks getting cagey could also apply to the URC folks when they hear about the Can/Ref view of the covenant and the ghost of Schilder. In other words its not condusive to the discussion and since I’m not one of those we’l drop it.

    You state:” the issue is whether they receive WHAT is promissed. But I believe that is A. Kuyper’s theory. He wondered about that also. And knowing Kuyper he costructed the pre-supossed theory. We pre-suppose that the child received what is promised or we assume it. Today we do not use that terminology but the issue is the same.

    I believe that was rejected in 1944. Point 6 of Schererville leaves no room for any other interpretation.
    Now, if by any change you lay the emphasis on WHAT is promised, the content of the promise, we can talk about that also but I do not think that’s the issue.
    If you think the trouble is the terminology in point 6 of Schererville I humbly disagree.

    Marnix

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      Who has stated that the terminology in point 6 of Schererville is troubling? There’s nothing whatsover troubling about it — either the terminology or the theology. You eeem to agree that both Jacob and Esau were children of the covenant. They both received the sign and seal. They both received the promise and the obligation. The Holy Spirit worked faith in Jacob; the Holy Spirit did not work faith in Esau. In both cases, it was the eternal counsel of God that determined this — not the free will of Jacob or Esau. Is it really so difficult to see in this stark contrast that God deals with Jacob differently than with Esau? Both are covenant children: one created for salvation; the other created for damnation. Are you saying there is / can be no distinction made between the two? Please explain what it is about point 6 you do not grasp?

  • Marnix

    Wes.

    You stated: “BTW I’ve never encountered the PR view of the Covenant in the United Reformed Churches.”

    I have A ” United Committee report” which gives “An Unofficial Exposition of the United Reformed Churches in North America”
    It is headed “Contours of God’s Covenant”. and you can find it in Clarion
    Vol. 48. No. 16 Aug. 6 1999.
    Its an interesting report. On page 376 middle colum I read: “We hold that God establishes His covenant without conditions”. That’s clear PR language I would say.
    However, on the same page last colum I read: ” To be in covenant with the holy God is an immense privilege, but also a great resposibility. His people are to be holy as He is holy”.
    What is “Be ye holy for I am holy” is that not a condition? This is from the URC and although “unofficial” its there, and confusing, just like point 6 of Schererville.

    Marnix

    Marnix

  • svandyken

    Marnix:

    1. You stated you are not Canadian Reformed. Yet you seem predisposed to keep 1944 (lest we EvEr forget) at a boil on the front burner. Please explain.

    2. You would do well to (re)-read the rejection of errors under the second head of doctrine in the Canons of Dort. While the Canons do not focus upon the doctrine of covenant(s) per se, there is a great deal of material contained in them which puts to bed the heresy which insists that God is an equal-opportunity Redeemer.

    In other words, God not only determined with whom He would covenant (believers and their seed); He determined — before “the beginning” — those (His elect) who would spend eternity glorifying Him. These two “sets” will seem similar, no doubt, but they are not identical.

    I have read (many times over) the 9 points of Schererville. I have also read enough (far too much, actually) Federal Vision output to realize that it is not just unReformed — it is rank heresy masquerading as the next level of Reformed brilliance. When Rev. Bill DeJong claims that one of the brightest theologians to have inhabited planet earth (who happens to be FV) is “either onto something or on something” — I have to agree he may be half right.

    The 9 Points of Schererville were/are a defense erected against the heresies promulgated by the FV crowd. Federal Vision is not Canadian Reformed theology, and it is disingenuous (at the least) to try to link the two so as to infer that what was intended to deal with FV heresy was, in fact, meant to discredit sound teaching within the Canadian Reformed Churches.

  • Thea

    I’m would like to make only two points:

    1. The Liberation of 1944 would not have happened on the basis of the differing view of doctrine of the covenant, for Schilder was the first one to say that he had no problem living within the federation along with someone who had a “Kuperian” view of covenant. It was the synod deposing ministers and elders who would not agree to preach/teach the “Kuperian`view that caused the Liberation of 1944. Those of the Liberation could not live with hierarchy, the lording it over the congregations. Today too synods should not be preventing a reuniting of those of differing views of the covenant, even if we rigorously defend our “own” view.

