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Animated, Movie Reviews

The Lord of the Rings animated "trilogy"

Peter Jackson wasn't the first to put J.R.R. Tolkien's books on film. Two decades before the first of Jackson's live-action/CGI films hit theaters, three animated versions were crafted in the space of three years, and by two different animators. The first two are well worth checking out. The third is not. THE HOBBIT Animated 77 minutes / 1977 RATING: 7/10 The Hobbit was the first Tolkien book to be filmed, in 1977. Director Authur Rankin chose a particularly cartoonish style of drawing that made it clear from the start that this was intended as a children's film. But his work had some humor to it – just as the source material does – which makes it pleasant enough viewing for adults too. Our hero Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit, creatures that look much like humans, though they are half as tall and have far hairier feet. Normally Hobbits like nothing better than to stay close to home, but when the wizard Gandalf brings 12 treasure-seeking Dwarves to his doorstep Bilbo signs up for the adventure. And with the help of a magic "ring of power" Bilbo finds, he helps his new friends fight Orcs, Elves, and even a dragon. At 77 minutes long, readers of the book may be disappointed as to just how much the film condenses the story. However, as children’s films go it is quite a nice one, and a good introduction to Middle Earth. That said, for a children's film there are some fairly scary bits, including attacks from Orcs, giant spiders and a "Gollum" so this isn't suitable for the very young. Parents will want to preview this to see how suitable it is for their children. I know I can't show this to my girls yet, but will when the youngest hits about nine or ten. THE LORD OF THE RINGS Animated 133 minutes / 1978 RATING: 7/10 A year after The Hobbit was released, another animator, Ralph Bakshi, decided to try his hand at The Lord of the Rings.  The story begins with an aging Biblo Baggins passing on his magic ring to his nephew Frodo. Shortly after the wizard Gandalf shows up to warn Frodo of the ring's danger. It turns out this ring is so powerful that whoever holds it could use it to rule the world. This is why the evil Sauron wants it, and why the good Gandalf knows that it must be destroyed – this all-encompassing power is too much of a temptation for even the best of men to contend against. It is up to Frodo, who as a little Hobbit is far less tempted by the pull of power, to take the ring deep into the enemy's lands to destroy it in the lava of the mountain where it was first forged. And on the journey he has the company of hobbits, men, an elf, a dwarf, and a wizard to help him. Animator Ralph Bakshi used a style of animation that involved filming scenes with real actors and then tracing over each frame of film to create a line-drawing picture of it. This "rotoscoping" allowed Bakshi to incorporate the endless possibilities of animation with the realism of live-action. The realism also meant that this is a scarier film than The Hobbit. The lurching Ringwraiths (see the picture) are freaky, and some of the combat scenes, especially at the very end, are quite bloody. Though this is animated, it is not for children. There is one major flaw with the film: it is only half of the story! The director planned it as the first part of a two-film treatment, but the second film was never made, so things wrap up abruptly. While it lacks a proper ending, the story it does tell is intriguing. THE RETURN OF THE KING Animated 97 minutes / 1979 RATING: 4/10 This is sometimes treated as a sequel to Ralph Bakshi's film, but it isn't. Arthur Rankin directed, and he returned to the cartoonish animation style of The Hobbit. And while the events in this story do, loosely, follow after the events of the Bakshi film, Rankin seems to have been envisioning this as a sequel to The Hobbit, so he begins with an overview of everything that took place between it and The Return of the King. Or, in other words, it begins with a quick summary of two 500-page books – as you might expect this overview doesn't do justice to the contents of these enormous tomes, and the continuity of the story is completely lost. If a viewer isn't already familiar with the books he'll have no idea what's going on. Things don't get any better once the overview is complete - there is no flow to the story. Huge plot elements are skipped over, and random snips of scenes are stitched to other scenes with stilted narration and cheesy ballads. In addition, Frodo Baggins twice calls on God to help him. Some might argue this could be an appropriate use of God's name, but in the context of a fantasy world in which God is never otherwise mentioned, this seems a misuse. In short, The Return of the King is a dreadful film that is not worth anyone's time.

Internet

Do we "like" sin?

