Saying No to the Belhar (The Banner, Jan 2011)


In case you missed it, the January issue of The Banner has an essay by Rob Toornstra entitled "Saying No to The Belhar".

Check it out and add your comments.

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Thanks Tim,

  Here is what I posted.

I cannot understand some of the article's conclusions or the comments being made. The call to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ is in the great commandment. I know we are all still believers but one of us has to be rationalizing. I hope it becomes clear to all of us what Jesus intended.


The statements made in the Banner article are to me the standard personal arguments arriving at the standard position of demoting the Belhar to just another interesting document. The wordsmanship to somehow say the Belhar using God vs our three confessions use Jesus is theologically confusing to me. And arriving at the standard conclusion that the Belhar will divide our church places a negative final conclusion that amounts (to me) the 'any change will change us and if we have to change then we'll split.' Division over Confessions has created our 'different' denominations historically. We are one body in Christ.

This is one of the most confusing discussions I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not referring to Rob Toornstra’s article, but to the whole Belhar debate in the CRC. Dr. Cooper at Calvin Sem. pointed out (rightfully, I believe) that there are radically divergent mindsets laying claim to the same language of the Belhar. Without clarity of language and meaning, we will adopt a new confession out of passion, or zeitgeist, or guilt, or politics, but not out of our unified love for the language of this document.

Hi Michael,  There is a lot of different mindsets claiming the scriptures to justify our thought. Myself incluided. My issue is not about Belhar per say because confessions are contextual to situations and time. I understand this issue as having more to do with our hearts than brains. Most of the confessionals are not worded perfectly but the real meanings become apparent. and are supported by scriptural passages. I have not seen a lot convincing agruments against the Belhar other that wording. I sure there are some good arguments against any confessional based on various biblical interpatations . But most are not based on actual words from Jesus or implied meaning of his actions. When I read a good argument against reconcilation  I will change. Thanks


I think it is important to distinguish between two questions. One is whether or not the content of the Belhar is true - this would include discussions or wording, interpretation, intention, etc. The second is whether or not the CRC should adopt it as a confession. I want to note that simply because one determines that the content of the Belhar is true and relevant does not automatically lead to a decision to adopt it as a confession. Pause and consider the number of documents containing true and good and relevant content that exist in the world - ought they to be adopted?

What I am interested in is hearing a clear case for why we ought to adopt it as a confession - or even a testimony. It can be read and affirmed and agreed on and celebrated and acted upon without being adopted as a confession. Adopting a new confession is a HUGE thing and I am skeptical in this case.

To deny adopting it as a confession or testimony is not to deny it's message. I hope no one implies that in discussion. One can affirm the unit of the body of Christ, the importance of welcoming members from all races and cultures as brothers and sisters, and also acknowledge and repent from racism in our cultures, lives, and communities yet still not want to adopt a new confession.

Quite apart from discussions of the first question, I am far from convinced of the denomination's apparent position on the second.

John,  You are correct that we don't make confessions out of every true and relevant statement.  Youi are also correct that we don't need to adopt this as a confession. It is also true we don't have to keep our current confessions other than Apostle's creed which is the best summary of our belief's ever written.  But the last one is a personal observation and I am fine with keeping them.

  John, I know where your coming from. The Belhar was given to us to confirm and it is "true and relevant" by your definition.  Plus, we all know a Biblical truism is a confession whether it is in the back of Hymnal or not and you could oppose this based on everything doesn't require written confessional status. Is this a fair summary of where your at?


Ken, I don't understand what you are saying in your last paragraph. Sorry, I don't follow.