URCNA Letter to CanRC

Earlier this year, Synod 2010 of the Canadian Reformed Churches addressed a letter to the Synod of the United Reformed Churches.  You can find a copy of that letter here.  The URCNA Synod did not have time to draft a response during their assembly.  However, the officers of that synod were appointed to later write a letter.  That letter has now been made public.

The letter speaks of a “continuing commitment to eventual church unity with the Canadian Reformed Churches,” however, more foundational work is necessary in local contexts.  That’s encouraging to read.  The matter of the status of the Nine Points is addressed:  “Although the matter of defining the nature of synodical pastoral advice was referred to a synodical committee for further work, by implication, it appears that such statements by our synod are not confessionally binding.”  And this is what the letter says about Point 6:

You also ask if Point 6 of the Nine Points of Schererville was directed at the Canadian Reformed Churches and the view of the covenant upheld by the Liberation of 1944 in the Netherlands. No, it was not directed at the Canadian Reformed Churches or their view of the covenant. Synod Schererville addressed an error associated with Federal Vision which contends that in baptism a person is granted every spiritual gift, including a true and saving faith, the grace of conversion and justification. The Nine Points were made to uphold the doctrine that a man is justified through faith alone, and that God will never reverse His gracious declaration of justification concerning the believing sinner. Point 6 of the Nine Points of Schererville does not deny that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace. What Point 6 denies is that all baptized persons are in the covenant in precisely the same way such that no distinction is made between those who have the promises by covenant and those who receive by faith what is promised. It should be read in the context of Point 5 which rejects the error that a person can be historically, conditionally elect, regenerated, savingly united to Christ, justified, and adopted by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace but may lose these benefits through lack of covenantal faithfulness (underline added). We gratefully take note of the fact that when addressing our synod on behalf of your churches, Dr. G. H. Visscher expressed agreement with this understanding of Point 6 and our concern.

This seems to support what I have written previously on this topic.  Theologically, the Canadian Reformed have nothing to fear from the Nine Points.  They’re not directed at us, unless, of course, some of us happen to be Federal Vision sympathizers or adherents.  May it not be.

Finally, I would also take note of this statement:

We are not merely good friends; we are brothers and sisters in Christ, joined together in the bond of the Spirit, evidenced by a common confession of the faith and with you, committed to expressing our unity in concrete and discernable ways.

It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of prayer, and a lot of time, but perhaps the day will yet come on this earth, in this age, when we will all be under one ecclesiastical roof.

About Wes Bredenhof

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

56 responses to “URCNA Letter to CanRC

  • Christopher Gordon

    Hi Wes, you write, “Theologically, the Canadian Reformed have nothing to fear from the Nine Points. They’re not directed at us, unless, of course, some of us happen to be Federal Vision sympathizers or adherents. May it not be”

    Yes, may it not be!

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Wes,

    Allow me several points in response:

    1. The URCNA can insist that the nine points are not confessionally binding, but the question remains, can someone who rejects one or more of the nine points be ordained to office? Analogously, will an ordained office-bearer who rejects one or more of the nine points be liable to suspension of office, if not deposition. On paper, this is permissible, but will it be possible in practice?

    2. The Stated Clerk has given an interpretation of the nine points which is not apparent from the Acts of Synod. Nowhere in the Acts does it mention that these nine points were adopted to contest the theories of the so-called federal vision. One might allege this, given the fact that Synod proceeded immediately to strike a committee to investigate federal vision, but that is conjecture. Relatedly, some in the URCNA do no distinguish between Can Ref and Federal Vision because of obvious affinities, e.g., objectivity of the covenant, opposition to merit in the Adamic covenant, unhappiness with visible/invisible church distinction, etc.
    For these reasons, it is entirely fitting for people to associate federal vision with the trajectories of “Can Ref” theology. If you haven’t read John Barach’s essay on Covenant and Election, please do and note how John’s theological construction is borrowed directly from, inter alia, Benne Holwerda, Kees Trimp, Rob van Houwelingen, etc. This is something Can Ref folk must reckon with. It is true that Schilder did not agree with Holwerda, but nevertheless Holwerda has always been an esteemed figure in Can Ref theological history.

    3. I demur from the position of my colleague and friend, Jerry Visscher, that the nine points are innocuous. I’m much more inclined to side with another colleague, Rev. William Van Oene, who has wisely alerted us to the reality that the nine points exhibit the qualities of the 1905 pacification formula which was denounced by our theological forbears. Rev. Van Oene had studied the nine points and finds point 6, especially, theologically erroneous. Does that make him federal vision? Could Rev. Van Oene be ordained in the URCNA?

    4. My sympathy for federal vision is very public. The points where I distinguish myself from popular ideas associated with federal vision are also public.

    Here’s my credo:

    I believe that all children are in the covenant in the same way, that Esau was no less a member of the covenant than Jacob. I believe that baptism is a sociological occurrence in which the candidate is formally received into the body of Christ, i.e. united to Christ, grafted to the vine. I believe that covenant God established with Adam was suffused with grace, that the nomenclature of works is regrettable, and that the reward for prelapsarian human obedience was so disproportionate it could not be administered according to the dictates of strict justice. I believe that “alone” in justified by faith alone is adverbial, not adjectival. I believe that imputation can be utilized as a theological category to describe the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to the believer so long as it is conceived in terms of union with Christ and therefore not as an impersonal transaction. I believe that an emphasis on the distinction between active and passive obedience is confessionally unwarranted. I believe that the distinction between visible and invisible church requires us to think of the church in categories which are more resonant with Platonism than the Bible.

    If this is FV, then the shoe fits and I’ll wear it. I hold these views by conviction, and it hasn’t unnerved me a bit that virtually every church in NAPARC (mainly of Presbyterian affiliation) finds them unsatisfactory. I know I’m well within the parameters of the Three Forms of Unity. The Can Ref have always had to courage to distinguish themselves from Presbyterians; I fear that courage is waning.

    For reason, I take personal offence at your suggestion that Can Ref folk should not be sympathizers or adherents of federal vision, especially when you haven’t defined what “federal vision” is.

    Lastly, lest I be misunderstood, I fully support Can Ref membership in NAPARC; I just don’t think this membership should make us theologically weak-kneed.

    • John Barach

      Bill writes: “If you haven’t read John Barach’s essay on Covenant and Election, please do….”

      If I recall correctly, Wes, you did read my essay and commented favorable upon it. But I can’t locate that blog entry (or was it somewhere else?) right now. Could you find the link for me?

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Yes, John, I did read it. The comments you’re thinking of were published in Christian Renewal in 2004 in my article, “Setting the Record Straight (Again).” This is what I wrote:

        “The other day I received my copy of The Auburn Theology: Pros & Cons, the book that documents a colloquium held by Knox Theological Seminary on the teachings of the so-called Monroe Four. As I read through the book, I noted that the Canadian Reformed Churches were mentioned a number of times. Most of these mentions are in the response of Carl Robbins to John Barach.