Welcome to the Information Age. With apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we now have a window into the lives of our friends, family, acquaintances and even complete strangers. Business owners can now Google prospective employees, parents can check Instagram to vet new friends of their children, and a woman can search Facebook about a potential boyfriend. We can track down long lost friends from high school and keep in touch with family around the world. The benefits are evident in our churches too, in how we can share information about prayer requests, children’s illnesses, bus routes being late, weather conditions, and new study groups. Via these social media forums, users are connected together in an online virtual world where our interests and ideas can be shared at the speed of light to our online peers. We can share articles that we deem interesting or important, and we can take political stands on issues. With a click of the button, we can friend and follow almost anyone we want. We like or dislike our way through thousands of gigabytes of information, telling everyone our favorite TV shows, games, authors, preachers, speakers and much more. But how does our online presence reflect our allegiance? Do our likes match up with God’s own? Many brothers and sisters seem to disconnect the online version of themselves from the real (or maybe their social media presence is their true self?). Christians will watch horrific godless shows and discuss them and like them on Facebook. Some may share photos of themselves in provocative poses with minimal clothing, or share pictures of drunken partying. We’ll fight with others online, speaking wrathfully, and assume the worst of whomever we’re arguing with. Disputes with our consistory, or our spouse, will be aired publicly and captured for all eternity. We’ll speak derisively about our employers, or our minister, family members, or friends. Online Christians will use filthy language, or casually take God’s name in vain in ways that they would not in the offline world. The Bible calls this disconnect an unstable “double-mindedness” (James 1:8, 22-25) – we are trying to be two people, each serving a different master (Matthew 6:24). Not only are we responsible for how we present ourselves online, we’re responsible for what we like and follow. When we see pictures of brothers and sisters sinning and like them, when we click thumbs up to a godless show, or blasphemous musician do we understand what we are telling everyone? Though it may take little thought – just a quick click of the mouse and a friendly like or thumbs up – what we are saying is I agree, I like this, I love this, this is good. Though it seems harmless, this is encouragement. When I sin and someone says good job,they are enabling me. That is not love. That is sinful. It is wicked. We should not condone sin whether online or off. In fact, we should love one another enough to be willing to privately approach and hold our brothers and sisters accountable. Maybe we think this a task better suited to elders. But not all consistory members are on these online forums. They don’t always know what is happening on Facebook or Instagram. And it is not their job to follow every one of us everywhere we go. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we need to hold each other accountable out of love for each other (Eccl. 4:9-12). And we need to do so out of love for our Lord – the world will get their ideas of Who He is based in large part on how we, his ambassadors, act. Finally, whether we sin in daily life or online, God sees. In a world of both hate and tolerance, filth and fanaticism, we need to be careful not only in how we behave online, but also in what we like, share and post and therefore condone, as well.

Apologetics 101, Sexuality

10 tales to help us clear away transgender confusion

We live in a time when the obvious is not so. How exactly can we explain to someone who doesn’t get it, that saying you’re a woman doesn’t make you one? Three thousand years ago the prophet Nathan faced the same sort of problem – how to effectively explain the obvious. Anyone who has heard the Ten Commandments knows that murder and adultery are sins and yet King David had done both and remained entirely unrepentant. So in comes Nathan, with a story about a rich man who’d stolen and eaten his poor neighbor’s only sheep (2 Sam. 12). David, blind to his own sins, condemned the rich man to death for actions that paled in comparison to his own. That’s when Nathan connected the dots for him: if you think sheep stealing is bad, then what should you think about wife stealing? “You are the man!” he thundered. And David’s eyes were opened. Transgenders and their allies need their eyes opened too. To help clear away their confusion, here are 10 news items and other illustrations. They can be used in back-fence conversations or in letters to the editor or to our elected officials, and come in three broad groupings:

A. We shouldn’t encourage people to harm themselves B. People can be wrong about their own bodies C. Wishing doesn’t make it so