    2. If the URCNA wishes that the CanRC agree to an extra-confessional statement (9 Pts of Schererville) before they will consider merging with the CanRC, then the unity process is dead in the water. It`s not that the CanReffers don`t agree with the 9 Points, but that CanReffers will never bind themselves to anything but the creeds. The creeds are clear. We don`t need extra-confessional bindings, but we (both federations) need reformation, a firm and unequivocal return to the truths of scripture.

    Just my two cents worth.
    Thea H.

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Thea, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Just one comment in response: the notion of “no extra-confessional binding” in the Canadian Reformed Churches is a convenient myth. We pull it out when we need it. The reality is that it happens (and it’s okay!) and I can give some examples, if you need them.

      The interesting thing is that the relevant catch-phrase for the Liberation was not “no extra-confessional binding,” but “no extra-Scriptural binding.” Hence the title of the booklet by Klaas Schilder, “Extra-Scriptural Binding — A New Danger.”

      As I wrote in an article a while back, “no extra-confessional binding” easily degenerates into a type of confessionalism, where the confessions actually function above Scripture. This rallying cry can easily become the refuge of theistic evolutionists and advocates for women in office.

  • Marnix

    svandyken

    1. Yes, point 6 is troubelsome and I am in good company with many in the Can.RC even ministers and yes also URC people. And yet, I am not Can.Ref.
    2. You state” The HS worked faith in Jacob. The HS did not work faith in Esau”. That’s not Scriptural. It says “Esau have I hated”. You may not realize it but there is a differance. I will give you an example by applying what you said to today.

    Jon and Pete were baptized and both received the promises and both are living today. Jon turned out to be the good guy and Pete the bad.
    By using the text “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated” you say Jon received the HS and Pete did not, or with the PR’s Jon is elect and Pete is not. But 10 years later Jon turned bad and Pete turned good. What do you do now? You can’t say Jon was loved and Pete was hated like you did with Jacob and Esau because Jon and Pete are not in the Bible. You can’t say Jon was “United to Christ” and Pete had an “outward relation” (point 6) because you don’t know that. You can’t say”The HS did not work in Esau” then you blame God for not giving him the HS while you should be saying Esau did not embrace the promises, he was a covenant breaker. And yes, he did received the promises just like Jacob. Or do you want to make God a liar who promises something but does not do it.
    Your statement that Esau did not receive the HS is incorrect. You may counter that he was not elect and you are right, but that’s the only text in the Bible in which God revealed that to us. We live today and we baptize today or do you want to show me a living person in the church who’s not elect and who is elect? If you can do that then please baptize only the elect.

    I hope you can see now where point 6 is out of order. Don’t start persecuting those who say the promises are promised to all who are baptized and these promises are the same for all.

    I hope I have been clear.

    Marnix

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      Sorry to be causing consternation. I would never “blame God for not giving (Esau) the Holy Spirit”; rather, I praise God for His inscrutable wisdom in creating Esau for no other purpose than that His (God’s) name would receive honor and glory thereby. Who could “blame” God?? Who can say to the potter “I blame you for creating a pot only to destroy it?” It is the potter who determines, not the pot.

      I’m not sure which “good company” you comfort yourself with maintaining, but I am quite content to sit at the feet of Calvin, Olevianus, Ursinus, and the good pastors who followed/follow in their steps.

      I would never presume to state with certainty which of my acquaintances were or were not elect — only God knows.

      Are the promises made at baptism the same to all? Of course. God is not false.

      Does God intend that each baptized member respond identically? Of course not. God is nothing less than omnipotent. We (I’m presuming about you) confess the doctrine of irresistable grace. What God intends for a person will come about — regardless.

      We also confess the doctrine of limited atonement. Christ died only for His elect. I trust the authors of the confessions were not only literate but quite capable of articulating precisely what they intended. In other words, no one intended to confess that Christ died for all those baptized.

