Archive for March, 2012

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Professor Dr. Klaas Schilder (19 December 1890 – 23 March 1952). During his life, he was a biblical, Reformed, Calvinist pastor, theologian, and churchman.  As a controversial polemicist, he was (and is) as maligned and misunderstood by his despisers as he was (and is) appreciated by his beneficiaries. Especially today in North America, people could profit significantly from his cultural, ecclesiastical, and theological insights.

There is enough information available online to supply a rudimentary portrait of his life and work, a reliable entrée into his heart and mind.

So today we wish instead to introduce our readers to the sagacious side, the provocative persona, of Klaas Schilder.

For that, we draw from a little paperback collection of Schilderian aphorisms that was published in the early 1980s, entitled Aforismen (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1983). In 1952 and 1954, two volumes had appeared, entitled Tolle Lege (Take and Read), containing a number of Schilder’s pithy sayings on such topics as Prayer, Culture, Covenant, Preaching, Satan, and the like. In his preface to the first volume, Schilder wrote:

The author is aware that ‘aphorisms’ of the kind collected here, if they are not to cause injury, can be set only before ‘friends’; for only friends are so familiar with the surroundings and context of someone’s selected sentences that they will be able to sense the husterēma, that which is lacking.

To enhance our remembering, on this anniversary date, of one of the most significant Reformed theologians of the twentieth century, we offer in English translation some of our favorites among the publisher’s choices from KS’s own selection. (Numbers in parentheses indicate page numbers in the 1983 paperback. The enumeration of the aphorisms is mine.)

Each of these chosen on purpose, for your munching pleasure!

1. “The human person is not reducible to a blob of nature, but is an office-bearer, whose natural gifts are supposed to function according to an official mandate” (17).

2. “A Paradise lost and a Paradise regained, and the path lying between the two, are not a matter of ‘favor’ [Dutch: gunst] as much as they are a matter of mandate, order [Dutch: bevel], and commandment” (17).

3. “In the notion of office, people encounter God’s primeval claim on human beings” (17).

4. “Politics and church are two, aren’t they? Yes, of course, indeed they are. But life is one” (24).

5. “Nowhere can the church avoid political issues, because they touch upon the deepest principles. The question is simply whether the church is willing to prophesy in terms of these issues and dares to employ the power of the keys. Yes, dares—because she must” (24).

6. “The absence of vice is not the presence of virtue” (29).

7. “We must continually keep in view that a church is a gathering of believers, not a gathering of people who think alike on scientific issues” (32).

8. “When people took the ‘covenant of grace‘ as their starting point for the doctrine of the covenant, things went awry; only when people took hold of the issue at the beginning, with the ‘covenant of works,’ did the business get back on track” (36).

9. “Let us never forget that ever since the beginning, the sum total of humanity was placed in a covenant with God” (36).

10. “A covenant never lives by ‘give and take,’ it does not live by ‘yes and no.’ ‘Covenant’ means: everything or nothing. It is never a contract” (37).

11. “Anyone who construes the promise as the basis of the demand rises up once more to weary us with his pet little notion of a covenant made only with the elect that comes into existence through and after the renewal of the heart” (38).

12. “Religion in a human being cannot be equivalent simply to being raised up passively and receptively into a state of peace; for the covenant posits a person’s activity as condition for covenant concourse. A person’s entire existence participates in this activity, including one’s thinking and willing” (38).

13. “The method is wrong that applies a statistical measure of so much percent ‘law’ and so much percent gospel, so much percent threat in contrast to so much percent ‘comfort.’ For wherever the law is proclaimed purely, the final tally is: one hundred percent law, since there we have one hundred percent gospel” (40).

14. “Irony is the strength of the weak, sarcasm is the weakness of the strong” (92).

15. “Irony is always a certain victory. But sarcasm is the certain defeat, except it imitates the gesture of the victor” (92).

16. “Faith is indeed a gift of our covenant God, but it is simultaneously a condition that he establishes. A condition established for us in order to arouse in us a sense of responsibility, to stimulate and even to preach that awareness. Not an Arminian condition, but rather a Reformed condition” (94).

17. “Anyone craving isolation is sick. Anyone not daring to be isolated when compelled to be so, is more sick” (95).

18. “Christ loved the poor, but not poverty. Making rich—that is God’s work” (96).

19. “The gospel posits no condition of any kind, it asks nothing, it demands nothing, except this: that it be accepted in the obedience of faith” (96).

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Gisbert Voetius (1589-1676)

Before proceeding, let the reader be clear: people who are equally heartily committed to the Bible’s truths confessed in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards may disagree over how these truths are to be applied.