These analogies are like warning signs that tell us “Turn around!” “Hazardous!” and “Do not go any further!” That’s helpful, but a “Wrong way” sign only tells us what not to do. It doesn’t really point us in the right direction. So it’s important to understand that while these analogies can expose the transgender lie, they don’t do much to point people to the truth. For that we need to share God’s thoughts on gender, that He created us male and female (Gen. 5:2), and that when we deny this reality bad stuff happens – then we arrive at a point where the cruel and the sadly comical are celebrated and encouraged. What follows are examples of where this reality-denying path leads. A. WE SHOULDN’T ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO HARM THEMSELVES The majority of transsexuals don’t undergo surgery, but many do. This involves cutting pieces of their body off. Why are we encouraging this self-harm? Lonely man wants to be a parrot Ted Richards likes parrots, and in an effort to look more like his pets he has had the whites of his eyes inked, feathers tattooed on his face, horns inserted into his skull, and his ears cut off. He has also recently changed his name to Ted Parrotman. One article had him saying he had only two friends. His loneliness comes out in other ways too – he has no regrets about changing his surname because:

“I’ve not had any contact with my mother and father for years because we didn’t really get on – I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive, and I also don’t talk to my siblings anymore – so I felt no connection to having a family name.”

When he appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show the crowd applauded when the host declared, “There’s nothing wrong with being different.” No, but there is something wrong with cheering on self-destructive behavior. Abled bodied man cuts off one arm In 2015 the National Post profiled “One Hand Jason,” a man who cut off his right arm with a “very sharp power tool.” According to the Post:

His goal was to become disabled. People like Jason have been classified as “transabled” – feeling like imposters in their bodies, their arms and legs in full working order.

Like the transgendered, transabled people feel they have been born in the wrong bodies, but instead of objecting to their genitalia, the transabled object to their limbs, or their hearing, or even their lack of paralysis. And like the transgendered, some seek to address this discomfort by cutting bits of themselves off. Woman blinds herself Jewel Shuping wanted to be blind ever since she was a girl. She bought herself a white cane at 18 and learned Braille by 20, and then, at 23, paid a psychologist to pour drain cleaner in her eyes. She told the British Tabloid The Sun: “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth.” B. PEOPLE CAN BE WRONG ABOUT THEIR OWN BODIES The previous three examples could also fall into this category, but Kevin DeYoung’s illustration that follows is especially good. Girl’s anorexia is affirmed In A Transgender Thought Experiment Kevin DeYoung tells the fictional story of a young woman who at just 95 pounds still thinks of herself as fat. She asks her counselor for help and he shows himself to an affirming sort. Rather than address her anorexia the counselor tells her:

“If you tell me you’re fat, I’m not going to stand in the way of you accepting that identity….You are fat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s who you are.… No one can tell you what’s right or wrong with your body. After all, it’s your body…. it’s okay if you don’t eat much for lunch. Weight is only a social construct. Fat is a feeling, not a fact.”

C. WISHING DOESN’T MAKE IT SO Four of the examples that follow are actual people, but the best illustration is probably the last one in this grouping, where Joseph Backholm asks a series of hypothetical questions to university students. And if people don’t believe the hypothetical could ever become actual, real examples are plentiful. Woman says she is another race The Afro-wearing, dark-skinned Rachel Dolezal was the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 2014 until June of 2015 when she resigned after it was revealed that both her biological parents were white. She later stated that she was “biologically born white to white parents, but I identify as black.” Man says he is another age Paul Wolscht is a heavy-set, six-foot tall, 52-year-old who wants to be a six-year-old girl named Stefoknee. In a video interview with the gay news site The Daily Xtra Wolscht explained that he has “an adopted mommy and daddy who are totally comfortable with me being a little girl. And their children and grandchildren are totally supportive.”

“It’s liberated me from the hurt. Because if I’m six years old, I don’t have to think about adult stuff…I have access to really pretty clothes and I don’t have to act my age. By not acting my age I don’t have to deal with the reality that was my past because it hurt…”

Wolscht has abandoned his wife of more than 20 years and his seven children, deciding that playing the part of a six-year-old girl is more to his liking than his role of husband and father. However, Wolscht has not abandoned caffeine or his car: “I still drink coffee and drive a car, right, even my tractor, but still I drive the tractor as a little kid. I drive my car as a little kid.” But, of course, six-year-olds really shouldn’t drink coffee, and driving is out of the question. So whether six or 52, Wolscht is not acting his age. One more thought to consider – Wolscht’s childish claims have been treated with respect by The Daily Xtra but what would they think of the reverse? As one of my teenage nieces put it,

“Can I identify as a 22 year old and order a drink at a bar? Can I identify as a 16 year old and get my license?”

