Tag Archives: Daniel Hyde

Reconciling the Regulative Principle with “Feast Days”/”Days of Commemoration”

In its basic form, the regulative principle of worship states that we are only to worship God as he has commanded, not adding or taking away from Scripture. It was some years ago, while I was still in university, that I became convinced that this regulative principle of worship is the Reformed, confessional, position on worship.  It was not difficult to see that the teaching of Heidelberg Catechism QA 96 (we are not to worship God “in any other manner than he has commanded in his Word”) is biblical and exactly in line with other Reformed confessions like the Westminster Standards.  I also came to see that this Reformed principle of worship was not only in the Belgic Confession in article 32, but also in article 7.  I wrote a paper on that, demonstrating that the regulative principle, according to our confession, is simply the liturgical outworking of Sola ScripturaI have also argued that denying the regulative principle of worship has serious consequences and leads to bizarre liturgical innovations.

The principle itself is straightforward.  Application of the principle is where we often encounter differences.  It took some time for me to work through some of these issues too.  For example, there was a time when I struggled with understanding how one could celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 and still hold to the regulative principle.  However, through further research and conversations with others, I came to peace with that.  I still hold to the regulative principle, but I can also in good conscience join with God’s people in commemorating the birth of our Saviour on December 25.  Rather than have me explain in detail how I have reconciled these things, I highly recommend this article by my colleague Daniel Hyde.  This article is being published in the 2015 issue of the Mid-America Journal of Theology.  It helpfully explains how one can both hold to the regulative principle and worship on the “feast days” or “days of commemoration.”


Book Review: A Well-Ordered Church

A WELL ORDERED CHURCH

A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Solid Foundation for a Vibrant Church, William Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde, Holywell, England: Evangelical Press, 2015.

There is always a need for books dealing with the doctrine of the church. Not only do those who’ve grown up in a Reformed church need new and timely treatments of this subject, but also those who are just coming on board to the Reformed faith. Both the newly-planted and the long-rooted need to have a solid biblical guide to what it means to be a church of Jesus Christ. This book fills that niche.

The authors are experienced pastors and writers. Rev. Daniel Hyde has been the pastor of Oceanside URC in California for several years. Rev. William Boekestein has been the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Carbondale, PA for some years, but has recently accepted a call to Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI. Both authors have extensive background in working with people new to the Reformed faith. Both have written several well-received books.

The book looks at the church under four main headings. In Part 1, “Identity,” the authors explain who and what the church is, especially in relation to Jesus Christ. In Part 2, “Authority,” the notion of office is explained and applied. Do the office bearers in Christ’s church bear any authority at all and, if so, are there any limits to their authority? Part 3 discusses “Ecumenicity” and the connections between churches. The final part deals with “Activity.” Here Boekestein and Hyde deal with the various callings of the church: teaching, worshipping, witnessing, and discipline. Generally speaking, readers will find faithful Reformed thoughts throughout this volume. The authors respect and work with our Reformed confessional tradition, give due attention to church history and, most importantly of all, they want to tie everything to Scripture.

I can certainly recommend this book, but with two caveats or concerns. Chapter 5 has a discussion about the perennial issue of true and false church. The authors seem to argue that the Belgic Confession only knows those two categories. However, there is a third category in the Confession that’s often neglected: the sect. When Guido de Brès wrote his massive book on the Anabaptists, he consistently called them sects. He fully recognized the great diversity among the Anabaptists (he identified over a dozen groups), but he does not ever refer to any of them as being church, either true or false. Were he alive today, de Brès would likely refer to many of the groups around us with the same terminology: sects. Perhaps this language is offensive to modern sensibilities, but it is the language of our Confession.

In Chapter 9, the authors use the expression “God is the missionary” a couple of times. There’s a kernel of truth in that insofar as God is the one who seeks out that which is lost. However, it is an expression that has been liable to misunderstanding and abuse. All of God’s purposes in this world for anything and everything can become “mission.” When everything is mission, then nothing is mission. Therefore, I would suggest that it is better and more accurate to say that God is the author of mission. Mission originates with God and it is his plan and design for the church to go into the world with the gospel of salvation.