      I have no intentions of “persecuting” anyone. Sorry if you feel put-upon. I thought this was something of an open forum (to a point, I understand. Dr. Bredenhof has been gracious to allow interaction in this space). But it sounds to me like you are confused about the difference between “elect” and “reprobate”. The confessions speak of no third category (such as “electrobate”). The promises are identical, but the standing within those promises is completely opposite. This is the point of “point 6”.

      I know you wish to be clear, but you have now left me wondering if you believe salvation is dependent upon covenant-keeping? If so, whose? For I am by nature a covenant-breaker. Indeed, I have known only one covenant-keeper and I have no worries about His faithfulness falling short. If I were depending upon my own faithfulness I surely would be despairing, for I am chief of all sinners — yet saved by grace alone.

  • Rick Duker

    Regarding the unity of CanRC/URCNA, I personally am pleased that this process has now come to a halt. The two federations are simply too far apart on important issues and the compromises that have resulted in pursuit of unity are an unwise course to follow. For example, what sense does it make to have one seminary under a regional synod but have other seminaries operating independently? To me, none.

    For two federations to merge requires also likemindedness. That is lacking between us. Church federations always arise out of specific historical ecclessiastical circumstances. The liberation of 1944 resulted in the formation of a new federation in Holland and likewise in Canada/USA. The URCNA came into existence because of liberal practices and theology in the CRC. At present we share the same faith but we are not likeminded enough to merge. We should not force something without the Spirit leading the way. Is it not true that throughout church history there have always been a plurality of faithful churches while at the same time ONE Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us not subscribe to the view of Papal Rome which unites all its members under the False Shephard.

    My primary concern is that the CanRC (of which I am a member) be othodox in doctrine and practice. This is the challenge for ALL true churches and we can surely help one another in an organized way such as with NAPARC and ICRC. We should not become frustrated with each other but rather have open communication and discussions to sharpen each other and be a godly blessing to each other.

  • Marnix

    Thea.

    I read your explanation regarding the binding in 1944. However, to say that the Liberated would have stayed in the church if there was no binding
    needs correcting.

    Please turn to the book:
    THE LIBERATION: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES.
    On page 93, Professor J. Geertsema says:

    “As far as I can see, our conclusion must be that in 1944 the churches liberated themselves not just from the synodical BINDING to wrong decisions containing a wrong doctrine but also from the WRONG DOCTRINE ITSELF.”

    I agree with what you write under point 2. However there are too many in the CanRC federation that will even sacrifice their own Theological College in order to be joined to the URC. Furthermore, there is an astonishing lack of church concept. It’s politically incorrect to talk about 1944 because the URC people will get upset and they do not want to hear about it. Once someone wrote:
    “A people which takes no pride in the noble achievement
    of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy
    to be remembered by remote descendants”.

    Your call for Reformation is very courageous and I mean that sincerely, but I am afraid your call will be greatly ignored.

    Marnix

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      You speak about “an astonishing lack of church concept.” Of which church are you a member? Your statements in this post sound like no doctrinal framework I have encountered among Reformed churches.

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      The only thing worthy to be remembered by remote descendants has nothing to do with our achievements. We must decrease, that He would increase.

      Based on your posts here, I am concerned that you are looking to your own abilities/accomplishments — or to those of your ancestors — as something worthy of presenting before the Lord. I do sincerely hope you may yet fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. His work is sufficient.

  • Thea

    I would like to comment on Rick D’s statement “For two federations to merge requires also likemindedness. That is lacking between us.”

    I also do not believe the merge is possible at this time, not because of a lack of likemindedness between the URCs and the CanRCs, but a lack of likemindedness within the URC federation itself. They cannot agree among themselves about many important issues, which means until they get their own house in order, they cannot and should not merge households. They are busy with some major discussions among themselves, making them a poor candidate for a merge with any other federation.

    We ought to heed the call of Rev. J. Bouwers at the May 2010 Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches. He urged patience and perseverance. It will take a lot longer than we had envisioned, but better a merge when the time is right, than too early. We would also do well not be tempted to give away the house, rather than merge the household, no matter how strongly we feel we ought to be one.