        URC pastor John Barach gives a fine essay on “Covenant and Election.” Robbins immediately discerns that Barach is simply restating the so-called “Liberated” view of the covenant. True: it is a commonly held view among people with a background in the Liberation of 1944. But then he goes on to make these comments:

        It is more than a little interesting to see that those who hold these covenantal positions (i.e. the Canadian Reformed Churches) say that they desire unity with the broader Reformed world, but they cannot ascertain why there has been little or no receptivity on the part of these denominations. I would assert that it is (at least partially) because the Canadian Reformed Churches hold to their peripheral covenantal views with such zeal as to make real dialogue towards unity almost impossible.

        In this statement, Robbins appears to know the Canadian Reformed Churches quite well and is comfortable making definitive statements about us. However, Robbins is wrong on several points….”

        I’m not sure I would give the same evaluation (“fine”) today, especially after reading Erik de Boer’s article, “Unfinished Homework: Charting the Influence of B. Holwerda with respect to the doctrine of Election,” in the 2007 issue of the Mid-America Journal of Theology. But okay, that’s what I wrote then.

      • John Barach

        Thanks, Wes! I knew I’d read it somewhere. I searched and searched and searched your blog. Should’ve just asked you. =)

  • Chris Gordon

    Dear Bill, I appreciate the open clarity here in declaring yourself in association with the Federal Vision. Your statements leave no stones unturned, and such statements are actually helpful when things are often so muddy. Bill, you also wrote the following on Wes White’s blog:

    “I have no particular allegiances to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, though I am in many ways indebted to it. I’m always interested in finding ways to be more faithful and more biblical and am willing to shed the terminology and categories of “Reformed theology,” if necessary, to do so.”

    Based on what is written above and on Wes White’s blog, here is what I come up with:

    1. Rev. Bill DeJong, according to his own words, has no allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology.

    2. Rev. Bill DeJong, who previously defended the adoption of the Nine Points at Synod Schererville when he was a URCNA minister, now believes some of these points are theologically erroneous.

    3. Rev. Bill DeJong believes that in water baptism the recipient, through water, is formally united to Christ, receiving all the benefits thereof, and by implication, those who ultimately prove to be reprobate (like Esau) may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, justification, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc.
    because of this union through water baptism.

    4. Rev. Bill DeJong denies the covenant of works.

    5. Rev. Bill DeJong sees no real warrant in upholding the doctrine of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.

    6. Rev. Bill DeJong believes the long trajectory of CANRC theology supports federal vision teaching.

    7. Rev. Bill DeJong believes Can Reformed folk should be able to sympathize and/or openly adhere to the Federal Vision theology, as he does, without ecclessiastical consequence; and, that CANRC courage is waning since they refuse to distance themselves from their Presbyterian and Reformed brethren on these Federal Vision issues.

    Now the next question I would have is, do the CANRC brethren agree, are these views permissible, and what are the consequences if not?

  • Shawn Van Dyken

    Rev. De Jong states “I know I’m well within the parameters of the Three Forms of Unity.” He then speaks of baptism as “a sociological occurrence in which the candidate is formally received into the body of Christ, i.e. united to Christ, grafted to the vine.” This is not the language of the confessions, for they do not speak of union with Christ via Holy Baptism. On the contrary, they speak with no ambiguity of being united to Christ by faith. Faith only. Faith wrought in us by the Holy Spirit through nothing other than the preaching of the Gospel.

    Further, he would have us speak in a nuanced way of the imputed righteousness of Christ. The confessions speak plainly and without hesitation: “…yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.” And lest there be any doubt that it is faith — and faith alone — which serves as the instrument by which we embrace Christ our righteousness, the catechism clarifies: “not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.” (H.C., Lord’s Day 23)

    This is all very perplexing: a minister claims allegiance to the 3 Forms of Unity, but claims no allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology. He claims to want no other confessional binding than to the 3 Forms of Unity, but then obfuscates with a “personal credo” which does not sound much like the confessions.

    One minister’s personal ruminations are not terribly important (unless they are being aired in public). What would be helpful is for Rev. De Jong to identify specifically how the 9 Points contradict (or even cloud) the biblical doctrine summarized by the confessions. In other words, which “weak-kneed” theology is being promoted by the URCNA?

    • Chris Gordon

      Dear Shawn,

      You write, “He claims to want no other confessional binding than to the 3 Forms of Unity, but then obfuscates with a “personal credo” which does not sound much like the confessions.”

      Rev. Dejong has showed us his cards, and isn’t “unnerved a bit” (his words) that NAPARC churches have found these FV views in serious conflict with our confessions (i.e. the Three Forms or Westminster standards).

      The CANRC clearly has a Federal Visionist in their midst, and at his own admittance. Rev Dejong writes, “If this is FV, then the shoe fits and I’ll wear it. I hold these views by conviction…” The answer is, yes, your views are FV and you’re wearing the shoe by conviction. So now what?

      The question is whether these views will be tolerated in the CANRC? His credo made above, it seems to me, provides enough for the CANRC to follow through with this question. If these views are openly tolerated in the CANRC and taught from the pulpit, I fail to see how there will ever be any ecclesiastical movement forward between our respective churches.

      Rev. Dejong obviously believes his views have a place in CANRC theology. Do they? Many of us are scratching our heads, wondering how someone can say they have no particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology and, yet, serve in a confessional body whose particular theology arose out of that context. Will those in ecclesiastical authority agree with him, or take the neccessary steps to deal with what has been determined by many NAPARC churches to be a serious departure from our Reformed heritage. This, I think, has an important bearing on how we go forward.

  • Bill DeJong

    The reactions to my response to Wes have generated have only augmented my suspicion of the usefulness of blog discussions. It should provide readers of Wes’s blog an index of the climate in which we live, in which claims are readily distorted.

    The allegations of Chris in particular are so outlandish I question whether they deserve my time.

    (1) My mundane admission that I adhere to the Three Forms of Unity and have no particular allegiances to 16th and 17th century theology is thought to be controversial. The implication is that there are ministers out there who have allegiances to 16th and 17th century theology. Really? Whose 16th and 17th century theology.

    (2) Where did I say that point 6 was erroneous? Rev. Van Oene said it was erroneous, and I am certainly open to his sage critique.

    (3) Chris attributes language to me that I’ve never used.

    (4) I object to the language of “works” and deny certain formulations of the covenant works.

    (5) Not true, perhaps consult: http://episcopos.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-did-jesus-live-in-my-last-post-i.html

    (6) I would say that the long history of Can Ref theology supports much of the Federal Vision.

    (7) Partially true. With a few exceptions, many Can Ref folk do adhere to large segments of what’s taught under the rubric of FV. And Can Ref folk need to be conscious that we don’t embrace peculiar Presbyterian formulations of certain doctrines.

    Consider my colleague, Clarence Bouwman, who says of Federal Vision, “we are comfortable with much of what of what they say.”

    http://yarrow.canrc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=240:federal-vision-and-schererville&catid=41:church-life&Itemid=58

    • Shawn Van Dyken

      Rev. De Jong:

      I find your dismissal of 16th and 17th century Reformed theology to be anything but mundane. Quite the contrary, it is scandalous that a minister who has vowed complete (i.e., absolute, in toto, without-exception) acceptance of the 3 Forms of Unity (TFU) would so glibly dismiss the theology of those who authored these TFU — and then so warmly embrace the likes of James B. Jordan. It is like hearing an art professor dismiss the works of Vermeer and Rembrandt on the one hand while extolling the artistic merit of local graffiti punks.