The point of this post is a historical point, not a doctrinal difference, not a confessional disagreement, not a dispute about the validity of paedo-baptism. It is a point, however, with significant pastoral implications.

Given recent ecclesiastical discussions within Dr. Michael Horton’s own denomination, the United Reformed Churches in North America (URC), and given the practices of so very many orthodox Reformed and Presbyterian denominations around the world, his statement here simply cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

In context, he writes:

Historically, Reformed and Presbyterian churches have required professing members and their children to be baptized. In the former, arising from Continental Reformed sources, all church members confess the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort) as the faithful summary of Scripture. What this means is that in Reformed churches historically, only those who affirmed the inclusion of children in covenant baptism could be members. Especially in the U.S., Presbyterian churches came to require only officers to subscribe the Westminster Standards. In Presbyterian churches, it has meant that all of the children of members should be baptized. What to do if they’re not is a matter of some debate and variation.

The statement highlighted in bold italics is substantively, verifiably, and culpably false.

It is substantively false, because at its Synod of the Hague in 1914, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands decided to permit people who did not yet believe infant baptism to become members as long as they remained educable on the matter, did not agitate for their views, and exercised no leadership in the congregation.

The money quotes from the 1914 report are these paragraphs:

Although the Synod of Dort [1618-1619], presumably for the reasons we shall mention, did not give an affirmative answer to this question [whether someone not believing infant baptism was permitted to the Lord’s Table], nevertheless it appears from both the conduct of our older Reformed Churches and from the pronouncements of our best theologians, that with respect to members of the congregation (not with respect to office-bearers, for whom entirely different rules apply) who with good intention expressed doubt concerning any point of doctrine, so long as this did not affect the fundamental matters of truth, they should be treated with great patience and forbearance, with the proviso that they would exhibit readiness to be better instructed and that they would not propagandize on behalf of their deviating sentiment.

. . . .

[Gisbert] Voetius (in Politica Ecclesiastica, Part I, tract I, ch. IV, p. 56) correctly deduces from this that Scripture commands us to show such tolerance not only toward those who are ignorant, but even toward those who err. And although such tolerance will naturally be extended more broadly toward those who are already members of the congregation than toward those who affiliate for the first time with the church—because the church must see to it that she permits no enemies of the truth within her gates—nevertheless our forefathers showed, even during the time of the Remonstrant quarrels, how they dealt very patiently not only with members of the congregation who belonged to the Reformed Church and continued to harbor more or less Remonstrant sympathies, but even with those who for a time had joined the Remonstrant brotherhood and later wanted to return to the Reformed Church. Thus, such people were not required, for example, to subscribe to the Five Articles against the Remonstrants in their entirety, but a somewhat less sharply formulated declaration was substituted, as happened, for example, with the consistory in Utrecht.

. . . .

Although your committee [advising the Dutch Synod] is united in its opinion that, no matter how important the doctrine of infant baptism may be to the Reformed Churches, this doctrine nevertheless cannot be said to belong to the fundamental doctrines of the faith, and therefore tolerating a deviating view regarding this point of doctrine on the part of a brother who for the rest agrees wholeheartedly with the Reformed confession, does not appear to us impermissible.

. . . .

To this we would add that the response to the question whether in a particular case such tolerance is permitted, depends on a variety of circumstances, which cannot be evaluated by the General Synod, but only by the local consistory or classis. This variety of circumstances includes such considerations, for example, as whether the person involved is unmarried and past child-bearing years, in which case his deviating viewpoint regarding infant baptism would have practically no influence; or whether he already has children or presumably may receive children, in which case he should certainly be required to allow these children to be baptized. . . .

This position was later adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC). At no point during the ecclesiastically turbulent decades of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s was this CRC position publicly criticized or cited as evidence of denominational unfaithfulness. Especially not by those, including Dr. Horton, who left the CRC to form the URC.

Secondly, Dr. Horton’s claim, published on the Gospel Coalition website, is verifiably false, because, since his own denomination (URC) has been studying this very issue for some years, the publicly available report of its own study committee contains an explanation of this historic 1914 decision and its role in the life of (continental) Reformed churches worldwide.

Finally, this claim is culpably false, since one of its damaging effects will be the advocacy of a narrow, sectarian, and pastorally unhelpful solution to a dilemma that has confronted faithful Reformed and Presbyterian churches for centuries.

Despite every suggestion and appearance that his narrow claim constitutes the classical, confessional, continental, ecclesiastical Reformed tradition, on this issue Gisbert Voetius and the 1914 Synod of the Hague are far more reliable, nuanced, and pastoral guides.

