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So, welcome to the post-Synod post-mortem #1. I’m hoping there will be four or five of these in the next few weeks. But I’m soon going on holidays (that’s Canadian for “vacation,” eh!?) and plan to be far out of reach of electrons for a good part of that time. For now, though, there are still four preaches to be done before holidays, plus visits to ailing parishioners. And did I mention someone made me promise to write some blogs?

I spent two days at Synod in Ancaster, Ontario at Redeemer University College—Saturday with the advisory committee for the Form of Subscription Revision Study Committee 2 (Agenda for Synod 2012, pp. 448-458) and Tuesday waiting for the plenary discussion on our committee’s seven years of plugging away at the revision. Of those seven I was chair of the committee for the last four years, one more year than I counted on. Last year Synod sent the proposed Covenant for Officebearers back to our committee with specific instructions (Acts of Synod 2011, pp. 869-872) to tighten up language on defense of the confessions and accountability for those encountering difficulty with confessional teachings (or their own interpretations thereof).

Some overtures this year suggested other amendments; one wished to recommit the revision work to yet another committee. The advisory committee did a remarkable job of taking seriously all the overtures (though not submitting the task to a new committee). They recommended a few change in diction without seriously changing the tone or content of the proposed Covenant.

Nevertheless, at first the advisory committee planned to remove reference to Our World Belongs to God, as several overtures requested. The greatest sticking points were if a testimony should be considered in any way confessional and if could be “affirmed” in the same way as the creeds and confessions. After vigorous discussion and advocacy on the part of three study committee members, we stepped out for a couple of hours. The advisory committee chair called us back about two hours earlier than we had expected.

We were pleased with the decision that the advisory committee would indeed recommend including Our World and with a significant and meaningful word change. Instead of “affirming” Our World, the recommendation was to “recognize the witness of Our World Belongs to God as a current Reformed expression of the Christian faith that forms and guides us in our present context.”

Why was it so important to include Our World? Though there is a clear hierarchy in the Covenant from Scripture to creeds to confessions to testimony, Our World is the most used confessional document in the many CRCs today for teaching, preaching and liturgy. As importantly, it often serves as a gateway to the older confessions and creeds. One delegate noted that in his study groups on a secular campus Our World so piqued the interest of both Christian and non-Christian participants that they next studied the Heidelberg Catechism. Right on.

Once on the floor of Synod, Tuesday afternoon June 12, the discussion lasted only about an hour. Good speeches were made—some for, some against. Some amendments suggested and rejected. One delegate recommended an amendment that both study and advisory committees accepted as friendly.

Then all of a sudden the vote to accept the Covenant for Officebearers was made. The voice vote was unanimous and, apparently, enthusiastic. I (along with my committee colleagues) was a little stunned. After all this time and after the near rancor of last year’s discussion at Synod—now unanimity and applause? Whatever! And most of all, thanks be to God.

Did our committee get what we wanted? Wrong question. Did we work faithfully, sensitively, (more or less) patiently? I hope so. Most importantly—will this Covenant for Officebearers promote communal covenantal, confessional conversation and LIVING for people in and outside the CRC? We pray that is the case.

Also, I and many others pray that the Covenant (official text available here) will be used more thoughtfully than the Form of Subscription has been for some years in certain places. We discovered in our research that at least 25% of CRCs were not using the FOS at all. Almost worse, many were using it only formally to sign, more or less as a museum piece, but with little thought or commitment to its content. 

Already now some churches have begun using the new Covenant. We will ordain elders and deacons tomorrow at Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, including the reading and signing of the Covenant in the liturgy. Current pastors, elders and deacons who have signed the FOS but are not keen on the new Covenant are not required to sign afresh. Regardless, I am confident that no one’s firm devotion and commitment to the Scriptures, creeds and confessions can ever depend on a mere signature on a human document to bind us together. Rather, heartfelt spiritual commitment to the Lord of the Church in communion—in covenant—with each other is the foundation of faith, unity and common purpose in God’s world.