      I would expect an orthodox Reformed minister to have a deep respect and admiration for (“allegiance to” even?) the generations that produced the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort.

      Forgive me if the question sounds impertinent, but what exactly do you mean by “the long (?) history of Can Ref theology”?

      Also, could you be more specific about what large segments of Federal Vision theology “many Can Ref folk do adhere to”? And on what basis do you make this assertion?

  • Bill DeJong

    Shawn,

    I suspect you’re not Canadian Reformed, and that’s fine. You would do well to read the form for baptism Can Ref folk use, as found in the Book of Praise. I hope this link works: http://www.canrc.org/?page=42

    What follows is stanza 2 of a baptismal hymn the recent Can Ref synod adopted:

    2. We praise you, Lord, that this dear child
    is grafted to the vine,
    and as a member of your house,
    now bears the cross as sign.

    Perhaps you could orient yourself to the Reformed view of baptism by doing some reading. I would encourage you to begin with, _The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite_ by Hughes Oliphant Old. For a whole doctrine of the covenant, consider _American Secession Theologians_ by Jelle Faber.

    Kind regards in Christ,
    Bill DeJong

    • Shawn Van Dyken

      When properly read and understood, the (CanRC) form for baptism does not proclaim an indiscriminate union with Christ. Without faith on the part of the recipient, the sacraments are without benefit. Indeed, without faith on the part of the recipient, the sacraments effect only condemnation.

      No doubt I could read many more books on the Reformed view of baptism. As it is, I would not consider myself disoriented or otherwise uninformed.

      c. the wording of a hymn recently (and not, insequentially, somewhat controversially) adopted by the Canadian Reformed Churches speaks to a spiritual union of newborns to Jesus Christ. The words of this particular hymn would be better understood as describing
      I am not unfamiliar with the form for baptism. Neither would I consider myself disoriented with respect to the Reformed view of baptism.

      • Shawn Van Dyken

        So sorry, “submit” was hit prematurely. The paragraph beginning “c. the . . . .” is obviously not complete — as were my thoughts on this hymn at the time. Please disregard.

  • Chris Gordon

    Dear Bill,

    I was only trying to be as obective as possible with your credo, coupled with what you have written on your blog and your open addmittance to being a Federal Visionist.

    This is evidenced in your point (6) “I would say that the long history of Can Ref theology supports much of the Federal Vision.”

    If this is true, why would my summary be so outlandish? That is smokescreen. The readers will have to decide. All I cited above are hallmark FV teachings, and here you say CANRC theology supports them. Note the inconsistency, now that things are made really clear, you get unnerved and want to keep at a distance from the FV. But if the CANRC supports the FV, as you say, why would my summary of your credo, which exemplifies the key articles of FV thought be called outlandish?

    You took “personal offense” at Wes’ suggestion that “Can Ref folk should not be sympathizers or adherents of federal vision…” Now you are saying that in my exposing of your views as FV, the claims are distorted? If Fv thought fits within the pale of CANRC orthodoxy, why did I unnerve you so easily in summarizing your one-for-one correspondance to FV thought, as stated your credo?

    • Mark J. Stromberg

      I think Rev Cris Gordon summarizes Rev Bill Dejong’s creedo of FV thought accurately. I appreciate the way Rev Bill Dejong has come out of the closet and openly identified himself as Fv.

      Ironically, the CANRC has always maintained that their is no FV presence within their churches, and as a result they have been unwilling to take a strong stand against this false gospel. Now that Rev Bill Deyond has been exposed, the CANRC can no longer claim that the FV is not a problem for them. We need to pray for our brothers in the CANRC, may they will rise up and defend the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Rev Mark J. Stromberg Belgrade

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Chris,

    I really don’t know what to say. I spelled out a very carefully worded credo of where I stand on the issues, and you turned around and put different words in my mouth. That’s troubling, to say the least.

    I state, for instance, that “I believe that baptism is a sociological occurrence in which the candidate is formally received into the body of Christ, i.e. united to Christ, grafted to the vine.” You read that and then write, “Rev. Bill DeJong believes that in water baptism the recipient, through water, is formally united to Christ, receiving all the benefits thereof, and by implication, those who ultimately prove to be reprobate (like Esau) may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, justification, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc. because of this union through water baptism..” But that’s not what I said and that’s not what I believe. Why impute views to me I don’t hold and have never held? My position on baptism, which is set forth on my blog, is very nuanced.

    As for Mark Stromberg, his comments are positively slanderous and I’m not going to bother responding except to say that I’m troubled that Wes decided to publish them.

    Lastly, I don’t mind being linked with Federal Vision — I’ve been writing about this on my blog for MONTHS!!!! — and I echo my colleague, Clarence Bouwman’s assessment, “we are comfortable with much of what they say.” What I continue to repudiate are the distortions and misrepresentations of FV teaching.

    I hope this exercise is profitable for our spiritual welfare!

    In Christ,

    Bill

    • Wes Bredenhof

      I published Mark’s comments because I didn’t and don’t find them slanderous. He thinks Chris summarized your position accurately — that’s his opinion and you can disagree. He appreciates that you have been forthcoming about your stance — no problem there either. He says that the CanRC have maintained that there is no FV presence within our churches — that has been stated. He states that “we have been unwilling to take a strong stand against this false gospel” — you can disagree with his characterization of the FV as a “false gospel,” but that is his assessment; moreover, it is true that the CanRC have been unwilling to take a stand on this. I find Mark’s opinions strongly stated and poorly written, but not slanderous.

      For the rest, Chris can answer for himself how he reached those conclusions.

  • Chris Gordon

    Bill,

    You write, “But that’s not what I said and that’s not what I believe. Why impute views to me I don’t hold and have never held?”

    You know there is more to this: http://christopherjgordon.blogspot.com/2009/12/extra-confessional-binding-heidelblogs.html

    We are way too tired of hearing we misrepresent FV theology. You made this statement, “I believe that all children are in the covenant in the same way, that Esau was no less a member of the covenant than Jacob.” Did Esau receive all the benefits thereof through baptism? What Esau “conditionally” elect through the union affected by baptism? We’ve been through all this, see my blog. I was indeed fair in attributing to you what you say you are, FV, and your FV thought shines through the strongest in your doctrine of baptism and covenant.

    What your credo implies leads to the conclusions that other FV proponents have drawn, like this one: “The clear implication of these passages is that those who ultimately prove to be reprobate may be in covenant with God. They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc.” Steve Wilkins, Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons, 264. Would you like to comment on this, or will I get the patent answer of something being taken out of context?