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Translator’s Note: This is the second “In Memoriam” being published in translation on this blog, this one written by Trimp’s friend and colleague, Dr. J. Douma. My personal interest in making this available to the English-speaking world is multi-dimensional. Back in the early 1980s, I studied at the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (Liberated) with these professors (principally, J. Douma, J. Kamphuis, C. Trimp, and J. van Bruggen), and since that time, we became personal friends. Throughout the years since then, I have enjoyed the privilege of translating a number of their significant theological works. More than that, during the years after these men and other colleagues retired from teaching, life among the Liberated Reformed Churches in the Netherlands has become challenging. Their testimony and legacy deserve to be heard throughout the English-speaking world, if only so that we might assure our Dutch brothers and sisters that we share their challenges and wish for a joint, unified, global Reformed response to the issues that face all of us in a shrinking world. Because we are united in commitment to one faith and one Lord, none of us can “go it alone.” We offer our heartfelt condolences to our co-believers in their—and our—loss of yet another faithful V.D.M.

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Only a short time after the death of J. Kamphuis another former teacher from Kampen has passed away: Professor C. Trimp. It is understandable that in this particular venue, we would remember him as a capable teacher who, after having served four congregations as minister, was a professor in Kampen from 1970-1993. He taught subjects relating to ministerial studies, including components like preaching and the liturgy that belong to church services, as well as the spread of the gospel beyond the church. Various publications appeared under his name. In them, this theologian showed clearly what “ministerial” theology (nowadays called “practical theology) meant to him. His own theological training, with its focus on dogmatics, could be recognized throughout his work. He was not the kind of author who wrote popular guidebooks about “What is prayer?,” or “How should we sing in church,” or “What should a sermon do for me?,” and the like. He expected that his pupils would be able to convert the expensive currency of their teacher into usable coinage for church members.

I had the privilege of working alongside him during his entire period in Kampen. We began our work there in the same year (1970). We collaborated extensively in connection with the magazine De Reformatie. There was a time when we took turns producing the column entitled “Ecclesiastical Life.” I cannot remember ever disagreeing with each other about the course that the magazine had to chart, not even when it involved controversial issues within the churches.

Especially during that time when we faced the internal conflict within the Reformed Political Union (Gereformeerd Politiek Verbond, GPV) about the question whether this (Liberated Reformed) political party should become “open” or should remain “closed” to people with other church affiliations. We shared the same view. Which was what? That it would be a mistake not to collaborate in the political arena with people of similar commitment, simply because we were not ecclesiastically united. So in June 1981, Trimp and I signed a “Declaration of 77 RPU Members” who were pressing for a possible merging of nominee ballots along with two other Christian parties (the Reformed Political Party [SGP] and the Reformational Political Federation  [RPF]).

Anyone reflecting on today’s situation, who would read the “letters to the editor” that appeared in the Dutch Reformed daily newspaper, Nederlands Dagblad, as a  result of this Declaration, would be surprised at what we got hurled at us. It seemed as if our 1981 Declaration was just as threatening as the “Open Letter” that had appeared back in 1966!

Trimp and the Open Letter

Speaking of the “Open Letter”! Many people think that opposing the Open Letter, written on 31 October 1966, was the work of Professor Kamphuis. But anyone who digs into the history will observe that the struggle against the Open Letter was begun not by Kamphuis, but by Trimp. Kamphuis had been sidelined by a car accident that landed him in the hospital. At that point Trimp took over the editorship of De Reformatie, and criticized the Open Letter with sharp formulations. In December 1966, he addressed a “Response to the Open Letter” to the person who had initiated the conflict, wherein he devoted particular attention to the liberal views of Rev. B. J. F. Schoep, the actual author of the Open Letter. Forty years later Professor Trimp would continue to defend his opposition against the Open Letter, in an interview he gave to the Nederlands Dagblad (October 2006). In 2006 already he knew that many members of the Liberated Reformed churches were inclined to don the penitent’s shawl with respect to the split with the Netherlands Reformed, a division that should supposedly be blamed on the Liberated Reformed “diehards” of forty years ago.

