Category Archives: Church life

Essential Latin for Reformed Christians: “D.V.”

 

For centuries the Church conducted most of its affairs in Latin.  While Latin started off as the vernacular of the Western Church, eventually it became a static, dead language.  Used in the mass, in the Latin Bible (the Vulgate) in the academy and assemblies, common people were in time excluded from knowledgeable participation in church life because they had no knowledge of Latin.  With the Reformation, all that changed.  The Church again began to use the common language of the people in most areas.  Nevertheless, certain Latin terms and expressions continued to be used in sermons and popular books.

In this series, I want to explain some of the most common Latin terms and expressions our Reformed churches continue to use.  I’ll assume everyone is already familiar with the five Latin “solas” of the Reformation, and we’ll move on to some others.  These are terms and expressions you may still hear from the pulpit or in books.  Sometimes they might be explained (I always endeavour to do so), but sometimes not.  They’re all worth knowing.

Today we’re looking at “D.V.”  We’re commonly told this means, “the Lord willing.”  Growing up in a church of Dutch immigrants, I thought “D.V.” must be short for “DeLord Villing.”  But no, it’s actually Latin:  Deo volente.

Deo volente does not actually literally translate to “the Lord willing.”  It literally means, “God willing.”  It’s commonly said to mean “the Lord willing” because of its roots in James 4:15, “…you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'”  Older writers used to be a little more elaborate and say “sub conditione Jacobi” (under the condition of James).   Seeing how the expression comes from James, to be more precise “D.V.” ought to be understood as Domino volente (the Lord willing).  However, at the end of the day it all means the same thing, so I for one will not quibble too much about it.

“D.V.” is often attached to plans and announced events in our Reformed churches.  By it, we recognize that we may make our plans, but sometimes God decides otherwise.  As the Holy Spirit says in James 4:14, “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”  But is it necessary to always attach a “D.V.” to every plan and event?  I don’t think it is.  I don’t think James 4:15 requires us to literally say “D.V.” every time we look to something in the future.  James 4 is addressing a heart issue.  In our hearts, we ought to recognize God’s sovereignty over our plans.  And from there, it ought to somehow find expression in the words we speak too.  But I believe it sufficient to say, “We plan to hold this or that event” or “We hope to…” or “A consistory meeting is scheduled for Monday evening.”  Saying things in that manner displays the humility envisioned in James 4.  While certainly not wrong to use “D.V.” it can become pious jargon you’re supposed to use, but about which you don’t even really think anymore.  Since it involves God’s Name, that can become dangerous.  Whether you use “D.V.” or not, the attitude is what really matters.

 


CanRC Proposal to Approve Trinity Psalter Hymnal

For several years, the Canadian Reformed Churches were working with the United Reformed Churches to produce a joint song book.  Progress was slow, but steady.  However, eventually the URC abandoned the joint venture with the CanRC and later decided to work with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church instead.  The OPC and URC are now on the verge of releasing the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.  Apparently it’s supposed to be available around the beginning of May.

The CanRC have been watching these developments closely.  At Classis Pacific East of February 22, 2018, the Aldergrove church presented a proposal to adopt the psalms and hymns of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.  It was presented as a proposal for synod, with the hopes that classis would adopt it and forward it on via the next Regional Synod West.  According to the press release, Classis Pacific East did what Aldergrove asked.  So the proposal is going to the next Regional Synod West.

A similar proposal was floated in the east last year.  A Classis Central Ontario brought a proposal to Regional Synod East of November 8, 2017.  However, Regional Synod East was not convinced.  We’ll see what West will do later in the year.

These are developments for the Australian Free Reformed Churches to watch too.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, we have a Synod coming up with weighty decisions to make about our song book.  We’ll be debating whether to add the 19 new hymns from the 2014 CanRC Book of Praise.  Meanwhile, the CanRCs have moved on to debate whether to add dozens more.


Preview of FRCA Synod 2018

This is a synod year for the Free Reformed Churches of Australia.  God willing, Synod Bunbury gets underway on June 18.  While it’s being convened by the Bunbury church, the facilities of the Southern River church (Perth metro, WA) will host the proceedings.  The deputies reports and proposals from the churches are now available (click on links to access).  Let’s review some of the more interesting items on the agenda.  Since I’m delegated to this synod, I’m not going to be offering my views or opinions — what follows are just the facts, presented as objectively as possible.

Ecumenical Relations

Everyone will undoubtedly be watching what the FRCA Synod decides about the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  The Deputies for Sister Church Relations are recommending the FRCA terminate this sister-church relationship.  The grounds are:  the RCN decided to allow women into all the offices of the church, by adopting the “New Hermeneutic” the RCN has turned away from the clear instructions in God’s Word and has shown unfaithfulness by lack of submission to that Word, and “there has been no adequate response, let alone repentance, to earlier admonitions.”  Should this recommendation be followed, the FRCA will be the first of the RCN’s sister churches to cut ties.  Related to all that, the Deputies of Theological Training are also recommending that the Theological University of Kampen no longer be considered a viable option for FRCA men looking for a seminary education.