    We don’t need to rehash this. The point is, you identify with these teachings. You are openly saying these teachings are permissible in CANRC theology, you are challenging Wes in “personal offense” when he says the FV is in fact incompatible with CANRC theology. Your credo was clear. This demands a response. So, as Mark notes, you are openly FV. As stated, we just want to know if this is acceptable in the CANRC or not? The CANRC ecclesiasitical authorities are now presented with a case of one of their own pastors openly declaring that he is FV AND saying such things are permissible for their brethren to hold. For those in the URC, we will want to know if your shocking statement (in light of our last synod) are true in the CANRC.

  • Chris Gordon

    erratum

    “Was” Esau, not “what”
    ecclesiastical misp
    shocking statmen(s)t–should be plural

  • Chris Gordon

    Bill,

    You write, “But that’s not what I said and that’s not what I believe. Why impute views to me I don’t hold and have never held?”

    You know there is more to this: http://christopherjgordon.blogspot.com/2009/12/extra-confessional-binding-heidelblogs.html

    We are way too tired of hearing we misrepresent FV theology. You made this statement, “I believe that all children are in the covenant in the same way, that Esau was no less a member of the covenant than Jacob.” Did Esau receive all the benefits thereof through baptism? Was Esau “conditionally” elect through the union affected by baptism? We’ve been through all this, see my blog. I was indeed fair in attributing to you what you say you are, FV, and your FV thought shines through the strongest in your doctrine of baptism and covenant.

    What your credo implies leads to the conclusions that other FV proponents have drawn, like this one: “The clear implication of these passages is that those who ultimately prove to be reprobate may be in covenant with God. They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc.” Steve Wilkins, Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons, 264. Would you like to comment on this, or will I get the patent answer of something being taken out of context?

    We don’t need to rehash this. The point is, you identify with these teachings. You are openly saying these teachings are permissible in CANRC theology, you are challenging Wes in “personal offense” when he says the FV is in fact incompatible with CANRC theology. Your credo was clear. This demands a response. So, as Mark notes, you are openly FV. As stated, we just want to know if this is acceptable in the CANRC or not? The CANRC ecclesiastical authorities are now presented with a case of one of their own pastors openly declaring that he is FV AND saying such things are permissible for their brethren to hold. For those in the URC, we will want to know if your shocking statements (in light of our last synod) are true in the CANRC.

  • Bill DeJong

    Chris,

    1. I think any attempt to identify the number and kinds of benefits a child has at baptism is a fundamentally mistaken pursuit. So I reject the question!

    Covenant children are promised that God will forgive their sins and receive them into the assembly of God’s elect in life eternal. The promises of God are not predictions awaiting fulfillment, but pledges summoning faith. Do you really object to this??

    Jacob and Esau were in the covenant in the same way in the sense that they were both the legitimate recipients of God’s loving covenantal pledges. In one of his writings, Dr. Jelle Faber warns against reading Romans 9 into Genesis 25. God did not tell Rebekah, “Jacob I love; Esau I hate;” but “the older will serve the younger.”

    2. I’m not particularly fond of Wilkin’s language in the citation you provided. If one were to substitute “promises” for “blessings” I would find it much more acceptable. Even so, I suspect Wilkins would defend his statement with an appeal to promises. I certainly don’t agree with everything Wilkins writes. Neither does John Barach, Peter Leithart, Jeff Meyers, etc. Are you beginning to see the problem??

    3. I’ve never made any secret of my fondness for FV teaching. Nothing has changed. It’s the same fondness Clarence Bouwman expresses, and there are plenty of others who share this fondness. Is “fondness for FV” really censurable?

    I hope this paves the way to mutual understanding, Chris,

    Bill

  • Chris Gordon

    Bill,

    You write, “I certainly don’t agree with everything Wilkins writes. Neither does John Barach, Peter Leithart, Jeff Meyers, etc. Are you beginning to see the problem??” I certainly do, and that is exactly why your comments above are very concerning. You are allowing for Fv thought to be accepted and tolerated in the CANRC, even taking personal offense that Wes does not agree that it is consistent with CANRC theology. But now you bait and switch on us. You recongize the inconsistency of the authors of the movement, and, although you are willing to say FV thought fits within the pale of CANRC orthodoxy, when challenged, you duck back to the confessional side of the fence and tell us that “you are not particularly fond” of formulations NAPARC bodies have defined as contrary to our confessions. So whether you aren’t fond of some FV formulations is really immaterial to the discussion, you believe these teachings fit under the CANRC tent, and you have openly identified with the movement.

    You are evidencing the very challenge we have faced with the movement all along. There are two paradigms in operation here, one that is confessional and the other Arminian. Whenever an FV proponent doesn’t like what’s being said, he jumps under whatever tent he likes and can conveniently say that he is not recognizing what is being said about his view. I find it shocking that you are asking Wes to define the movement after ten years of this. Fact is, you are obfuscating on things that are confessions make clear.

    And didn’t you speak with James Jordan at a recent FV conference? I take it you agree with James Jordan’s FV theology, as you have stated on your blog. Did you know he said the following about the FV?

    “I’ve said for years that paedocommunion and non-pc cannot live together any more than infant and adult baptism. And by returning to pc, we drive back 1000 years, and definitely back before the Reformation. We also don’t like the rationalism of the “grammatical historical method” (a good way of weeding out about 95% of what the text means)… Oh, it’s true enough: We depart from the whole Reformation tradition at certain pretty basic points. It’s no good pretending otherwise. I think the PCA is perfectly within its rights to say no to all BH types. We are NOT traditional presbyterians. The PCA suffers us within itself, but we are poison to traditional presbyterianism. We are new wine, and the PCA is an old skin. So, for the sake of the people we are called to minister to, we do our best. But we don’t really “belong” there…I can’t really put feet on this, but I “feel” sure that the Reformation tradition is rationalistic precisely because it is anti-pc. Or maybe better, these are part of one complex. Being anti-pc was the greatest mistake of all the Reformers (except Musculus, and who cares about him?). This mistake is part of the heart of the Reformation; they knew about pc and rejected it. This has affected, or else helps be a part of, all kinds of things, like piety, liturgy, and hermeneutics…But there’s no reason why the presbys should receive us, since sacramentally speaking we are NOT Reformed and NOT presbyterian.”

    Bill, sound familiar? Sounds a lot like what you have been saying. You question 16th and 17th C Reformed theology, challenging us not to be Presbyterians, etc.

    The main point still stands, you identify with these teachings. You are openly saying these teachings are permissible in CANRC theology. As stated, we just want to know if your claim that the CANRC supports FV thought is acceptable or not?

    You have said it is, I want to know if that is true?

    • Bill DeJong

      Hi Chris,

      I’ve tried again and again to show that I’m not afraid of the label “federal vision.” Now what? Let’s move beyond labels to substance. What in particular in my credo did you find objectionable?

      Most of what I wrote in that credo is standard fare in the orbit of Canadian Reformed theology and in the wider ecclesiastical sphere of churches adhering to the Three Forms of Unity. Very few among us, for example, would be happy with the language “covenant of works.”

      The late Dr. Jelle Faber, whose theological legacy is widely respected in my ecclesiastical circles, wrote a series of articles critiquing conceptions of this doctrine. I know this unnerves you, but it’s a fact. There are other Can Ref ministers who find especially point 6 (of the nine) erroneous. I know this unnerves you, but it also is a fact. Rev. Gijsbertus Van Dooren, a former instructor at the Can Ref seminary wrote a Master’s thesis where he alleged that the doctrine of the invisible church had Platonic orgins. I know this unnerves you, but it’s a fact.