James Dekker writes, "They recommended a few change in diction without seriously changing the tone or content of the proposed Covenant."

How can you call the addition of "fully agree with God's Word" and "defend" a few changes in diction? It changed the whole document!

 The first two versions of the CO essentially destroyed any notion of having doctrinal standards. The advisory committee saved the day. We still have doctrinal standards because of the work of the advisory committee.

The reason why the vote was unanimous is because of the changes the advisory committee made.

James Dekker on June 28, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Steve: This is the second time you have written in response to FOS blogs on the Synod Network. In both instances you have been needlessly contentious. Your tone has hardly been encouraging of charitable, yet rigorous, collegial conversation (which is the stated purpose of The Network). That disappoints me and, I know, has alienated not a few private readers and correspondents. Thus I am called to respond, which I shall try to do with courtesy, respect and needed reproof and instruction. (Sometime old guys like me are required to do that.)

If you don't know what I mean by "needlessly contentious," I shall explain--because at the end of the discussion you should realize we (I personally and our FOS 2 committee) are pretty much on the same page. Yet in both your responses you made potentially hurtful personal comments about our committee gutting the FOS, about the unanimity and enthusiasm of Synod not being at all a resutl of our committee work, but only a result of the advisory committee's work. 

I realize I open myself up to such comments by owning the responsibility of being study committee chair for four years. But your responses clearly show that either you don't understand the rigours and processes of denominational and committee work or you don't consider such subtle and complex dynamics important pieces in the way the Spirit works in synods or other deliberative ecclesiastical bodies. Charitable, respectful debate is the sort of thing that should also happen on congregational and classical levels, though I have seen that deteriorate at congregational council meetings when the chair did not hold the reins of debate as tightly as he should have.

Here is the "deal." (Yes, I will use a card-playing metaphor.) In study committee work before and with advisory committees, we work hard for our position. There are demanding discussions that last sometimes for four or five hours on a phrase, a word or placement of a paragraph. (The section of the Covenant for Officebearers best exemplifying that process was hammered out over a two-day session in which our twelve study committee members debated about including Our World Belongs to God and later WHERE and HOW to include it.) 

In other words, all players (committee, advisory committee, plenary) play some cards. We all hope we have some aces we can use to "win" some hands, in the spirit of finding the best, most biblically and confessionally faithful language for any given point. We also realize we are probably not going to win every hand--"get our way." But that is not the point; playing fair is.

So, sometimes that means people play a pair of twos if that's all they have left. Sometimes we "hold our aces" for as long as possible, hoping not to have to play them. Withal, we pray that we then trust the Spirit to put the cards together in a better combination for all.

That is what, more or less, happened this year at Synod--as it did NOT happen last year. Advisory Committee worked intelligently and wisely with the overtures. A few were simply out of order. Others reflected respected positions that had not "won the hands" played by the majority of our FOS 2 Committee. Our committee was finally united, but never, ever we were uniform. (At one point during our committee deliberations I commented to a colleague, "I feel like a traffic cop in Bangkok." He responded, "Get used to it!")

Thus what happened at Synod this year was simply not a major revision. We expected the responses articulated in vertures and preferred to let the Advisory Committee and later whole body of Synod deal with them once they were published in the Agenda. Our conversations with the Advisory Committee were respectful, friendly, candid and vigorous. We "played our ace" of arguing strongly for including Our World Belongs to God. THAT was major. Also, "whose doctrines fully agree with the Word of God" is by no means close to saying that the particular articulations of those doctrines in the confessions themselves fully agree with that Word. In all at least 90% of our work was included without change in the new Covenant. Yes, we consider 10% "minor." 