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  • Marnix

    Svandyken.

    May be my statement on “Achievments” could be taken wrong, but I wrote it with 1944 in mind. I know, only “God be the Glory”, which reminds me that we should be carefull when we write. We should formulate correctly.

    For instance you wrote” I would never ‘blame God for not given (Esau) the Holy Spirit”. That’s OK, you don’t blame God, but do you still maintain that Esau was not given the Holy Spirit? If so, would you care to tell me where you find that written in Scripture?

    Marnix

    • Thea

      Hebrews 12: 16 –Esau was godless. Would that not mean he was without the Holy Spirit?

    • Rick Duker

      Does it say in the Bible that Jacob received the Holy Spirit?

      • svandyken

        Rich:

        Your question implies that God has different plans of salvation for different peoples, based on time, place, race, etc.

        No one is saved without faith in the Messiah.. And no one who is dead in trespasses and sins comes to this faith of his own strength — but only by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

        Did God love Jacob? Or did He just say He loved Jacob?

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      In case you miss it in the following thread, Malachi 1.

      Please explain your basis (biblical or doctrinal if you prefer) for maintaining that it is possible that God hates a person to whom He grants His Spirit. Or conversely, that God loves a person to whom He denies His Spirit.

  • Marnix

    Thea.

    Thanks, but I ask for a Scripture text where it is written that the Holy Spirit did not work faith in Esau. That’s all I would like to hear.

    Marnix

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      While explicit OT references to the Holy Spirit are less common (than in the NT), I doubt you would claim the Holy Spirit was therefore less present.

      We confess that only to those He loves does God grant faith, and that by the working of the Holy Spirit.

      If you read Malachi 1:2-5 and still think that perhaps God did in fact work faith in Esau, then we have more serious problems to discuss.

      I’m struggling to ascertain what precisely you cannot accept in the formulation “God worked faith in Jacob, but not in Esau”. Is it that God works faith? Or that faith is worked in believers by God? Or perhaps you believe that God loves persons but fails to save them? Or hates persons but fails to destroy them? Or perhaps OT believers did not really receive faith but were saved without faith? Or did God love Jacob but not unto everlasting life? In other words, does God deal with persons in a third way (beside election and reprobation)? Perhaps you are one of those who cling to a “half-way covenant”?

      Or is it that you simply object to the use of doctrinal terms applied to scriptural truth (e.g., “Trinity”, “reprobation”, “imputation”, “substitutionary atonement”, “irresistable grace”, etc.)? Again, I’ve not encountered such thinking in any Reformed church.

      Of which church are you a member? Or are you?

  • Marnix

    Rick Duker says:

    “Does it say in the Bible that Jacob received the Holy Spirit?”

    No it does not say that in the Bible. It only says that God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

    Marnix

    • svandyken

      Marnix:

      I see you are stuck on word-for-wordism. So I have to presume you also refuse to speak of the Holy Trinity. Also infant baptism. Etc. It must be lonely there.

      In case I’m not correct (i.e., you are not, in fact, limited to a word-for-word understanding) let’s try this. God loves sinners whom He has chosen unto Himself. God’s love is not lukewarm. Those whom God loves, God saves. God saves by the power of His Spirit, working faith in the one who believes. God’s saving love is never frustrated by man.

      God loves Jacob; God hates Esau. The inferences seem obvious to me.

  • Marnix

    svandyken says: There’s nothing whatsoever troubling with point 6 of Synod Schererville.
    Wes Bredenhof says: that he has nothing to fear from point 6;.

    Marnix says: Point 6 of Synod Schererville is wrong for the following reasons:

    Jacob and Esau are precisely the same way in the covenant of grace.
    Jacob and Esau received precisely the same promises and the same demands.
    The Lord did not make a ‘distinction’ when they were circumcised.
    At circumcision the Lord did not say that one had only an ‘outward relation’ and the other an ‘inward relation’ in the covenant.

    Now, isn’t it true that Jacob was elect and Esau not? YES!!
    Isn’t it therefore true then, that Jacob had an inward relation and Esau an ‘outward relation’ in the covenant at circucision? NO!! The covenant relation was the same for both boys at circumcision.