      Perhaps it will help you to know that when I think of Federal Vision I think especially of the Joint FV Statement, which I don’t find objectionable; moreover, which I find helpful. I might quibble here and there with terminology, but for the most, I’m on board.

      Regarding James B. Jordan, he is a mentor to me. I put him in a category with Sinclair Ferguson, John Stott and Nelson Kloosterman, all of whom have significantly influenced my thinking. I don’t agree with Jordan on paedo-communion (or Postmillennialism) and I’m glad Jim is honest enough to acknowledge that this is a departure from Reformation theology. I’ve spoken numerous times at the Biblical Horizons conference and find it the most profitable conference I’ve ever attended.

      Jim’s rhetoric in the citation above is extreme, was illicitly excised from a private conversation, and ought not to carry much weight. I think Jim himself has said so. BTW, I also regret rhetoric I’ve used on occasion. Sometimes frustration takes over, and I say things I shouldn’t. Later, I’m ashamed of what I’ve written. Bear with me. Perhaps you’ve found yourself regretting things you’ve said or how you’ve said them.

      You point out that I question 16th and 17 century theology. That’s not what I said. I said that this theology doesn’t have my allegiance. Only the Word of God does and only the Word of God should. Having said this, I happily adhere to the Three Forms of Unity. Moreover, I see some significant differences between this confessional tradition and the Westminster confessional tradition. I’m excited about NAPARC and the ecumenical prospects for the Can Ref church, and I’m good friends with the local PCA pastor and we are both very excited about Tim Keller and the missional emphasis of the PCA.

      Moreover, two of my colleagues in the PhD program I’m in at McMaster Divinity College are PCA; both have become good friends, and one of them attends the church I pastor (the other attends periodically as well). I’m excited about our friendship; they know I’m not a huge fan of the Westminster Standards, but we are still able to recognize each other as Reformed. I praise the Lord for this.

      Though I’m thrilled about the possibilities of NAPARC, I don’t think that the Can Ref should abort its theological tradition for the sake of ecumenicity,and I’m sometimes fearful that NAPARC, because of its Westminster orientation, might insist upon this. I also fear that some of my colleagues are too willing to dismiss the traditional emphases in our covenant theology.

      The Can Ref have never made a judgment about FV. I would be VERY surprised to discover a colleague, with one exception, who would find my credo objectionable. I hope that helps!

      I appreciate your interest in these matters, Chris, and I hope things are becoming clearer to you.

      Regards in Christ,

      Bill

  • Mark J Stromberg

    Dear Bill,

    you say that “I think any attempt to identify the number and kinds of benefits a child has at baptism is a fundamentally mistaken pursuit. So I reject the question”. The promises (blessings) that a child recieves through baptism is a major part of FV teaching, this is not unique to Wilkins, but rather, this is an important part of the FV system. This particular teaching is what so many of us find unacceptable. If a child is united to Christ through the means of baptism, then is baptism an instrument? If so, what is the role of faith? Does the Holy Spirit produce faith through the means of baptism?

    Although, my writing is not as refined as I would like, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to respond to my simple, but straightforward questions.

    Rev Mark J. Stromberg

    • Bill DeJong

      Hi Mark,

      I don’t object to lack of refinement in a person’s writing; I do object to slander.

      Regarding the instrumentality of baptism, I’m more accustomed to speaking of “means” of grace or “means of salvation” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 91). The Holy Spirit does NOT produce faith through baptism, but through the Word.

      I appreciate simple, straightforward questions!

      Cordially in our Lord

      Bill

  • Shawn Van Dyken

    Rev. De Jong:

    You have stated that you have no particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology — and that you would gladly shed the label “Reformed” if need be. This leaves me (and perhaps others) wondering if you have allegiance to anyone’s theology — other than your own.

    On a related note: elsewhere you mentioned that you consider James B. Jordan to be the most bibilically astute (my words) man you’ve known; you said that his writings revolutionized your thinking. James B. Jordan has written that he and those around him are “poison” to the Presbyterian and Reformed. Why would an orthodox Canadian Reformed minister wish to be revolutionized by an outlandish (your word) theonomist?

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Shawn,

    1. I suspect this won’t make you feel better, but not only do I not have any particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, I believe it is a SIN to do so. I don’t have allegiances to anyone’s theology. My allegiances are with the Word of God. All men are of themselves liars. Having said that, I happily adhere to the Three Forms of Unity.

    2. Regarding shedding the label “Reformed” I don’t have a problem with that per se, but I don’t believe that’s what I said. Didn’t I say that I would be willing to drop treasured Reformed categories, like the covenant of works, if the Bible convinced me to? I think so.

    3. Regarding my friend Jim Jordan, I believe I said that I know no one who knows the Bible better than Jim.

    4. I think Jim would be interested to know that he’s a theonomist, especially after he wrote a paper decades ago on the death penalty in the Mosaic law in which he critiques theonomy.

    So, Shawn, which books of Jordan have you read??

    Here’s a wonderful essay to introduce you to Jim’s writings: http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/home/apologia-on-reading-the-bible/

    Jordan writes, “The background for my approach is to be found in the theological and hermeneutical writings of Klaas Schilder and in Promise and Deliverance by S. G. de Graaf.” These two figures are very prominent in Canadian Ref. thinking.

    I hope this helps, Shawn.

    Blessings to you and yours,

    Bill

    • Wes Bredenhof

      I’m curious, Bill: does Jim Jordan read Dutch?

      • Bill DeJong

        I suspect he does, Wes, though you’ll notice that the footnotes reference translated volumes. I do know, however, that Jim was quite impressed with Dr. van Bruggen in Holland before any of his translated volumes appeared. Perhaps someone was feeding him English translations; I don’t know.

    • Shawn Van Dyken

      Rev. DeJong:

      It is a pity that one would trade a deep and abiding affection for the thinking which produced the three forms of unity (TFU) for the gobbledygook of Biblical Horizons.

      Here is a link to what appears as your rash dismissal of the Reformed heritage: http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/08/one-canadian-reformed-ministers.html In case that doesn’t work, here is your statement: “I have no particular allegiances to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, though I am in many ways indebted to it. I’m always interested in finding ways to be more faithful and more biblical and am willing to shed the terminology and categories of “Reformed theology,” if necessary, to do so.”

      You claim allegiance only to the Bible, but gladly “adhere” to the TFU. The concern is that you seem to adhere to the TFU as you interpret them. We bind ourselves to the TFU as they were written.

      Your deep affection for James B. Jordan, John Barach, Tim Gallant, et al are troubling on several levels. I have read plenty enough of/by/about this group . . . no thanks.