Teens to get seniors’ discount? In April the American department store chain Target announced that they would “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” In May the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee came out with an item about how the store would now allow “grant a 10% senior discount to any person who self-identifies as age 60 or older.” Woman says she another species Nano, a Norweigan woman claims she is a cat. She wears cloth ears and will, on occasion, crawl around on her hands and knees and meow at people. In a video interview with reporter Silje Ese she says she was 16 when she first realized she was a cat trapped in a human’s body. She distinguished her situation from that of her friend Svein, who, she says, is a human with a cat personality in his head (one of several personalities he exhibits), whereas she was born a cat. They both claimed to be able to communicate to each other in “cat language,” a claim which the reporter did not, of course, put to the test. Man says he is “mythical beast” Richard Hernandez has had his scales tattooed onto his face, arms and body, his ears removed, his eye whites dyed green, and his nostrils trimmed. Why? So he can become a female dragon. On one of his many blogs he describes himself as:

“…the Dragon Lady…in the process of morphing into a human dragon, becoming a reptoid as I shed my human skin and my physical appearance and my life as a whole leaving my humanness behind and embracing my most natural self awareness as a mythical beast.”

Guy says he is another height, gender, race and age In a popular YouTube video called College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity, the short, very white, Joseph Backholm asked Washington University students if he could be a tall Chinese first-grader. They told him to go for it. https://youtu.be/xfO1veFs6Ho CONCLUSION These are fantastic illustrations of the insanity that results when we deny that it’s God who gets to define reality and not us. But the better the illustration, the stronger the temptation to rely on the story to do all the work for us. But like the prophet Nathan before us, after telling these tales we’ll need to spell out the transgender connection for our listening audience. What that might look like? Maybe a bit like this:

Christian: Have you heard about the guy who cut off his arm because he felt like he should have been born disabled?

Secular Sue: That is crazy! Someone needed to help that poor guy. He needed some counseling or something.

Chris: I agree. But I got a question for you – some guys will cut off a significant bit of themselves because they think they should have been born girls. Do you think that’s crazy too?

Sue: I think that’s different – gender is just a social construct, so if someone feel they are the wrong gender, then maybe surgery like that can help.

Chris: So it’s crazy to cut off your arm but okay to cut off your…?

Sue: Well….

Chris: Why the hesitation?

Sue: Because when you put it like that it doesn’t sound quite right.

Chris: That’s because it isn’t right. Self-mutilation is wrong. There’s a guy who was on a talk show about how, to become more like his parrots, he’d cut off his ears. The crowd applauded.

Sue: Oh, that’s awful.

Chris: I agree. But isn’t this just the logical end to encouraging transgenderism? If gender is changeable, what isn’t? And if all is changeable, how can we discourage anyone from trying to do just that? To each their own and all that. But Christians know that God made us male and female; we know He gets to define reality and we don’t; and we know that when we defy His reality, bad stuff results. Like people cutting off their ears to the approval of the clapping crowd.

We’re not going to convince everyone, no matter how brilliant the analogy, so that mustn’t be our measure for success. Instead, we want to ask is, are we bringing clarity? Are eyes being opened? Is the world being presented with the choice they need to make? Do they realize they can either choose for God, male and female, and reality as He has defined it… or they choose chaos? https://youtu.be/q5-hq7wVOFc