Meanwhile, proposals are being put forward to pursue ecumenical relations with other churches.  A proposal originating with the Launceston church (and since adopted by Classis North of October 20, 2017) asks Synod to appoint a committee to investigate relations with the Southern Presbyterian Church and Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  The congregations of these churches are found in Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania.  Another proposal from the Southern River church asks Synod to do something similar with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in North America.

Theological Training

The FRCA have been entertaining the idea of establishing their own seminary.  Currently, FRCA students are sent to the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario.  However, in article 17 of the FRCA Church Order, the churches agree that they shall “if possible, maintain an institution for the training for the ministry.”  The question:  is it possible?  The Deputies for Theological Training were mandated to investigate and report on the feasibility of establishing a seminary in Australia.  As part of their work, they surveyed the churches.  Half the churches believed it feasible, half did not.  The Deputies themselves are divided on the question.  Their report thus comes with two different recommendations.  One is that a seminary is feasible in the near future and a plan should be put in motion to begin such an institution in 2021 (after the next synod).  The other recommendation is that a seminary is not feasible at the moment, but may be in the medium-long term future (9-15 years).

To make things even more interesting, there is also a proposal from Rockingham on the same matter.  Their proposal argues that “the feasibility of maintaining a theological college has been demonstrated and that the FRCA, in accordance with C.O. art. 17, should proceed with establishing our College without further delay or indecision.”

Book of Praise

For years, the FRCA have been using the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise.  However, this does have some drawbacks.  For example, the FRCA Church Order is different to the CanRC.  At the back of the Book of Praise is the CanRC Church Order — wouldn’t it be nice if the Australian churches could have their own Church Order back there?  These and other considerations led our last Synod to mandate deputies to pursue an Australian Book of Praise.  The deputies have fulfilled their mandate and the Synod will have to decide between six or seven different options:

Version I — NKJV Bible translation in the liturgical forms and confessions, capitalized pronouns for God, FRCA Church Order included in book.

This breaks down into three sub-options:

a) With the 19 extra hymns adopted by the CanRC and included in their 2014 Book of Praise

b) With some of the extra hymns

c) With none of the extra hymns

Version II — ESV Bible translation in the liturgical forms and confessions, no capitalized pronouns, FRCA Church Order included in book.  This breaks down into the same three sub-options as above.

There is a third option, but the deputies were not unanimous on including it.  Version III is simply the 2014 CanRC Book of Praise with each church also supplying every member a copy of the FRCA Church Order.

The deputies have also recommended a name for the new song book:  Sing to the Lord: Anglo-Genevan Psalter.

In addition to the Deputies’ report, there are also proposals from the churches regarding this matter.  Rockingham has put forward several proposals to change the rhyming of some of the psalms.  Southern River has a proposal to adopt all 19 of the extra hymns found in the 2014 Book of Praise.

Conclusion

There are other matters on the agenda, but those are some of the most noteworthy.  In the weeks ahead, FRCA consistories will be reviewing the reports and proposals.  I imagine Synod 2018 will be receiving numerous letters from the churches interacting with all this material.  It’s certainly going to be interesting!  This synod has the potential to be a turning point for the FRCA.


What’s Up in 2018

This past year will be remembered for our celebrations of the 500th birthday of the Reformation.  All around the world, believers praised God again for what he did in leading Luther and others to recover the biblical gospel.  What a great time to recall our Father’s mercies to his people!

The year of our Lord 2018 is going to feature more such celebrations.  This year is the beginning of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort 1618-19.  This year we’ll begin celebrating how God helped his church to reject the man-centered doctrines of Arminius and his followers.  By God’s mercies, the doctrines of grace were defended and then codified in that faithful summary of Scripture we call the Canons of Dort.

This new year is also notable because it’s a synod year for the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA).  Synod Bunbury is scheduled to begin on Monday June 18.  Though it’s being convened by the church of Bunbury, the synod will actually be held in the facilities of the Southern River church (in the Perth metro area of Western Australia).  There are a number of big items of interest, but let me just mention two, both pertaining to inter-church relations.

First is our relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN).  As readers know, the RCN last year opened all the offices of the church to women.  The FRCA has warned the RCN that if they did this, our relationship (which is currently suspended) will be terminated.  It is expected that Synod Bunbury will carry through with this.  If it does, we will be the first sister church to cut ties with the RCN over their unfaithfulness.

Second, there is a proposal to investigate the possibility of ecumenical relationships with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the Southern Presbyterian Church.  While this proposal originated with FRC Launceston, it has been adopted by Classis North of 20 October 2017.  Moving in this direction will have the greatest impact on the Tasmanian churches, since this is the “heartland” of the EPC and SPC.  Their congregations only exist in the eastern part of Australia.  Here in Tasmania, we already enjoy many contacts with EP and SP brothers and sisters.  Many of their children attend our John Calvin School.  We’re working together to establish a Christian counselling organization.  The EPC and FRC recently jointly hosted a Reformation commemoration.  I just returned from speaking at the EPC biennial youth camp — I taught apologetics to about 60 young people, of whom over a quarter were from our Free Reformed Churches.  We have many good connections already — it remains to be seen if we can draw closer together in a more formal relationship.  Here we’re certainly praying for that!