So, we WERE stunned and, only incidentally, pleased personally about the final decision. It is never "about us." I did gladly sign the Covenant for Officebearers last Sunday, June 24, along with new incoming elders and deacons and thos who were continuing in Council. I hope you and your Council members in Lucas, McBain and surrounding spectacular parts of God's World can the same. We ARE on the same page and I thank God for that.





John Zylstra on June 28, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jim, it seems you do not understand the seriousness of Steve's remarks, and the significance of what he is saying.  I tend to agree that the main idea of the covenenant or form of subscription is that the confessions define the denomination, and that one must agree with them in order to be an officebearer.   That language is important to Steve and most others, while you are concentrating on process and effort and discussion.    People who dig themselves into a hole, are also working very hard, but to no apparent good purpose, so merely the amount of work done, time spent, and effort expended is not by itself the defining moment of the outcome.   The impression for many was that the form of subscription was becoming rather useless, since it would have very little binding effect in any case.   Your comments seem to continue to leave that impression, at least to me.  On the other hand, the revised wording leads to a binding effect, which is most significant. 

Any duplicity in playing games and holding onto cards, is surely not appreciated, other than by politicians.  

Steve Van Noort on June 29, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I am disapointed that you have singled me out, when ohters have said pretty the much the same things.

My full response is at the bottom.

Jim, I am deeply disappointed that this whole issue even had to go to Synod at all. As you know, I joined the CRC because of its confessions. I wanted to be in a confessional church because I, for over 20 years, was part of a church movement that didn't have any confessions or creeds at all. Sadly, it seems obvious to me that I now exist in a minority in our church as a lover of our confessions, (Canons especially), and I am concern over the direction this new covenant is leading our church. Why are we not preaching confessionally and educating our people in what we stand for as a denomination from the pulpit? Who's fault is it that the confessions have fallen on hard times and our people are ignorant of what it is we believe? Why aren't we discussing our issues of faith in bible studies based on our confessions? Please give me a handle on this because, frankly, I don't get it. Why do we need this covenant at all? What happened to us anyway that we are taking this direction as a church-confessionally and theologically dumbing ourselves down? I have a lot more respect for the average person in the pew than this. I'm absolutely convinced that they can handle what it is that defines us as denomination. After all, our parents, grandparents and great grandparents did!

James Dekker on June 28, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Rob: Thanks for your heartfelt comment. Having known you for about 15 or more or your 20 years in the CRC, I would have expected no less than deep heart from you. That--among other good things--is why I always loved attending meetings of Classis Lake Superior so we could rub each other as iron sharpens iron.

Now, don't go feeling sorry for yourself that you're in a minority. I'm not sure that you are, but if you are, I'm right there with you in most places. I think you're right that preachers bear the burden of not using the confessions in preaching and teaching. I signed on to preaching in the CRC almost 35 years ago precisely because I could have "a place to stand," as Neal Plantinga has written eloquently--and a place to move around in and from, but without getting lost. To this day, I still teach and use creeds, confessions and testimony in at least 1/3 of my sermons. I believe that their appearance in liturgies that our congregation uses approaches 1/2. 

Now, I thought you would have known the reasons why this issue came to synod. We thought it was clear in the several reports presented to synods by both FOS 1 and FOS 2. Briefly to repeat: In short, the FOS was being used less and less, being read and signed not at all by some 25% of CRCs--not just church plants and ethic churches, but in many long-established congregations. Some officebearers just didn't care--for which some preachers bear fault. Some couldn't sign it because they felt it bound their consciences (despite the exhaustive Supplement 5 in the Church Order). The conversation about amending FOS began more than 60 years ago, as I've mentioned before Synod. The 400 year old document certainly functioned for many years when a clearly hierarchical, even authoritarian form of social organization held sway in the Western world. 

As times changed, though, our thinking patterns changed as well. The creeds and confessions could continue to function, but the FOS had, we believed, help stagnate ongoing, lively, vigorous confessional and creedal thought and living. What is more, the FOS was considered to be needlessly binding on such conversation and thought. Some called it "puntive"--a word I consider misused--though it certainly did not leave a lot of "wiggle room' (a highly technical term in confessional history!) to explore either Scripture or the doctrines articulated in the confessions.