Music, News

That morning I listened to Kanye West

I’ve never been a Kanye West fan. About a year ago, I was flipping through the radio channels while driving. I came across a station playing one of his songs. It was one of the most vile, misogynistic songs I’ve ever heard. As we were eating our dinner, I told our kids about what I’d heard earlier in the day. Knowing Kanye better than I did, they weren’t surprised. But they sure were surprised to hear their dad listening to Kanye West last Saturday morning. I was rather surprised too. His new album had just dropped and the title led me to listen. Jesus is King blew me off my feet. How could it happen that the same man responsible for that horrible song could produce an entire album in praise of the Saviour? Who is/was Kanye West? Kanye West is an American recording artist who’s mostly worked in the hip-hop/rap genre. He’s been hugely popular and is one of the most successful musicians of all time. Jesus is King is his ninth studio album. The previous eight each went platinum. Moreover, he’s been awarded 21 Grammy awards since the beginning of his recording career in 2003. As far as his personal life goes, West was raised middle-class by his mother, an English professor. He briefly attended university but decided to chase a music career instead. He was involved in several romantic relationships over the years. He married reality-TV star Kim Kardashian in 2014 and they have four children together. His first album College Dropout included the song “Jesus Walks.” This song already indicated some spiritual inclinations. The song speaks of spiritual struggles but also features the profanity found in so many of his songs. Over the years, he’s claimed to believe in God, and in 2014 he even claimed to be a Christian. However, in the meantime, he continued making music putting those claims in question. For example, his 2013 album Yeezus included a blasphemous song entitled “I Am a God.” In short, while there have been spiritual themes in some of his past work, much of what Kanye West has produced up till now has been profane, wicked, and even sacrilegious. He’s represented the dregs of what hip-hop has to offer. What happened? Early in 2019, West began a new musical endeavor known as Sunday Service. Every Sunday, he and a number of others would get together to perform gospel music. While it began as an event for family and friends, eventually it turned into something bigger and Sunday Service began touring around American cities. That was the first sign something seemed to be changing with West. Through the end of 2018, it was well-known that West was working on a new album entitled Yandhi. It wasn’t going to be a gospel album – in fact, it wasn’t going to have any notable spiritual emphasis. However, in August 2019, West’s wife Kim Kardashian announced that the direction of the new album had changed and it would now be entitled Jesus is King. Around the same time, West began attending Placerita Bible Church in Newhall, California. This church is a non-denominational congregation. Besides what it says about baptism and eschatology, their doctrinal statement is mostly sound. The pastor, Adam Tyson, is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary, an institution founded by John MacArthur. Like MacArthur, Tyson’s doctrine of salvation is biblical/Calvinistic. According to Tyson (in an interview with Apologia Studios), West began attending the church and then asked to meet with him for instruction. West gave a sound Christian testimony and indicated a good understanding of the basics of salvation through the gospel. What he really wanted from Pastor Adam Tyson was instruction about how to begin living as a Christian. Tyson has been instrumental in guiding Kanye West’s spiritual journey. In the last while, Adam Tyson was invited to preach at several Sunday Service events. I watched a video of him preaching at a Sunday Service in Detroit. Using Isaiah 6:1-5 as his text, he gave a faithful and unambiguous presentation of the gospel to at least several hundred people. Kanye West provided a platform so the gospel could be preached. Tyson was also involved in the final production of the Jesus is King album. West told Tyson that he was finished with rap and hip-hop and didn’t want to do it anymore. But Tyson encouraged him to use his gifts in this genre to advance the cause of the gospel. Moreover, he helped him ensure the final product would be free of any serious theological errors. Jesus is King Having listened to the album a number of times now, let me make a few comments. Musically speaking, not everything here is going to be to everyone’s taste. In other words, there are hip-hop and rap elements. Yet it has a different feel to his previous work. I first listened to the album through Spotify, but since I don’t have the premium account, the stream would periodically circle back to his previous work. The difference was noticeable, not only in comparison with his previously foul lyrics, but also with the music. Even though I can’t put my finger on it, something has changed in the sound of the music. One of my Facebook friends noted she’s never listed to Kanye West and never will. I urged her to just listen to the first track on the album. “Every Hour” features lively African-American gospel choir singing – no hip-hop or rap at all. The last song of the album “Jesus is Lord” also breaks the stereotype. This short track features West singing of Christ’s Lordship accompanied by tuba, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, French horn, and euphonium. The lyrics are mostly sound. Check out these rhymes from “Closed on Sunday”:

When you got daughters, always keep em’ safe Watch out for vipers, don’t let them indoctrinate … Raise our sons, train them in the faith Through temptations, make sure they’re wide awake Follow Jesus, listen and obey No more livin’ for culture, we nobody’s slave

Stand up for my home Even if I take this walk alone I bow down to the King upon the throne My life is His, I’m no longer my own.

