Tag Archives: Nelson Kloosterman

Two Items on Klaas Schilder


Considering how much he wrote, there is relatively little available in English from Dr. Klaas Schilder.  For those who don’t know, Schilder was an important theologian in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.  He played a significant role in the Liberation of 1944 — a church struggle wherein the Canadian Reformed Churches have their origins.  The other day, I rediscovered a letter written by Schilder to one of his cousins about life after death.  This letter was first published in English in Diakonia in September 1994.  There’s no information included on who translated it, but when I asked the editor of Diakonia he suggested that it was probably done by the late br. Rienk Koat.  He was translating it as it appeared in the Dutch periodical De Reformatie, with an introduction by Dr. W. G. de Vries.  The letter is interesting for its theological content — notice the careful distinctions that Schilder draws — but also for its personal and pastoral character.  You can read it here.

Also with regard to Schilder, the other day Scott Swain published this post on Reformation21 dealing with Geerhardus Vos and membership in the covenant of grace.  I could not help but notice the similarities to what Schilder taught on this subject.  I am not the first to reach this conclusion.  Nelson Kloosterman drew attention to it in this article from a few years ago as well.  One thing that Kloosterman didn’t touch on, but would be interesting to research, is how Vos and Schilder are related to each other on this point.  Did they develop this view independently?  Were they drawing on a common source?  Did one influence the other (though I suspect if so, considering their dates, it would have to be Vos influencing Schilder)?

A New Cause of Division

The other day I posted the official English translation of a report going to the next synod of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands.  This report is proposing that having women in office is acceptable within the RCN.  Of course, this is not the first time that such sentiments have been entertained in Reformed circles.  It happened in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) in the late 1980s and into the 1990s.  The CRCNA’s adoption of women in office was the major catalyst for the establishment of the United Reformed Churches.

In 1991, the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary published a brochure entitled A Cause for Division? Women in Office and the Unity of the Church.  The Calvin faculty argued that differences over this issue should not split the CRCNA.  It would be unwarranted and even sinful for people to leave the CRCNA over the issue of women in office.

That same year, two professors of Mid-America Reformed Seminary responded to the Calvin brochure.  Nelson Kloosterman and Cornelis Venema wrote a little booklet entitled A Cause of Division:  The Hermeneutic of Women’s Ordination.  The booklet can be found online here.  Among other things, Kloosterman and Venema wrote the following:

In fact, we are convinced that Cause for Division defends the argument for women’s ordination with a hermeneutic which is at odds with our historic position as Reformed believers.  It does so by using an unReformed notion of the ‘analogy of Scripture,’ one which pits the alleged Scriptural principle of the equality and correlativity of men and women against the specific teaching of those Scriptural texts which describe a differentiation of roles.  Not only does Cause for Division provide no Scriptural proof for its notion of equality between men and women, but it also discounts those texts which spell out God’s blessed order for the relationships between men and women in the home and the church.  (6)

They later conclude that “the hermeneutic of women’s ordination has surely become A Cause of Division within the Christian Reformed denomination” (23).  The entire booklet is still worthy of a careful read all these years later.  Not surprisingly, the arguments are still relevant.

I recognize that the arguments being put forward today in the Netherlands are not exactly the same.  There are some differences.  But there are also some important similarities.  Certainly it can be said that this issue has become a new cause of division.  As in the CRCNA in past decades, those creating the breach in the RCN are those chipping away at a clear teaching of Scripture and those willing to even entertain such hermeneutical gymnastics.  Even if Synod Ede of the RCN can pull the federation back from the brink, the problem will remain of members holding to these aberrant convictions or being open to them.  The problem will remain also of office bearers, even seminary professors, holding to these erroneous views.  To rid the RCN of these convictions will take much time, courage, wisdom, and virility.  May the LORD give these gifts in abundance to the faithful in the RCN!

The Nine Points and Schilder

It’s been an interesting week here with lots of lively discussion.  Yesterday my colleague Bill DeJong weighed in with his perspective.  In comment 8 under yesterday’s post The Nine Points and ’44: History Repeating Itself?, Bill wrote:

To the substance of what you wrote: I tend to think your interpretation of the nine points is naive on a couple of points.

1. The nine points demonstrate no particular sympathy for the theological emphases of Klaas Schilder. As you probably know, the primary author of the nine points is Scott Clark, an individual who routinely depicts Klaas Schilder’s theology as “idiosyncratic” as best. Scott was well aware that Schilder objected to dividing the covenant up into “external covenant” and “internal covenant.” The inclusion of the terms “outward” and “inward” in the nine points is likely a direct allusion to Schilder’s “idiosyncratic” theology.