Now, in 1966 Trimp was no diehard. But he was convinced, both in 1966 and equally so forty years later, of the need for protecting the Reformed Confession against its opponents. “I am happy that I have done what I have done: maintain the binding commitment to the Confessions and the Church Order.” What especially grieved him was the comment in the Open Letter about “a little Dutch dust-up.” That was referring to how utterly ridiculous it was, amid all the problems confronting the “global church,” to be agitated about issues like Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, which teaches that after death our souls are immediately taken to heaven to be with Christ their head. Rev. Telder from Breda and others with him disagreed with the Confession on this point. Just as Kamphuis, so also Trimp found this to be an illegitimate disagreement with the Confession. After all, the churches, along with every minister individually, had bound themselves to this Confession, had they not? When forty years later, better relationships were developing in various locales with the Netherlands Reformed Churches, Trimp declared that he saw a future in such relationships, but on one condition: that both church groups would proceed from the same Confessions. “I would gladly move forward together on the basis of the Reformed Confessions. Would we then be asking of each other something too strange if we expected those Confessions to be upheld?”

Trimp wanted nothing to do with a narrow view of the church, something that reappeared in 2006. Not everything is dependent on ecclesiastical membership. He was pleased with André Rouvoet as the leader of the Christian Union, though the latter was not affiliated with a Liberated Reformed Church. So too Trimp was fond of organizations lending charitable assistance, like the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (VBOK), which had no ecclesiastical basis. This flexibility is a normal development that accompanies becoming an adult. But that is something altogether different from opposing a deviation from the Confessions. Calling that “a little Dutch dust-up” hurt him deeply.

Assumed toleration?

We may call to remembrance the life and legacy of Professor Trimp, on the one hand, in his aversion to a narrow view of the church, and on the other hand, in his continued defense of the great value of an unambiguous binding commitment to the church’s Confessions, as we find them in the Three Forms of Unity. We should not be ashamed of that binding commitment. Occasionally it seems as though some think that we actually should be ashamed of that. In the past I have indicated in this column that we are actually en route to an assumed toleration when it comes to discussing relationships between the Netherlands Reformed Churches (NGK) and the Reformed Churches Liberated (GKV). We must become united, people insist. And who are we to object when we hear the wailing and gnashing about our allegedly “harsh” conduct after 1966?

I am prepared to travel a long way, and to confess my own guilt where missteps are concerned. In fact, I have already done so. Perhaps I would go further than Trimp would have preferred to go. For example, I do not believe that during that time there was sufficient basis for deposing a signatory of the Open Letter, on the basis of the mere fact that a person had signed this Letter. But I am not prepared to be ashamed about the conduct of people like J. R. Wiskerke, C. Trimp, and J. Kamphuis—I joined them back in 1966—when our unambiguous binding commitment to the Reformed Confessions is at stake.

Sometimes it seems as if we are supposed to be ashamed of ourselves and crawl in the dust before our Netherlands Reformed brothers who have suffered O so much under our alleged “tyranny.” To them I reply: When will you finally be crossing the bridge by donning the penitent’s shawl yourselves and fully honoring the intentions of these leaders we have mentioned? You hurt them deeply by demonstrating your dislike toward them. That is, by continuing to identify what during that period they considered to be vitally essential for ecclesiastical unity as “a little Dutch dust-up.” My answer to the members of my own Liberated Reformed Churches who are pressing for this church unity is this: You honor the legacy of your leaders by not feverishly clamoring that we must become united with the members of the Netherlands Reformed Churches, or claiming that in actuality we are already united with them. You dishonor that legacy by insisting that we should assume a measure of toleration at any point where they want to continue making allowance for deviating from Lord’s Day 22, for women in the offices of elder and minister, for accepting homosexual practice within the church, and possibly for still other matters.

The voice of our recently deceased leaders must not be muted.

(This material is scheduled to appear on 17 March 2012, on the online blog authored by J. Douma, Kort Commentaar (Brief Commentary), accessible at http://www.gereformeerdekerkblijven.nl/wp/?page_id=171. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman.)

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LEUSDEN — On Friday, 9 March 2012, Cornelis (Kees) Trimp passed away at the age of 86. He had retired as Professor of Ministerial Studies (ambtelijke vakken) at the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), in Kampen. He had begun this labor following the church split within the Reformed Churches Liberated at the end of the 1960s. His contribution helped, on the one hand, to set the direction of the consolidation within his denomination after the split, and on the other hand, to cultivate a more outwardly focused orientation in his denomination.

Cornelis Trimp was born on 18 January 1926 in Amsterdam. He obtained his ministerial training at the Theological College in Kampen. On 11 February 1951 he was ordained and installed in his first congregation in the Frisian village of Twijzel. Thereafter he served churches in Middelburg (1955), Voorburg (1961), and Groningen North (1967).