The last bit echoes the biblical teaching of Lord’s Day 1, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, there’s some immaturity and imprecision in various tracks. Assuming he’s become a Christian, he’s just a young Christian and so we can’t expect the accuracy or theological profundity of Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle. Moreover, while the album is mostly clean in terms of language, there is one use of the word “damn.” It occurs in “God is”:

I know Christ is the fountain that filled my cup I know God is alive, yeah He has opened up my vision Giving me a revelation This ain't 'bout a damn religion Jesus brought a revolution

Could that be a legitimate use of the word? I’d like to be charitable. After all, there is religion that is damned – the religion of self-salvation and works righteousness. What shall we say about these things? For many people, their first inclination is to be skeptical. Me too. After all, how many “Christian” celebrities have we seen over the years? How many proved to be genuine followers of Christ for the long haul? The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9) reminds us that there are those who hear the Word, show some promise, but are either seed sown on rocky soil or the seed choked by thorns. Kanye West anticipates this response on the album. In “Hands On” he predicts that many Christians aren’t going to believe he’s the real deal. Despite that, he asks listeners to pray for him. Even as we have might have concerns, that’s a request we can enthusiastically embrace. One of the big questions people are asking is: what happens to all the old music West produced? He was asked this directly in an interview with BigBoyTV. His reply was that no one goes to an Apple iStore to ask for an iPhone 4 – Apple doesn’t offer the inferior product. He says his old stuff is behind him and he won’t be performing it anymore. From now on he claims he’ll only be performing gospel music to the glory of God. True, for the moment, his old music is still available for sale -- though, to be fair, when it comes to music sales there are more players involved than just the artist. There are indeed still inconsistencies and troubling things about Kanye West. Just in the last month, he boasted in an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music's Beats 1 that he’s “unquestionably, undoubtedly, the greatest human artist of all time.” While he’s attended Adam Tyson’s church in California, he lives in Wyoming and isn’t currently known to be a member of any church. He’s a public figure and, unlike many other fledgling disciples, his life is on display for everyone to dissect and analyze. There’s a lot of pressure on him and one can only hope that influences like Adam Tyson will prevail. Why should we care? Simply because God can do amazing things, even with the vulgar and profane. Let’s watch and see what happens. Whatever the case may be, we shouldn’t look up to Kanye West as a Christian leader – he’s untested. Finally, if nothing else comes from this, even if West proves to be a false disciple, at least the truth about Jesus Christ was broadcast by him and others for a time: Jesus is King! So, “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com. Kanye West picture is from Shutterstock.com.

AA
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Theology
Tagged: featured, God and Government, government, Wes Bredenhof

On the proper role of Government (and the footnoted Belgic Confession article 36)

A review of P.J. Hoedemaker’s Article 36 of the Belgic Confession Vindicated Against Dr. Abraham Kuyper

 *****

Anyone who has ever studied the Belgic Confession, even on a superficial level, is aware of an oddity in article 36. This is the only place in the Three Forms of Unity where we find a footnote in most versions of the Confession. Whether it is the United Reformed, Canadian Reformed, or Protestant Reformed Churches in North America, or the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, all have an additional footnote.

Article 36 is titled “The Civil Government” or sometimes “Of Magistrates” and addresses what we confess about the role of the government. The relevant text in the body of the confession originally read:

[The government’s] task of restraining [evil] and sustaining [good] is not limited to the public order but includes the protection of the church and its ministry in order that all idolatry and false worship may be removed and prevented, the kingdom of antichrist may be destroyed, the kingdom of Christ may come, the Word of the gospel may be preached everywhere, and God may be honoured and served by everyone, as he requires in his Word. (Italics added)

But the clauses that I’ve italicized above were moved from the body and relegated to footnote status a century ago, as is explained in the Canadian Reformed edition here:

The following words were deleted here by the General Synod 1905 of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland): all idolatry and false worship may be removed and prevented, the kingdom of antichrist may be destroyed.

I’ve been a pastor in both the Canadian Reformed Churches, and the Free Reformed Churches of Australia, and to my knowledge, neither federation has ever made an official decision about the status of this footnote. Do we confess this or not? It is an odd ambiguity in our Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort).