  • Mark J Stromberg

    Rev. De Jong:

    First, I want to thank you for responding to my previous questions. In one of your answers to my questions you state that “The Holy Spirit does NOT produce faith through baptism, but through the Word”. I agree with this statement; in addition to this, I would argue that we are united to Christ by faith and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, as our Catechism teaches, in Heidelberg 65. I believe that you will also agree with this statement. Now if this is true, then how is a child united to Christ through the means of baptism? In other words, how can a child be united to Christ and share in all Christ’s blessings by faith ALONE, and also be united to Christ and share in Christ’s blessings through the means of baptism?

    Rev. Mark J. Stromberg

  • Bill DeJong

    Hi Mark,

    Happy to see there’s progress!!! Thank you for being willing to listen to me! You will recall that I’ve described baptism as a sociological occurrence in which the candidate is formally received into the body of Christ. That is “a” union with Christ, a union with Christ’s body, the church, the object of God’s covenant love and the recipient of his covenant promises!! As the child grows up within the body of Christ, he must embrace the promises in faith. Faith is the only lifeline to Christ!!!!

    • Mark J Stromberg

      Hi Bill,

      I am trying to understand what you mean when you say baptism is a sociological occurance. Traditionally, we have always described baptism as a sign and seal of the covenant of grace and as means whereby one is inaugurated into the (visible) church. It seems odd, that you would use (secular) sociological categories in stead of using traditional biblical and confessional categories/language. By saying that baptism is a sociological occurance, are you saying that through the means of baptism a child is identified with the church in a visible manner, but that there is no actually spiritual mystical union taking place? It seems like this is what you are saying? Please clarify.

      Rev. Mark J. Stromberg

  • Bill DeJong

    Mark,

    Very helpful questions which give me opportunity to clarify. And it looks like you understand me.

    I’m using the language of “sociological occurrence” to distinguish my position from that of Roman Catholics and Lutherans who see baptism as a “magical occurrence” by which a mystical union with Christ is forged ex opere operato. By sociological occurrence I am simply affirming what the WCF says in Art 28, that baptism is a sacrament “for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church” and what the Heidelberg Catechism says in LD 27 that baptism involves “grafting” children of believers into the Christian church and distinguishing them from the children of unbelievers.

    So baptism does something!! And what it does is not mystical or magical, but sociological in nature. It solemnly admits the person baptized into the visible church, the body of Christ.

    • Shawn Van Dyken

      Rev. De Jong:

      So if what you mean by baptism as “sociological occurrence . . . . ” is what we confess in LD 27 (as well as what Presbyterians confess in WCF Article 28), why not leave it at that?

  • Chris Gordon

    Dear Bill,
    I have more to say, but initially, you write to Shawn: “I not have any particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, I believe it is a SIN to do so. I don’t have allegiances to anyone’s theology. My allegiances are with the Word of God.” I wonder what the powers that be in the CANRC think of this. As stated, many of us are scratching our heads, wondering how someone can say they have no particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, even calling it sin to have this allegiance and, yet, serve in a confessional body whose particular theology arose out of that context. This is a very serious statement! You have already stated that you are looking for more faithful ways to articulate this theology, leaving the suggestion that some of our confessional theology may not be biblical. Who determines? We are only left with “quantenus” subscription.

    And one wonders how you can say it is sin to hold allegiance to 16th century Reformed theology when your forefather, Guido De Bres said that “they would offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in the Belgic confession. Was he sinning, Bill? Sad we have come to the point when the truth of what people once died for can be now be called sin to have allegiance to.

    We define people who speak like this biblicists for a reason. Incidentally, this is the very same thing Harold Camping says. He just reads the Bible without any particular allegiance to “anyone’s” theology. And now he has predicted the end of the world twice. But he just reads the Bible, you know. He is always looking for fresh ways to be more biblical.

    You seem to be suggesting autonomous neutrality within the Christian sphere. Didn’t some of our Reformed forefathers talk a lot about that danger? You have indeed adopted an Arminian paradigm in aligning with the FV. But you really are not being consistently neutral, but are reading Scripture through whatever lens “you” want. And those who are confessional should indeed have a problem with it. So you say you are unashamedly FV, and ask “now what?” That’s what I want to know with regard to how the CANRC feels, you are stating that CANRC supports FV teachings in their midst, and by open admission, you agree with FV theology, “now what”? And we have already gotten to the substance, Bill.

    The seasoned response by Dr. Visscher to the URC after our Synod included this plea: “Third, be careful as to how one writes about Federal Vision material. This sister of ours is sensitive on this issue because of the lack of clarity on justification, and that sensitivity is not unjustified. If we care about our relationship, blanket statements of approval of FV material are foolhardy.” This plea also hasn’t stopped you one bit. Have you followed the advice of your wise professor and elder brother? Instead, you have disregarded our consciences on this issue stating losley and openly that the CANRC does indeed support FV theology. Right here, on this blog, you have made “blanket” statements of approval of FV material. You have not taken any careful approach to what is for us a very serious breach of our confessions. That alone should earn some rebuke.

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Chris,

      A couple of comments in response:

      1) “The powers that be in the Canadian Reformed churches.” We don’t really have any such powers outside of local consistories. We do have men called to be leaders in our churches, and they can comment and interact with what Bill has written, but ultimately if some action is to be taken, it has to come to or from a local consistory. That’s how things work in our churches.

      2) I think this discussion is just beginning. Please give us (CanRC) some time. Official reaction didn’t come instantaneously in the URCNA either. Even though blog/Facebook discussions can be messy, it’s a place to start. But this is a discussion we obviously need to have.

      I can imagine that there are CanRC colleagues reading this discussion. Brothers, please feel free to add your thoughts. Of course, that same invitation also goes out to other ministerial colleagues, Presbyterian and Reformed.

      • Peter Ton

        Dear Pastor Bredenhof,

        “But this is a discussion we obviously need to have.” I am not sure I understand what you mean by “this”. At first I thought you meant that Rev. DeJong’s credo ought to be discussed but then it seemed to me that you are calling for a Can. Reformed discussion on the Federal Vision. Is my second guess correct?

        While I don’t see where Pastor DeJong’s credo conflicts with the TFU or the Scriptures (I belong to a United Reformed Church, by the way), Pastor Gordon’s interpretation of Pastor DeJong’s credo has led him to charge Pastor DeJong as (among other things) a full-fledged Federal Visionist. Is there anything in Pastor DeJong’s credo that you think conflicts with the Bible and our confessions? If so, could you explain how it does?

        “Synod Schererville addressed an error associated with Federal Vision…” (in your original post) betrays a problem that I hope you will attempt to remedy. According to this letter, Synod Schererville did not address a Federal Vision error; synod addressed an error that someone, somehow, has associated with the Federal Vision. You want the FV discussed. Do you wish to discuss 1. The Joint Statement, 2. every theological error FV critics have associated with the FV, or a third option?

        You and Pastor Gordon share the conviction that there ought not to be Federal Vision adherents or sympathizers in the Canadian Reformed Church. Are there no FV statements that you appreciate? Which statements do you refute, and why?

