This video features some of the men that I taught in Brazil. We spent a fair amount of time on the Van Til/Clark controversy. This video was something these guys just did on the fly in response. Very creative!
Tag Archives: Brazil
There is a beautiful word in Greek to describe a special time: kairos. A kairos time is just the right moment, the moment of opportunity. As I finish my time here in Brazil, this is the word that captures my thoughts. When it comes to the gospel, when it comes to the Reformed faith, we are at a kairos time here. The doors are obviously opening all over the place. And as the economic circumstances of this country continue to improve, these doors will likely eventually close. History shows that mammon has a way of hardening people’s hearts to spiritual things.
Let me give three examples of how this is obviously a kairos moment.
You can learn a lot about an area and its spiritual direction by just going to a plain vanilla Christian bookstore. Last evening, Rev. Ken Wieske took me to just one such bookstore in downtown Recife. Yes, there was a lot of junk, the usual crud by Joyce Meyer, Philip Yancey, Max Lucado, and so on. But there was a whole wall of serious theological books. Among them I discovered: Thomas Watson, Francis Turretin, Cornelius Van Til, Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, and many other Reformed stalwarts. The commentary section included John Calvin and William Hendriksen/Simon Kistemaker. There were church history books by Frans Schalkwijk and Jean Crespin (one of the publishers of Guido de Bres). This was unbelievable. Try and find anything comparable in a similar bookstore in Canada. I repeat that this was not a Reformed bookstore. Moreover, the prices were outrageous. And yet people are eating this stuff up. This stuff is selling! There is a huge interest, not just in Recife, but all over Brazil, in serious Christian thinking from the Reformed heritage.
This is reflected in my second example of what’s going on at the Reformed Reading Room. Every Monday evening, lectures are given by local Reformed pastors. I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker last Monday evening. I also taught the first apologetics course at the Reading Room last week. We had the opportunity to teach some 40 people. Many of these folks are not currently in a confessionally Reformed or Presbyterian church. But they are open to be taught. They are hungry to be taught.
My third example is what is taking place here at the John Calvin Institute, the new seminary of the Reformed Churches of Brazil. This is the training school primarily for the Reformed Churches. Four men are being trained to become pastors. Another is scheduled to begin shortly. Yet the school is open to receiving students from other churches, whether for the whole programs or just for single courses. Again, there is a deep interest in what’s being done here. My apologetics courses, for instance, saw a number of men join us from diverse backgrounds. One was a Congregationalist, one was a Baptist, one was a Pentecostal, several were Presbyterians, and then we also had the seminarians. They came from all over and most of them have indicated their intention to come back for the next course. The John Calvin Institute has the potential to impact all of Brazil with its solid teaching and commitment to Reformed orthodoxy.
The missionaries here are pumped about the situation. They want to take advantage of the time. They have been placed here “for such a time as this.” I was privileged to be able to come down and see it for myself and be involved in a small way. I’ll be heading home in a few hours, but this work will continue, and it will continue to occupy my prayers. I’ll be praying that our missionaries will have strength. I’ll be praying that our gracious Father will give the means to seize the day. Please join me in that prayer. Why? Because what is at stake here is not a little Reformed “empire,” but the glory of God. Because of its faithful and biblical understanding of the gospel, only the Reformed faith can advance the glory of God in the most maximal way.
The last few days have been a whirlwind. We’re now near the end of my time here. What’s been happening?
Last Saturday, we concluded the apologetics course at the Reading Room. I was impressed that most of the people there on the Monday evening persevered all the way to the end. Much to be thankful for!
Sunday saw us head down the coast. I preached in the Reformed congregations at Sao Jose da Coroa Grande and Maragogi. I was able to spend the afternoon with one of the local pastors, Rev. Alexandrino Araujo Moura. In the evening, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Elder Moizes Lins. Moizes makes an awesome octopus dish!
On Monday morning, our students arrived at the Calvin Institute for the first apologetics course. Most of them came from the state of Sergipe, some seven hours driving time from here. We began in earnest on Monday afternoon. On Monday evening, we took one more opportunity to give a lecture at the Reading Room. I spoke on the concept of self-deception in apologetics. There were about 30-40 people present for this, many of whom did not have a Reformed background.