FOOTNOTE’S BACKGROUND

That’s why it was with great interest that I began reading a small book, recently translated, on this very topic. Article 36…vindicated against Dr. Abraham Kuyper comes from the controversy which led to the words being deleted in 1905. It provides some of the historical background, illustrating that the deletion was not without its opponents. This book also provides an occasion to reflect on whether it may be time to revisit the matter in an official, ecclesiastical way.

The author, Philippus Jacobus Hoedemaker (1839-1910), was a curious figure. While he grew up in a family with roots in the 1834 Secession (in which a number of congregations split from the Dutch national church) he himself became a minister in the Dutch national church. However, unlike so many others in the State church, Hoedemaker was a conservative, and confessionally Reformed.

This book is a response to a series of articles written by Dutch theologian and journalist (and future Dutch prime minister) Abraham Kuyper in his newspaper The Herald in 1899-1900. In these articles, Kuyper argued against the original wording of article 36 – he did not agree with the civil government being called on to address idolatry, false worship, and the kingdom of the antichrist.

In 1896, Kuyper went a step further. Together with other notable theologians in his denomination (the Gereformeerde Kerkenor Reformed Churches), including Herman Bavinck, Kuyper put forward a gravamen against article 36. A “gravamen” is an official objection to a point of doctrine.

These eight ministers alleged that article 36 did not conform to the Word of God and they asked the Synod of 1896 to make a judgment on the matter. The Synod decided to appoint a committee to study the matter, a committee which bizarrely included Bavinck and Kuyper (!). It was the work of this committee which would later result in Synod 1905 deleting the allegedly unbiblical words.

GOING BACK TO THE ORIGINAL?

Let me make a few comments about the translation. There are a few idiosyncrasies that readers should be aware of. When Hoedemaker refers to “Lord’s Days” in the Heidelberg Catechism the translator literally renders them “Sundays” instead. And instead of the Secession of 1834 (Afscheiding), he uses the term “Separation.” Elsewhere he uses the term “Nonconformity,” and I believe he is translating the term “Doleantie.” Aside from those sorts of minor things, the book reads quite well in English.

In his book, Hoedemaker argues for the original form of article 36. Or, more accurately, he argues against Kuyper’s objections to the original form of article 36. He maintains that Kuyper was inconsistent. On the one hand, Kuyper wanted to honor King Jesus as the Lord of all of life. But on the other hand, Kuyper was arguing that King Jesus has no crown rights over the responsibility of the civil government with regard to idolatry, false worship, and the kingdom of antichrist.

Hoedemaker alleged that this inconsistency was owing to political expediency. Abraham Kuyper was getting into politics and article 36 was an embarrassment in trying to build bridges with Roman Catholic politicians.

Early on Hoedemaker makes a point I find especially compelling. He alleges that the discovery of “the fatal defect” in article 36 is “not the result of the ongoing investigation of the Scripture; but exclusively causes which lie in the times, and in apostasy from the living God.”

He states repeatedly that Kuyper and others were not arguing from exegesis, but from pragmatic considerations and false inferences. The pragmatic considerations had to do with Dutch politics. The false inferences were along the lines of the Confession requiring the civil magistrate to persecute unbelievers and false believers. Hoedemaker is especially persuasive in addressing that notion.

CONCLUSION

I should note that this book is not exclusively about Belgic Confession article 36 – it also serves as something of a polemic against the 1886 Doleantie (another church split). Hoedemaker writes, “The first step on the road to Reformation is the recovery of the normal relations of church and state.” But in wanting to undo the 1886 Doleantie, he’s arguing that all Reformed believers should have gone back to the national church despite its waywardness!

So who should read this book? I would especially commend it to those with an interest in politics. When we have so little in our Three Forms of Unity about politics, what little there is should get our attention. Is it time to revisit the formulation of article 36? This is where I believe office bearers and especially ministers would do well to give this book a read too. Perhaps we need a proposal to a synod to clarify the status of the footnote and perhaps even to restore it. Note well: we are not talking about changing the Confession or adding something to the Confession that was never there to begin with. This is something completely different. In a 1979 article for Clarion, the Canadian Reformed Churches’ Dr. J. Faber argued for completely rewriting that part of article 36. That is a possibility. But if the footnote can be re-examined from a biblical standpoint, perhaps it would be as simple as cutting and pasting the text back into place.

Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com where a slightly longer version of this review is available here. He is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania.


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