        Thanks for your time, Pastor Bredenhof, I pray your efforts will continue to edify the Church of Christ,

        Pete

      • Wes Bredenhof

        Peter,

        Yes, I think a discussion on Federal Vision is necessary in the Canadian Reformed Churches. Some questions that we might discuss in that regard: Can we live with FV views in our midst? Should we perhaps be pursuing federative unity with CREC instead of URCNA? If we’re going to tolerate FV, when several other NAPARC churches have judged it aberrant, what are the consequences for our ecumenical relationships?

        With regards to my colleague Bill DeJong, my position is that there are still some outstanding questions about some of the definitions of his terms, his support of the Nine Points in 2007, and so forth. I’m doubtful it would be profitable to carry on that discussion in this forum.

        The Joint FV Statement certainly gives us a good place to start when evaluating FV. However, wouldn’t it be fair and reasonable to at least also evaluate the book edited by Steve Wilkins, The Federal Vision? Couldn’t we include Norman Shepherd? After all, he was originally scheduled to speak at the first Auburn Avenue Conference that sparked this discussion. And yes, there are statements by FV authors that I can agree with (at least formally, the question of whether we’re using and understanding certain key terms in the same way is critical). However, of course, there are also Roman Catholic authors who have made some agreeable statements here and there. I think that’s beside the point.

        As for publicly critiquing the FV, I’m not compelled to reinvent the wheel. All kinds of critiques have been written already, some admittedly better than others. Of course, there are also counter-critiques and counter-counter-critiques and so forth — should I contribute further to this morass? Moreover, anything I write will almost inevitably be countered with: “You haven’t really understood…” or “You’re too simplistic…” or accusations of breaking the ninth commandment and so on. I don’t have the time or the patience for that. I’m glad and thankful for the men who do have the grace and the interest to engage in such discussions, even though they just make me tired and cynical.

  • Chris Gordon

    Thank you, Wes. You state, “The powers that be in the Canadian Reformed churches.” We don’t really have any such powers outside of local consistories.” I was assuming this.

    Appreciate the call to patience. It just seems to me that things have been taken up another level here, and it should be recognized.

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Chris,

    This need not be complex. My difficulty is with the word “allegiance.” No human theology is perfect, for all men are of themselves liars (BC, Art.7), and therefore no human theology should captivate our allegiance. Until recently, I had been using the word “allegiance” in relation to the confessions. A friend of mine in the congregation I pastor criticized my use of the word in that context. He said, “The confessions solicit our adherence, not our allegiance.” He was right. And so I’ve backed off from using the word, not just in relation to theology, but in relation to the confessions.

    So . . . the Word of God has my allegiance, the Reformed confessions have my adherence and 16th and 17th century theology has my interest and often fondness. Does that clarify Chris?

    Regarding Dr. Visscher’s statement. He and I are friends, and I am deeply appreciative of his leadership at the Can Ref seminary. He is a scholar and a gentleman, and I want to do all I can to uphold his good name. Alas, we disagree theologically about a number of issues. I am among those who wasn’t entirely impressed by his recent plea (read Clarion to see others who weren’t happy). While I appreciate and applaud Jerry’s ecumenical initiative, I think his assessment of the URCNA synod was naive. You can read my blog to see how my assessment of the synod varies considerably from Dr. Visscher. Ergo, I wish Dr. Visscher hadn’t written what he wrote.

    The great thing about being Can Ref is you can disagree with colleagues and no one bats an eye. You don’t need to think alike to be good friends.

    I hope this helps, Chris.

    Bill

  • Shawn De Jager

    Thank you Wes, Chris, Bill and others,

    This has been very interesting to follow along. I do lament that fact that these important questions/debates only seem to be happening on avenues such as this and sadly they are geared towards, pastors, theologians and the like. Recently I read the book “And we Escaped” by Rev. G. Van Dooren dealing with the liberation of the local church in Wezep the Netherlands in 1944. What I found striking was the desire by both Rev. Van Dooren and local consistory to educate and expose the members of the church towards the erroneous teachings that had gained the upper hand in the church as declared by the previous synod stemming from the “Conclusions of Utrecht.” In his book Rev. Van Dooren works on educating the people by the clear preaching of the gospel on these issues and the consistory by holding regular congregation meetings where speakers had the ability to speak their views and questions could be asked. The words from this book that we have to be awake resonate in my head. My point is, how are we as a federation (and you) making sure the local church member is awake to what is going on as it seems these type of discussions only often occur between colleagues?

    I can appreciate that “iron sharpens iron” but hopefully we the average pew sitter are not left behind.

    Again thank you collectively for all your hard work, may our heavenly Father bless this also to the furtherance of His kingdom.
    In Christ
    Shawn

    • Bill DeJong

      Hi Shawn,

      I’m so happy to hear that you read Van Dooren’s book! This should illuminate the reason why Can Ref folk are so suspicious of extra-confessional pronouncements. The URCNA nine points are perceived as a new form of the “Conclusions of Utrecht.”

      I’m sensitive to your point about educating lay people about these issues. There ought to be a format where this can be done; I’ve resisted doing so online in many places because the moment I indicate agreement with FV, I’m accused of “denying the gospel” or some such charge — not exactly conducive to a healthy discussion!!!

      Alas, I’m willing to shoulder a lot of criticism, bad-mouthing and name-calling if it means that people are coming to a greater understanding of the Scriptures. Surely, this honors the Lord and promotes the advance of the gospel in the world!!

      Cordially, in our Lord,
      Bill

  • Chris Gordon

    Hi Shawn,

    You write, “My point is, how are we as a federation (and you) making sure the local church member is awake to what is going on as it seems these type of discussions only often occur between colleagues?”

    Thank you for this observation. I actually take so much time on blogs for this reason, to help parishioners, like you, to think through these issues. I really can’t stand the argumentation. But I believe the subject matter is too important to leave alone. We have a duty, and, unfortunately, blogging seems to be the most readily available format for this to take place. I think we can do much better, though, for your sake. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Maybe more conferences, lectures, charitable debates, etc.

    Thanks again for jumping in. May the Lord bless you as you think through these issues.

    Blessings,
    Chris

    • Shawn De Jager

      Hi Chris,

      I can agree that blogging can be most readily available format, but I struggle with if it is the most effective. To be honest this is the first time I have responded or posted anything on a blog. I often get more out of a face to face than written words, especially when the words being debated are so similar and the differences (at least to me) hard to distinguish. As for better ideas I am equally stumped, but will promise to think about this more.

      I appreciate the desire you expressed “for you sake” but more importantly for Christ sake. May this be our true desire in all of this.

      Blessings to you as well.
      Shawn

  • Chris Gordon

    Shawn,

    You write, “I appreciate the desire you expressed “for your sake” but more importantly for Christ sake. May this be our true desire in all of this.”

    Amen, may it always be for Christ. Whatever one does for these Christ’s brethren, he does for Him (Matt. 25:40).

  • Shawn Van Dyken

    In his response to Shawn DeJager (see above), Rev. DeJong now casts himself as misunderstood victim of bad-mouthing, name-calling, etc. As best I can tell, nothing said here to/about Rev. DeJong is unwarranted by his own deliberate obfuscation of what is clearly, unambiguously summarized in the confessions. He is no more a victim than the person who self-immolates.