On 29 June 1961, Professor Trimp obtained his doctorate at the Theological College in Kampen, with a dissertation entitled, “Om de oeconomie van het welbehagen. Een analyse van de idee der ‘Heilsgeschichte’ in de ‘Kirchliche Dogmatik’ van K. Barth” (“Concerning the Economy of God’s Good Pleasure. An Analysis of the Idea of ‘Salvation History’ in the ‘Church Dogmatics’ of K. Barth”).

In 1970, shortly after the split in the Reformed Churches Liberated, which led to the formation of  the Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken (literally, Netherlands Reformed Churches, not to be confused with the North American denomination of that name), Trimp was appointed as professor at the Theological College in Kampen. He fulfilled this function until 1 January 1993. The teaching area of the new professor encompassed the ministerial subjects of homiletics (preaching), catechetics (church education), liturgics (worship), poimenics (pastoral care), and diaconate (ministry of mercy).

Illustrative of the relationships existing when the new professor began was the impossibility of using  the church building across from the university for his inauguration. That building had come to be owned by the Netherlands Reformed people. For that reason, the faculty used the church of the Reformed Congregation (Gereformeerde Gemeente, equivalent to the North American Netherlands Reformed denomination), where Trimp gave his inaugural address, entitled “The Warrant for the Ministry of Reconciliation.”

His involvement, from 1956-1992, with the church magazine De Reformatie ensured that the voice of Professor Trimp carried weight. He played an active role in keeping members together in the church after the split. He disapproved of the so-called Open Brief (Open Letter) that had formed the occasion for the church split, and he defended the synodical decisions relating to it. On the other hand, he later regretted the course of events during the 1960s. In so doing, however, he did not distance himself from what had flowed from his sharp pen during that period.

Various publications appeared under the authorship of Professor Trimp, such as Ministerium. An Introduction to the Reformational Doctrine of Office (1982), Word in Writing. Theological Reflection on the Authority of the Bible (2002, with essays from A. L. Th. de Bruine, J. J. T. Doedens, and B. Kamphuis), and the most well-known, Sound and Resonance. Through Preaching to Faith-Experience (1989). In that latter work, he disagreed equally with rationalism in preaching and with the experientialism of the Dutch Second Reformation.

Professor Trimp saw the pendulum swing throughout church history between subjective preaching and objective preaching. Each contains a danger of excess, he observed. Professor Trimp saw as one benefit of the Liberation (the church split in the 1940s) that someone like Benne Holwerda showed how both types of preaching were incorrect. “What is involved primarily is neither the subjective engagement of the heart nor the objective declaration of doctrine, but the address of the speaking God in the covenant,” wrote Professor Trimp in Sound and Resonance. That points to salvation outside of ourselves, in Christ, claimed Trimp. Therefore he pleaded for “a hearty preaching of Christ.”

Professor Trimp resisted the theological line of the principal leader of the 1940s church split known as the Liberation, Professor K. Schilder, who claimed that there is an unconditional promise of salvation for those baptized who are elect, and a universal offer of grace for the other ones who are baptized. Promise and covenant are equivalent and call us to faith, claimed Professor Trimp. That faith is not without feeling, for it involves the entire person. The sound of God’s Word will not bounce off like the noise of an echo, but will resonate within the human heart, wrote the professor in Sound and Resonance.

In the same book Professor Trimp pleaded for entering into relationships with other churches, such as the Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerken (literally, Christian Reformed Churches, equivalent to the Free Reformed Churches in North America, and not to be confused with the Christian Reformed Church in North America). Within a climate where there was more room for faith-experience, the professor saw possibilities for effecting more unity between the Liberated Reformed Churches and the Christian Reformed Churches.

In addition, during the 1990s he expressed himself positively regarding liturgical renewal. Already in 1983 he had reflected on this subject in The Church and Its Liturgy. In that book he pleaded for, among other things, the congregation singing the Amen after the sermon.

The professor valued uniformity in worship, but had no objection against adaptations as long as they were not in conflict with reverence during the congregation’s worship.

Professor Trimp will be buried on Thursday in Leusden, where he resided.

(This article appeared originally in Dutch in Reformatorisch Dagblad  on 12-03-2012. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman.)

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Addendum: In addition to the books authored by C. Trimp mentioned above, readers may find English translations of the following helpful:
C. Trimp, Preaching and the History of Salvation: Continuing and Unfinished Discussion, translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman (copyright 1996)

C. Trimp, Woord, water en wijn. Gedachten over prediking, doop en avondmaal, 2nd edition (Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1989), available in translation by Nelson D. Kloosterman as “Preaching as the Public Means of Divine Redemption,” “The Sacrament of Baptism,” and “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”

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