Thus over several decades more than a dozen synods dealt in some fashion with the urgings from the grassroots to revise the FOS. The latest seven-year process amounted to the most complete and surely longest kick at that particular can. And finally Synod 2012 agreed. I hope personally and vocationally that the new Covenant does what it is intended to do: help liven up confessional thought and living--more or less along the lines YOU are encouraging us to do with your Banner articles, which I hope keep coming.

Meanwhile, Rob, I miss our interaction at classis meetings. If you ever feel like taking a trip to Niagara Falls, you and your wife are cordially invited to our occasional B&B a mere 30 kilometres (figure that out in miles on your own) from the Falls. If you show up, we can talk the night away.

Rob Braun on June 29, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks JIm.

Yeah, I miss those Classis days too. And I appreciate the effort you put in on this and don't be surprised if I show up at yours and Roses' door some day.

Still, it deeply concerns me that there is this trend in our denomination away from a commiment to the confessions. Just check out the responses I get from my Banner articles. Sometimes I wonder if people know what church they belong to? Honestly, we are a confessionally based church movement-at least I thought we were? Yet, it's hard to believe it at times? And, it does make me wonder what is at the root of this trend? Maybe there needs to be a class in the seminary that teaches how to make the confessions relevant to the average church goer and the times we're in?

As you know, preaching from the confessions is what I'm known for and I often wonder why others have difficulty doing it too. People often comment to me how much they love the unique way I handle the confessions and the obvious love I have for them. And you did read my complaint correctly, I do blame the pulpit in our churches for the general theological "dumbing down" that is going on. For me, this trend of abandoning the confessions in our preaching is abandoning the heart and soul of who we are as a church movement, Again, the confessions are what define us. If some don't want them to "limit them", I would suggest some other church movements that think creeds and confessions are just works of the flesh. I use to belong to one. It winds up being a theological "every man for himself" situation on what comes out of the pulpit-an absolute theological chaos. Is that where we're heading to? Is this what we want? Do we want a church movement that allows every "wind of doctrine" to blow through our churches? I hope not.

Rob, I think the confessions have been de-emphasized to some extent because of the idea that it is not so much what you believe, but how you live that really counts.   In other words, faith without works is dead(book of James), and you know you follow Christ by your obedience (epistles of John).   While there is some validity to that, the need for us to understand Christ's teachings about grace and about who He is, and the apostle Paul's teachings about law and grace, demonstrates the need for us to have an understanding of the theology expressed in the confessions.   That is the understanding that grounds our living for Christ, that places our "works" into the correct context.   Without that understanding the social gospel will kill the church, since the connection to Christ's saving work will be lost.  

But the full-orbed confessions also highlight that faith without works is dead, and that God does require obedience.  Sometimes without a good understanding of the confessions, we also  lose sight of obedience.   Ironically, sometimes it happens at the same time as the church emphasizes its social gospel activities.   One the one hand, a church will emphasize caring for creation and caring for the poor, while at the same time downplaying faithfulness in marriage, or downplaying the significance of abortion, or making room for homosex, or for pagan culture, or for worldly accomodation in lifestyle. 

Whether we teach the confessions specifically, or merely teach scripture in a way that duplicates or replicates the statements of the confessions, the important point is really the concepts within the confessions, that they impact our lives.  The way to make sure that happens is to use the confessions as a way of guaging what we know, what we emphasize, and what we de-emphasize.   I'm reminded of the stories of the Israelites and Judaites in the old testament, who built the high places to worship false gods.   Even those "good" kings who worshipped God, still often failed to remove the "high places" (in spite of God's specific command to destroy them) and thus left the possibility for some of the people to worship false gods, and for future generations to begin to worship falsely again.  In the same way, neglecting the confessions, and neglecting certain scriptural teachings, can leave us vulnerable to worshipping false gods, or to serving both God and man. 