Yesterday (Tuesday) was spent mostly in the classroom at the seminary. In one day (!), we finished the first introductory apologetics course. And today and tomorrow (Wednesday/Thursday), we’ll be doing the other course. This one deals directly with Cornelius Van Til. We hope to wrap things up tomorrow afternoon and then I head for home again on Friday morning.
Yesterday had two highlights. Late in the morning we set off for the Recife neighbourhood of Ibura. There we picked up Rev. Adriano Gama. We spent the afternoon with him, beginning with lunch at a local churrascaria. The food was great, but the fellowship was even better. Afterwards, we went to Adriano’s house and spent a couple of hours discussing the vision for the future of the work here in Brazil. The man is on fire! It was great to meet someone with a real sense of urgency about the need for gospel ministry. Over and over, he and Rev. Wieske have stressed to me that all of the developments here have not been engineered. They’re not the result of carefully planning everything that has to take place. In God’s providence, things have just happened. One thing has led to another. And requests keep pouring in from all over Brazil: come over and help us! I can’t help but think of what Luther said about the Reformation in his day:
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.
The other highlight from yesterday was the street preaching in Vera Cruz. This took place just down the street from where the church meets. In fact, if you want to see the location, just go to Google Maps and type in, “Vera Cruz, Aldeia, Pernambuco.” That ‘A’ you’ll see almost marks the exact location. So how did this street preaching work?
One of the seminarians (also an elder in the church) took the microphone first (we had sound amplification). He introduced the church and told people where it was and when it worshipped and so on. Then Rev. Wieske came forward and he led in prayer. He read the Scripture passage that I was going to preach on (Matt. 5:21-22), and then I came forward. I preached for about 15 minutes or so. Rev. Wieske translated. Then he preached on John 3:14-16. I couldn’t understand much of it, but I did hear the Portuguese words for ‘sinners,’ ‘hell,’ ‘Saviour,’ and ‘gospel.’ I’m sure the Word of God was powerfully proclaimed. Those passing by heard clear and direct calls to faith and repentance. They heard the bad news that awaits sinners apart from Christ, but they also heard the good news of the way out through Christ.
This was a busy street corner. By my estimation, a few hundred people passed by in the hour or so that we were there. Some of them stopped to listen for a few minutes. Afterwards, Rev. Wieske did some follow-up with one of those who had heard the gospel. This was a local shopkeeper, a man who also happens to be the landlord for the church. He was asked if he had heard the messages. He had. He was asked if he understood the message. He said that it was clear and he even went further: he said it was the truth. But when pressed further, he didn’t want to leave his sinful lifestyle. He was invited to church. He replied that he would be a hypocrite to come. Of course, he was invited again nonetheless. The man lives and works right next to the church. He can hear the preaching every Sunday morning and evening. Perhaps yet our Sovereign God will bring him to true faith in Christ. We’ll be praying for him!
Imagine your typical Canadian city. Imagine in the middle of the city, in the downtown core, a room filled with Reformed books. Imagine that this place features free lectures every week on Reformed theology. Imagine that people actually come and show a lively interest. And these people that come are not all Reformed — many of them have some kind of other background. Is it fair to say that all you can do in Canada is imagine such a scenario?
But here in Recife, this is reality. A glorious, God-graced, reality. There is a hunger here for solid biblical teaching. Not only in Recife, but elsewhere too. My colleague Ken Wieske told me yesterday, “God has opened millions of doors for us down here.” They just don’t have the manpower to meet the demand. New people and churches from all over Brazil are asking our missionaries to come and teach them the Reformed faith. But they’re already stretched to the limits.
What is the need of the hour here? More preachers. More missionaries. This is why the work of the John Calvin Institute is so crucially important to the future of the Christian faith in Brazil. This is the training center, the seminary for the Reformed Churches of Brazil (IRB). Yesterday the Synod of the IRB took two more men “under care” as seminarians. God willing, these men will become ministers for the churches and serve the advance of the gospel here. But can Canada (the Canadian Reformed Churches) do more? That’s the question that’s on my heart. The times are remarkable. Opportunities are open here that would blow your mind if they were in our own country. Brazil is an emerging force on the world stage. If we can seize these opportunities now, we could serve the advance of the gospel, not only in Brazil, but also in South America, and around the world. Surely we can do more.