Notwithstanding those concerns, A Well-Ordered Church drives home two essential points: First, the church is not optional. Christians united to Christ must be united to Christ’s body. Those who love Christ must love his bride too. Second, because she is the body of Christ, Christ must be honoured as her head and Lord. He must be the one who, through his Word, directs and governs her in all his ways. These two points must never be forgotten and this book serves as a helpful reminder for this generation.


Book Review: The Nursery of the Holy Spirit

The Nursery of the Holy Spirit

The Nursery of the Holy Spirit:  Welcoming Children in Worship, Daniel R. Hyde, Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2014.  Paperback, 69 pages, $13.00 USD.

There are heaps of Reformed books about children, but they typically hone in on just one topic:  infant baptism.  However, this is the only book that I have encountered that speaks to the place of children in public worship.  It’s an important topic and one that is often discussed informally in Reformed churches.  Some want to shuffle their children off to special programs, even when they are school age and can sit quietly in church.  The argument is that children don’t get anything out of the service anyway, so why should they be there only to distract their parents and others?  Others become impatient with the children who are in church and are in the process of learning to sit quietly.  We all talk about children in the worship service, but do we always do that with the right perspective?  This book brings a much-needed biblical approach.

The author is a well-known author and Reformed pastor.  He currently serves the Oceanside United Reformed Church in California.  Moreover, as the father of four children, he has a vested interest in the topic.  He understands the challenges that Christian parents face when it comes to worship.

Hyde’s little book argues persuasively that children definitely have a place in the church’s public worship.  Since the church is “the nursery of the Holy Spirit,” from their youngest years, the children of believers belong with God’s people as they meet with him on the Lord’s Day.  The book not only argues this point, but also helpfully provides some practical advice on how to make it work.  In the first chapter, Hyde lays out our contemporary situation and how we got to this point where many people (even in Reformed churches) assume that children don’t belong in public worship.  He looks at the history of this topic.  The second chapter looks more closely at the relevant Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments.  The final chapter is where the author offers the answers to several practical questions.

As much as I appreciated it, I have one critical comment to make.  In the first chapter, Hyde asks the question:  “With whom does God make his covenant?”  His answer is two-fold.  He first says, “From the point of view of God and eternity, he made it with Christ and the elect.”  Then he quotes from the Westminster Larger Catechism QA 31.  He goes on to add, “From our point of view in history, God made his covenant with believers and their children” (9).  He supports that with a quote from Canons of Dort 1.17.  This two-fold answer is unsatisfactory and regrettable.  It leaves the impression that, from God’s perspective, he does not truly covenant with all our children, but only with our elect children.  Hyde has dealt with this question before.  In his great little book on infant baptism, Jesus Loves the Little Children, he simply said that the covenant is made with believers and their children.  I wish he would have just given the same answer here.  Thankfully, I did not see any evidence that this problem impacted the arguments that follow.

Overall, this is a fantastic resource.  I would highly recommend it, not only for parents, but also for office bearers.  After all, office bearers need to provide leadership in encouraging families to worship together.  They need to make decisions in the church that encourage the children to be present as soon as they can.  For all of us, we need this valuable reminder that, when God calls his covenant people to worship, he also calls our little ones.  He loves to hear them sing, watch them listen, participate in the offerings, and everything else.  If Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” who are we to stand in the way?


CanRC-URCNA Covenant Colloquium

From l to r:  Dr. Ted Van Raalte, Dr. Jason Van Vliet, Rev. John Bouwers, Dr. Cornel Venema, Dr. Bob Godfrey.

From l to r: Dr. Ted Van Raalte, Dr. Jason Van Vliet, Rev. John Bouwers, Dr. Cornel Venema, Dr. Bob Godfrey.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America.  One of the noteworthy things that happened at Synod Visalia was a colloquium or discussion about covenant theology between theologians of the URCNA and of the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Representing the URCNA were Dr. Cornel Venema from Mid-America Reformed Seminary and Dr. Bob Godfrey from Westminster Seminary California.  The CanRC representatives were both professors from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary, Dr. Ted Van Raalte and Dr. Jason Van Vliet.