How do we teach these confessions?   I think we assume too much sometimes.   In my experience, I have seen children read scripture passages, or cadet lessons, or liturgical readings, but not have a clue about what they mean.  I think sometimes/often that also applies to adults.   We read stuff aloud and then promptly forget what we read, or maybe it never even really registered.   Happens sometimes with singing hymns too.   So we need to keep that in mind.   How do we make it register?   How does it become part of our thinking?   Part of our instant recall, our frame of reference?   This is particularly important when teaching children and youth, so that they will be able to fall back on what they have learned, when they need it. 

How do we teach the simple meaning of Scripture? The Apostle's Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer by using the Heidelberg Catechism to make it plain. I guess I don't understand what hold's people back from explaining the Scriptures by using the Confessions. The whole idea of creating them in the first place was to make the Scriptures make sense to the common church member. I suspect that for those who find them out of step or out of reach for the average church member's theological grasp are those who, themselves, haven't been trained in them. I'm a bit concern by remarks like, "The Confession's language doesn't speak to me". Again, why is that? Where has our confessionally based church failed to make what is supposed to define us make sense and be relevant to the average person in the pew as well as the person in the street?

My passion is to strengthen the love for our confessions.

It is beautiful to see six high school students in my profession of faith class be able to clearly explain verbally to me and before the elders ULTIP, the inerrency and infallability of scripture, the substitutionary atonement, and other truths. Our confessions are not out of touch if high school students can verbally explain key doctrines I taught from those confessions.

We have a man in his young 20s and a woman in her mid fifties. Both come from prison backgrounds. They are hungry for the Word. What better way to teach them about the faith than take them through our confessions? They are hungry for truth and eat the complicated and uncomplicated stuff right up.

These two attended a synod awareness class I hosted last month. When they saw the difference in the CO vs the FOS, they were offended our denomination would consider removing the language "fully agree with God's Word" and "defend."

I'm not happy at all with the new Covenant.  Just like the old FOS, it keeps us all firmly on a foundation of dishonesty.

I'm talking about the three confessions: BC/HC/CD.  I've heard for years that these confessions give us our identity, since we all agree with them.  Actually what unites us is our willingness to say (or sign our name) that yes--we agree with all these. 

This is embarassing to many of us, and very manipulative.  A young person in our church cannot even officially profess his faith in God without also "agreeing" with these confessions.  (Yes, that is in the form which is used, and it doesn't matter if they've never even looked at these documents.)  The same is true, of course, for all office bearers.  Many of these (most??) have also never looked at the documents in question. (Well--parts of the catechism are well known, but definately not the others.)

Not many of your commenters will agree, but it would be refreshingly honest to admit that these old documents are well past their "use by" date.  What is it that we really do believe today?  Don't we have the resources within the denomination to produce a new confession?

In the world of computers today, we click on all sorts of buttons to signify our acceptance of contracts and terms which we haven't read or understood.  But this is no way to operate within a faith community.  It's not the type of community we want to be any longer.

John Zylstra on June 28, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mark, the path of dishonesty is not the FOS or its equivalent.  The path of dishonesty is in failing to teach the confessions, failing to read them and understand them.   The path of dishonesty is in disregarding them but signing the FOS or making the profession of faith in willful ignorance. 

The confessions are the way of clarifying our common beliefs and understandings of scripture.  Without having some understanding of the confessions, we don't know if we are united or not. 

Two years ago, we had an adult bible study going through the Heidelberg again.   All members of this class were professing members who had already agreed to the confessions, but a refresher is good from time to time.