    Point 6 of Synod Schererville takes away the comfort parents have at the baptism of their children. How do they know if their child has an inward relation or an ‘outward relation’ in the covenant? Scripture does not teach that for God does not say it. Schererville point 6 should not say it either.

    svandyken: you assume too much.

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Marnix, you wrote:

      “Jacob and Esau are precisely the same way in the covenant of grace.”

      My response:

      So, were both faithful or unfaithful in relation to the covenant of grace? See, this is where the problem is. On the one hand, you agreed earlier that there are two ways of relating to the covenant of grace — faith and unbelief. And now you want to say that Jacob and Esau are both in the covenant of grace in exactly the same way. I hope that I’m not the only person who finds this hopelessly confused. Of course, I think we can agree that when they were circumcised, no one knew one way or another whether one or both sons would be faithful to the promises signed and sealed. Neither would that be relevant — what was relevant is the basis for circumcision: God’s promise. But as their lives unfolded, they were called to respond to what had been promised. Jacob responded with faith (albeit weak and imperfect). Esau responded in unbelief, scorning God’s promises and forfeiting them. In due time it became clear that they were relating to God’s covenant in two different ways.

      Nobody in the URCNA that I have ever talked to believes that only some children receive the promises of God in baptism. All the baptized do. It sounds as if you’re viewing the Nine Points through the lens of Kuyper and as I mentioned in my post today, that just doesn’t fly.

      Marnix, have you read Cornelis Venema’s essay, “Covenant Theology and Baptism”? It’s in an appendix in his book Children at the Lord’s Table? I think that essay definitively proves that you’re barking up the wrong tree here.

      The whole issue of point 6 is: what does baptism do? Does it sign and seal God’s promises? Or does it somehow communicate what is actually promised? Do we have justification through faith alone, or through baptism?

      The whole issue of parents wondering, “Inward/outward?” at baptism doesn’t even play in the URCNA, so far as I know. I have a good number of friends who are URNCA pastors and I’ve never heard anything of parents being comfortless because of point 6. Maybe some of them can even comment here on this, because I’m pretty sure they’re following this discussion.

  • Marnix

    Wes

    Iam not talking about what happened to Jacob and Esay at later life.
    I am talking about what happend at their circumcision.That’s the issue here. Neither do I reason from out of God’s election and reprobation, for I do not know that. I only know what God said about Jacob and Esau because God said that of those two boys and of nobody else. I repeat of nobody else!!

    I do not care what people in the URC say to you. Its just not important and it does not help the debate.

    Your argument that it “does’nt play in the URC ” is not an issue. And what your friends and pastors say is immaterial. If you need help from them then that is a sign of weakness.

    I can also do all of the above and more if you will, but I do not believe that strength is in numbers. I do not need to call on those who are on my side.

    I have been abundantly clear.

    Marnix

    • Wes Bredenhof

      You say that you don’t care what people in the URC say (or write too, I presume). But that’s exactly the issue. We’re discussing the covenant theology that lives in the URCNA. If they say (with you and I) that all baptized children receive the covenant promises, then what is the problem? If they say (with you and I) that there are two ways of relating to the covenant of grace, then what is the problem? From what I can tell, nobody’s reasoning from election and reprobation — what is the problem?

      You also wrote: “Point 6 of Synod Schererville takes away the comfort parents have at the baptism of their children.” But if nobody in the URCNA is complaining about having had their comfort taken away or having no comfort, then these words are just your assessment and have no objective validity. My point is that the Nine Points come in a context. It’s not the context of 1944, but the context of the URCNA living in the 21st century.

      I can’t help it if you continue to read point 6 in the worst possible light.

  • Thea

    Marnix,

    Please don’t get testy. We are struggling to understand your point and debate it in an upbuilding way. If I am correct, I believe Rev. C Bouwman agrees with you to a certain degree, see

    http://yarrow.canrc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=130:federal-vision-and-schererville&catid=50:a-bit-to-read&Itemid=65.

