Tag Archives: William Boekestein

Book Review: 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: Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation

Why Christ Came

Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation, Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013.  Paperback, 108 pages, $10.00 USD.

Back in 2004, John Piper published a little book, The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die.  This is a helpful little volume of meditations on Christ’s suffering and death and the reasons behind it.  This new book by Joel Beeke and William Boekestein is in the same vein, except that it treats the conception and birth of our Lord Jesus.

The authors scarcely need any introduction.  Joel Beeke is the author of numerous books and articles, a well-known preacher and conference speaker, and president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids.  William Boekestein is the pastor of a United Reformed Church in Carbondale, PA and the author of several well-received books for children.

Each of the 31 meditations takes one or more Scripture texts to expound a particular aspect of Christ’s incarnation.  While a fellow preacher might disagree on a few points of exegesis, these meditations take the Word of God seriously and faithfully.  The writing is clear and illustrations are helpfully used in many of the meditations.  Another element that I appreciated was the authors’ many references to Calvin, a Brakel, and other Reformed theologians of the past — as well as the Reformed confessions.

This is a great little devotional book for those who want to dedicate some extra attention to the incarnation of Christ, whether at this time of year or any other time.  Beeke and Boekestein point us to the Saviour in a way that strengthens faith.  Let me conclude with one paragraph that will give you a taste of what this book offers.  This comes from meditation 27, “To Be a Merciful and Faithful High Priest”:

Because he saved us by the offering of His body, Christ had to become flesh and blood like us in every way except for our sin (Heb. 2:14, 4:15).  What amazing love He has for us!  Christ as God is an infinite and immortal spirit, yet He took a human head so it could be struck, crowned with thorns, and beaten with a reed.  He took a human body so it could be ripped open with a Roman scourge.  He took human arms and legs so they could be stretched out on the cross, and human hands so that they could be nailed to its wood.  He took a human soul so He could feel the unspeakable pain of His Father forsaking Him in the darkness.  He took our very nature, so that He could bleed and die for the sins that we committed.  As John 15:13 says, “Greater love hath no man than this.”

Book Review: The Glory of Grace

The Glory of Grace: The Story of the Canons of Dort, William Boekestein, illustrated by Evan Hughes (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).  Hardcover, 32 pages, $10.00

If William Boekestein were a hockey player, we’d say that he scored a hat trick – with assists from Evan Hughes on each goal.  He first scored with Faithfulness Under Fire, his 2010 children’s book about Guido de Bres and the Belgic Confession.  He followed up last year with The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism.  Some had expressed the hope that he would come through with something on the Canons of Dort and now we have it!

For those who still don’t know this author, William Boekestein is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Carbondale, Pennsylvania.  He’s a graduate of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids and a former Christian school teacher.  He’s also a father of three children – children who love to hear stories.  They’re blessed with a dad who has a gift for telling them.

Who would have thought it possible to tell the story of the Canons of Dort in such a way that it can be learned and appreciated by children?  Boekestein pulls it off.  He writes clearly and simply, avoiding sophisticated theological jargon.  I would think that many Christian parents might even come to a better grasp of the doctrines of grace through this little book.  Now, having said that, I do think that the doctrines of grace (TULIP, five points) are, by nature, more advanced.  Therefore, this book would likely best be used with older children, perhaps 10-12 year olds.

The illustrator, Evan Hughes, is a professional graphic designer.  His illustrations have a unique style and they add character to the book.  The drawings are bold, colourful, not too weighed down with detail, and yet historically accurate.

As with the other two books, this one definitely should be on the wish list of church history teachers and home educators.  If we’re going to effectively teach our children what we believe as Reformed churches, knowing the history is a must.  William Boekestein, Evan Hughes, and Reformation Heritage Books have done us a service in giving us three great books about the Three Forms of Unity and their history.

Book Review: The Quest for Comfort

The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism, William Boekestein, illustrated by Evan Hughes, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.  Hardcover, 32 pages, $10.00.

A while back I had the privilege of reviewing a previous children’s book by this author on the life of Guido de Brès.  I was impressed with Faithfulness Under Fire.  It was not only accurate, but also well-written and artfully illustrated.  The Quest for Comfort follows the same model and deserves the same accolades.

This is a brief account of how the Heidelberg Catechism came to be.  In a simple way, Boekestein shares the stories of Caspar Olevianus, Zacharias Ursinus, and Frederick III.  He tells of how their lives came to be intertwined in that German city along the Neckar River.  Along the way we learn something about the character and structure of the Catechism.  It was designed to be a pastoral teaching tool for the youth of the church and deliberately based on the arrangement of Romans.

I read The Quest for Comfort to our four children, a 3 year old, an 8 year old, a 11 year old and a 13 year old.  They all enjoyed it and it kept their attention.  Our 3 year old daughter said, “I wuv it Daddy!”  I think she probably enjoyed the pictures more than anything else.  But hey, the pictures are well done.  There’s no doubt that Evan Hughes is a gifted illustrator.

Kudos to Reformation Heritage Books for publishing these excellent children’s books.  Let’s hope they make it a trilogy with one on the Canons of Dort.  Imagine that:  a children’s book on the Canons of Dort!  Writing and publishing these sorts of books helps keep up the level confessional consciousness for generations to come.  Obviously what also helps is buying these books for and reading them to our children and grandchildren – and then from there teaching them to know the Catechism itself and the biblical truths it contains.

Book Review: Faithfulness Under Fire

Faithfulness Under Fire: The Story of Guido de Brès, William Boekestein, Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010.  Hardcover, 32 pages, $10.00 USD.

This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time.  It’s been worth the wait.  William Boekestein, pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, has written a powerful, short biography of the author of the Belgic Confession just for children.  Not much has been written about the life of Guido (or Guy) de Brès, and certainly nothing in English for little ones.  So, this title certainly fills a void.

Boekestein traces the life of de Brès from his birth in Mons (in present-day Belgium) to his death as a martyr in Valenciennes in 1567.  Along the way, we see de Brès as a refugee in London, England and as a student in Geneva under John Calvin and others.  Later we see him as a devoted pastor in the Low Countries and as a husband and father.  The story is told accurately though, as to be expected in a children’s book, not comprehensively.

Evan Hughes has provided the illustrations throughout and they’re well done.  I especially appreciated his reproduction of the “Wanted” poster at the beginning of the book.  This is the artist’s impression of an actual poster that was circulated when de Brès was on the run from the Spanish authorities.  The only information that we have about de Brès’ appearance comes from the wording of this poster.

The story is told at a grade-school level and I would envision that as such it would be useful for elementary school teachers and their church history classes.  This is a story that deserves to be told well and told often.  The only other remotely comparable English book is Thea Van Halsema’s older work Glorious Heretic (usually found printed with her other little book, Three Men Came to Heidelberg).  Boekestein’s book is pitched at a younger audience.  Meanwhile, the English Reformed world is still waiting for a full-length scholarly biography of de Brès.

Faithfulness Under Fire can be ordered directly from Reformation Heritage Books, www.heritagebooks.org