When my daughter was eleven years old, she wondered about participating in the Lord's Supper.  I said she could but she needed to read thru the Heidelberg first.   So she did.  She read aloud the entire Heidelberg in my presence over the course of about four days, and asked questions where she had questions.   This was not a formal profession of faith in terms of membership but a sufficient understanding for participating in communion.   I think we sometimes wait too long to get discussing these confessions with our children, and underestimate their potential to understand.  And we worry about their potential to actually disagree with parts of the confessions if they begin to understand and know what they say.   We ought to leave that part in God's almighty hands. 


What a great illustration about your daughter comprehending deep and essential truths.

We contemplated doing some VBS material. We looked at how it treated sin. It treated sin so lightly as if just by breakign parents' rules you sin. We decided against the material.

We looked and seemingly found material that treats sin for what it is--total depravity. sin is our actions, but we have a sinful condition we are born in. And we felt unless kids understand how deep our misery really is, they cannot know Jesus. We don't want to teach our kids to be good Pharisees by using moralistic and exemplaristic VBS material. We beleive kids can understand quite well Lord's Day 3.

Why wait until high school to treach them these truths? If we put in the effort as parents and sunday school teachers, our children are much more capable than what some might think.

And for those who have difficulty with the CO, I ask why are you part of this denomination? Is it biblical and Christ-like to purposely cause division of this nature? If you can't sign it, then why are you in the CRC? If you can't buy into the organization then go someplace or submit to the organziation. Those who do not believe women should be in office submit to prevoius decisions, can't you do the same?


I've spent most of the last 20 years teaching confessions to junior high students.  I teach the Belgic and Canons primarily, as another teacher goes through the catechism with our kids in high school.  Junior high is the perfect age to teach these truths to because these kids are just beginning to form a world view that typically doesn't change for people after age 13.  I can identify with Steve's last post totally; we give our professing seniors an 'exit' interview covering many of the same topics Steve mentioned before they leave for college.  What a blessing to know they go out into the world (or Dordt College anyways...) knowing that they have a solid world view underneath them.  Actually, after hearing them respond, I'd be at peace where ever they went to school (even Calvin!) because I know they will not be shaken in their faith.  

Rob- First of all, I've always enjoyed your Banner pieces; that magazine needs more articles like yours.  Your first comment is right on the money.  Although I grew up CRC, I came of age in the 80's when teaching Confessions had fallen out of fashion, and I didn't discover them until later in life.  Thanks to Christian education, I had a Reformed Worldview, but I didn't fully understand its underpinnings; I just had it pounded into my head that we ought to glorify God in all aspects of life.  Why?  Just because.  Upon discovering the back of the Psalter, I struggled with the Cannons at first (in fact, if a student doesn't outright reject them the first time they're taught, they didn't fully understand them), however the more I've studied them and put them to the test, the more I understand the truth they convey as well as the logical consistency between each point of doctrine and how the first four uphold and magnify the fifth- Perseverance of the Saints.  Now I fully understand Soli Deo Gloria!

Mark... I feel sorry for you.  The truths expressed in the Confessions are timeless.  Thank God they do not expire.  I do agree with you that many, if not most, officers subscribe out of ignorance. This is the greatest threat facing our denomination.  I like your EULA analogy- we all click through all that legalese when eagerly installing a new program or app because we just want to enjoy the benefits of the new program and we don't care about details we probably won't understand anyway.  In the same way, people subscribe without thought because it's just a formality required to enjoy the blessings of the church. But your analogy equivocates;  the Confessions are not indiscernible legalese, and aside from the truths they contain the Church has no real blessings to share.

Students don't just tolerate this kind of teaching, they crave it. Kids can spot a scam quicker than any other segment of society. It is no wonder that they are fleeing churches who market only the 'blessings' but teach none of the substance or reasons concerning what they believe or why they believe it.  Mark, you can't just 'click through' a commitment that so many Christians “offered their backs to the stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire” rather than deny the truths of our Confession.

I'm so grateful the Advisory Committee took the teeth out of the Form of Subscription and put them into the new Covenant. I only hope it serves to invigorate Confessional teaching and appreciation in our churches.