    And his friends who crafted the Joint Federal Vision Statement — with whom and with which he finds himself comfortable — justly deserve the opprobrium they appear to be receiving from all (engaged) corners of the NAPARC galaxy. Children with Magic Markers should not be allowed near valuable paintings. Punks with spray paint cans do not belong in the Rijksmuseum (or anywhere else, for that matter). Similarly, clerics with a penchant for single-handedly “improving upon” cherished confessions — using their own proprietary lexicon — have no place in orthodox confessional churches. Which is precisely why, in a rare moment of lucidity, James B. Jordan could say that he and his fellow Bibical Horizons nomads have no place among traditional Presbyterian (and Reformed) churches, because “sacramentally speaking we are NOT Reformed and NOT presbyterian.” (emphasis in the original).

    • Bill DeJong

      Dear Shawn,

      And I thought we were making progress!

      I hope and pray you are nourished by the Word of God tomorrow!

      Wishing you many blessings in Christ,

      Bill DeJong

      • Shawn Van Dyken

        Rev. De Jong:

        Thank you for your kind wishes. I eagerly look forward to being nourished each Lord’s Day by the faithful proclamation of His Word.

        But I’m not sure what gave you reason to think “we were making progress” — toward what, exactly? I am comfortable taking our URCNA brethren at their word. On the other hand, I see no warrant for taking at face value anything JBJ and co. might say. Your position appears to be the exact opposite.

  • Kevin Barrow

    Permit me ask Rev. Dejong what he conscionably believes about his subscription status in light of what he has written here. I’m having significant trouble with his answer to Rev. Gordon when he wrote,

    “This need not be complex. My difficulty is with the word “allegiance.”

    He also stated, “I said that this theology doesn’t have my allegiance. Only the Word of God does and only the Word of God should. Having said this, I happily adhere to the Three Forms of Unity. In another place, he states it this way, “I not have any particular allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology, I believe it is a SIN to do so. I don’t have allegiances to anyone’s theology. My allegiances are with the Word of God.

    If Rev. Dejong has a conscionable objection to the word allegiance, so be it, but let it not cloud the issue of “quia” subscription – because of.

    In essence, he writes as one who happily adheres to the 3FU but only “in so far” as it agrees with the word of God and is willing to shed it to implement more FV formulations. It does not appear as though he writes as one whom happily adheres to the 3FU “because” it agrees with the word of God. If he does, he does so as one who infers that the 3FU may not be faithful enough ways to articulate theology and may not be accurate.

    Rev. Gordon clearly sees this problem when he wrote, “You have already stated that you are looking for more faithful ways to articulate this theology, leaving the suggestion that some of our confessional theology may not be biblical. Who determines? We are only left with “quantenus” subscription.

    Adherence to “in so far” (quantenus) subscription, opens the door for all ministers to start devising and publishing their own “credos”. Changing the confessional terminology is the hallmark of this method. Will sociological occurrence become part of the new baptismal credo?

    Not only does Rev. Dejong object to allegiance “because of” but it seems he also really objects here to adherence “because of”.

    Rev Dejong writes, “The implication is that there are ministers out there who have allegiances to 16th and 17th century theology. Really? Whose 16th and 17th century theology. “ Here he calls attention to “whose theology” in the same way he questions “allegiance” to the 3FU when he appeals to – all men are liars.

    In both attempts, he objects to “allegiance”. But what is he really objecting to? Give him his allegiance objection in order to get him back to the substance of his reformed heritage to determine his real subscription beliefs. If he is simply substituting adherence to allow for “in so far as” then it will become evident by his response. If allegiance is just too much for him, then one wonders if “because of” subscription is also.

    Hope he will clarify.

    • John Barach

      It seems to me that some people in this discussion may be confusing “adherence/allegiance to 16th and 17th century Reformed theology” with “adherence/allegiance/subscription to the 3FU.” So when Bill says he doesn’t do the former, it seems to me that some here him saying that he doesn’t do the latter.

  • Reuben Van Laar

    Hello Rev. Bredenhof,
    I thought this might help show how FV relates to 1944, maybe Rev. Bouwman has it all wrong but I do believe the bottom of the issue here is mainly the way the CanRC view the covenant.
    http://yarrow.canrc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=129:federal-vision&catid=50:a-bit-to-read&Itemid=65

    • Shawn Van Dyken

      Reuben:

      Rev. Bouwman’s overview (to which you provided the link) is interesting but should not be swallowed whole, as they say. The impression is given in his post that Lord’s Day 27, for instance, was not only “rediscovered” by the Liberation of 1944; it was then transported to North America by post-war immigrants. The entire Heidelberg Catechism — as well as a healthy understanding of infant baptism — was well-known on this continent long before the 1950s.

      Similar confusion might arise from the assertion that such terms as “outward” and “inward” (viz a viz the covenant), “visible” and “invisible” (viz a viz the church), etc. came into use among Reformed folk much later than the confessions. In fact, such terms were not laid upon the confessions by later generations; they were terms used by the authors of the confessions to clarify/elaborate doctrinal statements in the confessions — the very confessions they wrote. For instance, you can read Ursinus’ Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism and see what the author of the catechism meant when he used the term “holy, catholic church”. Also, read John Calvin — whose writings predate the three forms of unity — who discusses at length (e.g., in his Institutes) the visible and invisible church.

      Rev. Bouwman also made passing mention of paedocommunion as though it were tangential to an underdeveloped Federal Vision. James B. Jordan, one of the luminaries of the FV movement, has made it clear that paedocommunion is at the very heart of a proper understanding of the covenant. Indeed, he has said of himself and his fellow FV-ists: “sacramentally speaking we are NOT Reformed and NOT presbyterian.” (emphasis in the original).

      So while Rev. Bouwman’s post does shed some light on the connection between what some within the Canadian Reformed Churches may consider Reformed orthodoxy and the misappropriation of certain aspects of it by persons outside (i.e., FV-ists), his post should be read with some healthy skepticism and an eye for historical anachronism.

  • Bill DeJong

    Dear Kevin,

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify what I believe. Before so doing, I want to make the suggestion that you ought to read the comments of others charitably, giving them the benefit of the doubt. This is part and parcel of what it means to love one’s neighbour as oneself.

    I fully adhere or subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity because they agree with the Word of God; I’m troubled that you think that my subscription extends only “in so far as” the confessions agree with the Word of God (which is a meaningless statement). I’ve re-read what I’ve written and I don’t believe there’s the slightest suggestion that I have trouble with confessional subscription.

    Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the practices of Reformed churches, but as office-bearers in these churches, we don’t subscribe to Reformed theology, but to specific Reformed confessions.

    Thank you again for your questions. And I hope my answer clarifies.

    Wishing you abundant blessings in Christ, our Saviour!!

    Bill DeJong

  • Shawn Van Dyken

    Rev. DeJong says “I want to make the suggestion that you ought to read the comments of others charitably, giving them the benefit of the doubt. This is part and parcel of what it means to love one’s neighbour as oneself. ”

    So can we give our brothers (URCNA) the benefit of the doubt — and accept at face value that their “9 Points” were not directed at the CanRC ?
    That would be real progress.

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