The colloquium was an initiative of the URCNA Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity (CERCU).   It seems that fears and suspicions about covenant theology in the Canadian Reformed Churches continue to beleaguer efforts to work towards a merger of our federations.  Hence, this colloquium was proposed as a way to help clear the air.  Most reports that I’m hearing suggest that it definitely was a step in the right direction.  I commend CERCU for organizing it!

Prior to the colloquium, a couple of documents were prepared by the participants.  You can find those documents here, prefaced by a letter from the CanRC Committee for Church Unity to CanRC church councils.  The first document is from the URCNA representatives and lays out their position.  The second is from the CanRC representatives.  They answer some questions posed to them by Dr. Venema and Dr. Godfrey.

I want to note a few things about the CanRC contribution to this discussion.

First, it needs to be recognized that Dr. Van Raalte and Dr. Van Vliet are not presenting the “official” covenant theology of the Canadian Reformed Churches.  Apart from what our confessions say (which is not much), we do not have such a theology worked out in the kind of detail you find in this document.

Second, Dr. Van Raalte and Dr. Van Vliet are both professors at our seminary.  Thus, it can be said that this is representative of what is being taught to our seminary students.

Third, I endorse what Dr. Van Raalte and Dr. Van Vliet have written.  I might express myself somewhat differently on some points, but I have no substantial problems or questions about what they have set forth.  I particularly appreciate that they maintain:

  • The imputation of the active obedience of Christ in our justification.  They unambiguously state that this is the position of the Three Forms of Unity.
  • That, in justification, law and gospel are antithetical.
  • That covenant and election are not to be identified with one another, though they are connected.
  • That all the children of believers truly are in the covenant of grace
  • That there are different “outcomes” with regard to those in the covenant of grace:  life or death.
  • The activity of faith in justification is merely receiving or accepting the free gifts of Christ.

I could add more, but those are some important highlights.

I keep hearing that the colloquium was recorded on video, but I have not yet seen or heard of it being posted.  I will let you know if I run across it.  I do know there will be some further follow-up in Christian RenewalDaniel Hyde’s take on the colloquium will be published,  as will a response from Dr. Van Raalte and Dr. Van Vliet.  I look forward to reading that interchange and pray that all of this discussion will further the cause of unity.


Book Review: In Living Color

In Living Color

(This book review was originally published in 2009.  In view of the recent release of “The Son of God,” the book again deserves our attention.)

In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace, Daniel R. Hyde, Grandville: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 2009.  Paperback, 192 pages, $13.00 USD.

It’s fair to say that the lawfulness of pictures of Christ is virtually taken for granted in many Reformed communities.  Especially when it comes to the teaching and discipling of children, almost everyone assumes that a story Bible with pictures (including pictures of the Lord Jesus) is a given.  The status quo is that, while we would perhaps never dream of having pictures of the Son of God in our worship services, it is quite acceptable to have them elsewhere especially for educational or evangelistic purposes.

In this book, Daniel Hyde (United Reformed minister in Oceanside, California) challenges the status quo on images of Christ.  He does so first of all using the Word of God, but he also brings in the witness of the Reformed confessions and church history.  According to Hyde, images of Christ are not lawful and have no place in either our worship services or our daily lives.  While God can certainly use crooked means to accomplish his purposes, his will is that we use his means in propagating the Christian faith, whether with our children or with adults.

In the introduction, the author gives the rationale for the book.  It emerges from discussions with his parishioners about the evangelistic potential of Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, the Passion of the Christ.  In the first chapter, Hyde surveys what the Scriptures teach about “Man’s Media.”  Here he also helpfully interacts with authors who argue for the use of images, such as Jeffrey J. Meyers.  The Reformed confessions are also exposited on this point and Hyde concludes that their message is unanimous:  “they forbid all images of God, whether they were intended for worship, education, or artistic expression” (86).  In the two other chapters, Hyde makes the positive case for “God’s Media”:  the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments.  He urges Reformed believers to learn contentment with the means of grace that God has appointed.

In Living Color is not long and it’s written at a level which should be accessible to most readers. Speaking personally, I came to this book convinced of its position beforehand.  Nevertheless, I do think that Hyde presents the best case against images of Christ that we’ve heard in a long time.  This is an excellent book on a neglected subject and I recommend it highly.  May it be a tool in God’s hand to create a new status quo!