Naive?  Hmmm…  So, Scott Clark was the “primary author” of the Nine Points.  It’s not a big secret.  It’s true that he has occasionally depicted Schilder’s theology in the way described.  It is also true that Scott has helpfully written a lengthy exposition of the Nine Points.  It’s a sort of commentary on the Nine Points.  So, if Bill’s hypothesis is correct, we should expect to see Schilder under fire at these points in Scott’s exposition.

Schilder is mentioned twice.  In the first mention, he is identified as one of those involved with a loss of “contact with the sources of classical Reformed (covenant) theology.”  Through the efforts of Schilder and many others, ‘scholastic’ and ‘scholasticism’ became pejoratives.  The second mention comes when Scott identifies those who, while not FV, speak of a “so-called covenant of works.”  Schilder is one of those.

When I read Scott’s exposition, the target of the Nine Points is not Schilder or the Canadian Reformed Churches, but the FV.  That also seems to hold true when he discusses points 5 and 6.  There we find no mention of, nor even an allusion to (at least not that I can detect) to Schilder.  Instead, Scott writes:

The answer to the problem created by the FV theology is to make a distinction which they consistently deny, minimize, or ignore, viz. to distinguish between the two ways of being in the covenant of grace. The great Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Witsius spoke of a “double mode of communion” in the covenant of grace. This is exactly what Calvin taught both in his commentary on Romans 9, in his Institutes (3.21-24), and his sermons on election. All baptized Christians are in the covenant of grace. As Calvin said, to deny that is virtually blasphemy. It doesn’t help the problem to do as some have been tempted to do, i.e., to deny that unbelievers or reprobates have any relation to the covenant whatever. At the same time, it’s just as harmful to refuse to distinguish between ways of being in the one covenant of grace. From Calvin to Witsius (and after!) the Reformed sorted out this problem by saying that, though there is one covenant of grace, there are two ways of being in that one covenant of grace. All baptized persons are in the covenant of grace outwardly or externally but they are not all in the covenant of grace inwardly or internally.

Jacob and Esau were both in the covenant of grace. Both had received the sign and seal of the covenant, but the sign and seal were, as it were, fruitful for Jacob but not for Esau because they were not combined with faith (Heb 4:2). Though Jacob and Esau were both in they covenant of grace, they did not have, ultimately, the same relation to the one covenant of grace. They were both “in” the covenant of grace, but they weren’t both “of” the covenant of grace.

Why not? Paul says it was a matter of election.

In my estimation, that’s not substantially different from what Nelson Kloosterman asserts about Klaas Schilder.  For him too, there were two ways of relating to the covenant of grace.  I also discussed this in an earlier blog post.  Schilder appealed to a prayer of Calvin to distinguish between belonging to the covenant and being a recipient of salvation.  All baptized Christians are in the covenant of grace.  But in the unfolding of history, not all relate to the covenant in the same way.  Bill DeJong agrees, for he writes:

On the other hand, point # 6 can be rescued, and I think you’ve done a decent job elsewhere showing how. Baptized folk respond to covenant promises in one of two ways, and you’ve underscored that this point addresses the “two ways.” I think that’s fair. On the other hand, it needs to be emphasized that all baptized children are fully members of the covenant. I find this emphasis lacking in the nine points.

Point 6 doesn’t need to “be rescued,” because it was meant to be understood in exactly this way.  I’m not sure what is naive about thinking that.  You might not like the language of “external/internal,” but somehow we have to describe these two ways.  Personally, I prefer the language of faith/unbelief, but I would be equally comfortable with Paul’s language in Romans 9:6, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”

Finally, Bill would have liked to seen it emphasized that “all baptized children are fully members of the covenant.”  However, as I understand them, the Nine Points were written to address particular errors associated with FV.  As far as I know, no FV authors are arguing that baptized children are not fully members of the covenant.  Also, as far as I know, Protestant Reformed theology does not have a meaningful home in the URCNA.  I’m also not aware of anyone in the URCNA asserting that baptized children are not all full covenant members.  So, I could understand why no one might think to include a statement like that in the Nine Points.  Although, come to think of it, it would have saved us a lot of trouble and potential misunderstanding!  For the record, I agree wholeheartedly with the statement, “All baptized children are fully members of the covenant.”

And folks, that wraps it up for me on this subject for the next while.  Besides my regular sermon preparation, I have a lecture series to prepare for next week.  So, the rest of this week and next will feature repeat posts from over the last few years.  I’ll be back to regular blogging on Monday September 6.

Dr. N. Kloosterman Appointed as Lecturer at CRTS

I just noticed this press release from the Board of Governors of the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.  Dr. Nelson Kloosterman has been appointed as a lecturer in church polity for the 2010-2011 academic year.  According to this Mid-America Reformed Seminary newsletter, Dr. Kloosterman is wrapping up his time at MARS at the end of December.