This new year certainly promises to be interesting.  God willing, I hope to be able to share developments with you here.  Whoever you are and wherever you are, I pray that God will give you a most blessed 2018!

 

 


“Plain Water” — The Reformation and Worship

The Reformation wasn’t only about theology.  It was also, and perhaps most centrally, about doxology.  It was about the right giving of glory, about worship.  That was the central thesis of Carlos Eire’s 1986 book, War Against the Idols: the Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin.  It’s essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what really drove the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

At the heart of the Reformed drive to purify Christian worship was a principle.  That principle was sola Scriptura — by the Bible alone.  Our worship is to be governed only according to the Word of God.  God alone has the prerogative to determine how we are to worship him and his prerogatives are expressed in the Scriptures.

That key principle found expression in the Reformed confessions.  For instance, article 7 of the Belgic Confession says that Scripture is sufficient for our faith and practice.  Then it adds, “The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length.”  Later, in article 32, the Confession insists:

We believe that, although it is useful and good for those who govern the church to establish a certain order to maintain the body of the church, they must at all times watch that they do not deviate from what Christ, our only Master, has commanded.  Therefore we reject all human inventions and laws introduced into the worship of God which bind and compel the conscience in any way.

Or as the Heidelberg Catechism puts it in QA 96, “We are not to worship him [God] in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word.”  That is the most succinct expression of the Reformed principle of worship.  In more recent times, it’s been called the regulative principle of worship.  It’s simply the application of sola Scriptura to worship.

Naturally, there is a background to this in the pre-Reformation church.  In the medieval church, things had been added and subtracted from Christian worship.  This had been done on human authority, without any divine approbation from the Scriptures.  When the Reformation arrived, people again became attuned to the Scriptures and they realized that the church’s worship had become idolatrous.  Worship was in need of renewal according to the Bible.

A noteworthy example of this is found in article 34 of the Belgic Confession.  This article first speaks in general terms about the meaning of Christian baptism.  Baptism has replaced circumcision.  Baptism is the means by which we are “received into the church of God.”  Through baptism we are set apart from the world.  Then the Reformed churches confess this:

For that reason he has commanded all those who are his to be baptized with plain water into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19).

Notice especially the mention of “plain water.”  Those two words are pregnant with meaning.

“Plain water” is directed at the ways in which Rome had added to baptism.  In his book Flesh and Spirit, Steven Ozment describes how baptism was administered by Rome around the time of the Reformation:

The traditional service of baptism began with the priest blowing gently under the eyes of the newborn and commanding the devil, “Flee from this child, unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit.”  The child then received the mark of the cross on its forehead and chest and a pinch of consecrated salt in its mouth, this time accompanied by the words, “Take the salt of [divine] wisdom, and may it atone for you in eternity.”  Thereafter, the priest imitated Christ’s healing of a deaf-mute (Mark 7:33-34) and a blind man (John 9:6) by dabbing a mixture of his own sputum and dirt in the child’s nose and ears, while pronouncing a double command, the first for the child, the second for the devil:  “[Dear child] receive the sweetness [of God]…devil, flee, for the judgment of God is near.”  The priest then anointed the child’s chest and shoulders with olive oil and placed a consecrated mixture of olive oil and balsam — the holy chrism — on the crown of its head.  The final acts of the service belonged to the godparent, who took the naked, baptized child from the priest and clothed it in the traditional white shirt or gown (the Wester, Alba, or Westerhemd) — symbols of purity and acceptance into the body Christian– which the godparent provided for the occasion.  The godparent then named the child, often after the godparent.  The service concluded with the placement of a candle in the combined hands of the child and parent(s), who were exhorted to “receive the ardent and blameless Light [of God].”  (page 78)

That was a long, complicated description, wasn’t it?  And how much of it is commanded in Scripture?  You can see why the Belgic Confession says so much with two words about baptism:  “plain water.”  That’s how Christ commanded baptism to be done, so that’s how we do baptism.  It’s simple and biblical.

With 500 years since the Reformation, is this Reformed principle of worship still relevant?  Look around.  You’ll see Protestant churches that add and take away from Christ’s commands for worship here, there, and everywhere.  Sadly, there are churches where there is no biblical preaching to speak of.  There are churches which neglect the sacraments.  There are churches which substitute dramatic productions (on the stage or on the screen) for preaching.  In some “Presbyterian” churches, they’ve at times added liturgical dancing.   There have even  been “Reformed” churches where they decided to preach on The Simpsons rather than the Word of God.  It’s almost as if the Reformation never happened!  For this reason, we need to learn again from the Reformation about worship.  We need to go back to the faithful summary of Scripture in our Reformed confessions.  When we do that, we will worship God only as he commands in his Word — no additions or subtractions.