    I believe you are right in one respect, that point 6 of Schererville smacks of presumptive regeneration. But the reality is that baptism is not a guarantee, and that the proof in the pudding is the response that the baptised person makes in their life, whether positive or negative. At circumcision, both Jacob and Esau received the identical promises from the Lord. There was no distinction. You are right. But it doesn’t stop there. Those promises were approbated by Jacob and rejected by Esau. We do not know the secret things of God, and election is not a visible thing to us. But we do know from scripture that man has the obligation to approbate His promises and respond positively to His promises. As far as we are concerned that is the end of the matter. That is in a nutshell the point of point 6. That’s all. It doesn’t follow then that Jacobs was a real baptism, and Esau’s wasn’t.

    And still we can’t say that it is the Lord’s fault that He did not give Esau the Holy Spirit. Humankind sinned and fell. God is not duty bound to save anyone. It is by grace that He does.

    I agree that the language of point 6 is confusing. But Rev. Bredenhof’s point is that it is a URNCA document, and URNCA people have to understand it and come to grips with it. Can Ref people don’t subscribe to extra-confessional (or extra-scriptural) bindings. They cause issues, as can be seen throughout history.

    But knowing many URC people, I understand why they feel the need to make these statements. They are so very afraid that their federation will once again fall into the serious problems and issues that they did in the CRC federation. They want to avoid that at all costs. And these type of statements make them feel safe.

    Hope this helps.

    Thea Heyink

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Wes,

    This is a fascinating debate occurring here on your blog. I was intrigued to see my name mentioned a couple of times. Some apparently aren’t too impressed with my defense of those associated with FV or my heartfelt disappointment with the recent URCNA synod!!!

    You indicated that you too were disappointed to see how this synod responded to the Can Ref’s synod’s correspondence. But why should it be surprising? The reaffirmation of the 9 points and the adoption of the recommendations of the FV report are all part of a unified message to the Can Ref. The message is: We’re not that into you.

    Seeing that I have great sympathy for FV views I would be curious to hear what you think are the grievous errors. Please don’t rely on the report or secondary sources. Look especially at the official joint FV statement. We should talk about this over a coffee! It’s wonderful that we’re in the same neighborhood!!

    Have a wonderful evening, Wes. Sorry if there are typos in this post. I typed it on my minuscule iPhone keyboard.

    Bill DeJong

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Bill,

      Am I allowed to quote from what FV authors have written outside of the FVJS? Can I refer to those who didn’t sign the FVJS, but were part of the original Auburn Avenue conference that got this whole thing going or who contributed to the book entitled The Federal Vision? And what about the book? Am I allowed to refer to it? What about those who were scheduled to speak at the original AA conference but couldn’t make it? I think all those primary sources could be reasonably drawn upon in addition to the FVJS. Do you agree?

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Wes,

    Thanks for responding to my post. Of course it is permissible to interact with the publications of individuals associated with FV. But then it must be acknowledged that you are not dealing with anything formally agreed upon by the FV community, but simply the views of one individual. It is unwarranted to assume that one man’s opinion is shared by all. If I were to write an article on “law and gospel” in a book about Canadian Reformed theology you would probably be quick to dissassociate yourself from my position. So in short you are free to write up a critique of John Barach’s position on the covenant, but I would be hesitant to apply the label “federal vision.”

    Does this make sense to you?

    Thanks again for your thoughtful reply, Wes!

    Wishing you a blessed day,
    Bill DeJong

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Hi again,

      Okay, if we can agree to the parameters, I might take this on. However, it’s going to have to wait until at least the week of September 5. I’ve got other things on my plate for the rest of this week and next.

  • Bill DeJong

    Wonderful, Wes.

    One more thing. In the original post I indicated that you should look “especially” at the official joint FV Statement. This means that statements which seems suspicious or unclear in, for instance, John Barach’s articles should be read in light of the clear affirmations and denials in the FV Statement which is signed by John Barach et al.

    I hope this clarifies.

    Personally I think we should have a live public debate about these issues — perhaps a webcast. Does that interest you??

    Wishing you the very best in our Saviour!!
    Bill DeJong

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