I don't understand what concerns someone will have over the Coventnat for Officebearers. To me is very similar to the form of subscription. It seems to me that it procures to be pastoral sensitive while at the same time staying strictly within our confessions. I am a confessional young pastor and I appreciate the Convenant for Officebearers. If there is something I am not seeing, please anyone out there let me know.

I am going to respond to you Jim, but it will only sound more contentious to you, probably. I hope not. But I feely unduly attacked by you calling me "contentious".  I wish you would debate more of the issue at hand rather than talk about process and things like that.

"Needlessy contentious"

1. all the issues I bring forth are legimate issues and can be debated. I have not personally attacked anyone and have been respectful of all positions.

2. Just because what I bring up may be controversial doesn't mean the ideas shouldn't be discussed. This is the purpose of such blogs to discuss. Yeah, I raise tough questions, but that again is the purpose of such blogs.

"alienated readers"

1. What could cause someone to be alienated? My comments are no different in essence as what Chad and John post. If people don't like discussing hot topics or if my conclusions don't match up with what they beleive of course they won't read. I am alieated by many blogs other people write, but I don't complain. I respect other positions no matter what they are. It seems that just because people don't like what I write all of sudden I become contentious.

"But your responses clearly show that either you don't understand the rigours and processes of denominational

and committee work or you don't consider such subtle"

1. I appreciate the hard work invovled. I just didn't appreciate the outcome of the work of the first versions.

2. I have been on an advisory committee and worked with people who have come up wirth reports. I understand the work and debate and hair splitting issues.

3. I don't know see how writing about the importance of "fully agree" and "defend" and how the first versions of the CO missed this and what a danger that posed doesn't appreciate the work of the committee. What people are concerned about was the outcome. And that is what I am calling attention to.

"Thus what happened at Synod this year was simply not a major revision"

1. I don't want to repeat here. But the addition of "fully agree" and "defend" do constitute a major change. Becuase without that language we in essence open ourselves up to not having doctrinal standards. As Chad says, the advisosry committee took the teeth from the old and put it in the new.

2. again, I assert the only reason why the vote was unanimous was because of the addition of the langauge "fully agree." Othwise, the debate likely would have raged on like in 2011.

"whose doctrines fully agree with the Word of God" is by nomeans close to saying that the particular articulations of those doctrines in the confessions themselves fully agree with that Word."

1. Is this the loophole everybody wanted? I can beleive in election b/c the BC mentions it, but I will really believe in the Arminian idea of election? However, it doens't hold up.

2. the way a doctrine is articluated is a doctrine! It is to say the same thing! Your comment doesn't make sense to me.

James Dekker on June 30, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Steve--Thanks for your more expanded comments. Now this is finally getting to be fun! In fact the latest string of comments from Bev and Chad deepen and broaden the discussion--so thanks to both of you as well.

No, you don't sound as contentious as I alleged you to be in earlier comments. You are now articulating your points with some detail. Earlier you were, say, a bit terse. Not now. That is good. What's better is that your comments seem surely to point out to me at least something I've always expected when debating issues w/ people w/ whom I rarely or ever agree. And the point is this: It is clear that you and I are pretty deeply committed the the Scriptures, creeds, confessions and (in my case at least) Contemporary Testimony. I am more than happy to say that you and I will agree to disagree about major changes in the Covenant of Officebearers.

You read me rightly when you say that I have up to this point argued or discussed significantly about process. Here's why: the late great Calvin Sem prof Marion ("Spud") Snapper pounded it into our heads over and over: "Process IS content." That's why I emphasized the marvel of the process of deliberation and cafreful negotiation at advisory committee and in plenary at Synod that developed so splendidly this year--especially in comparison w/ several other synods I attended or paid attention to closely. I believe that the Spirit guides such processes or we ignore the Spirit to our peril and content deteriorates.

Thus when I alleged "contentiousness," I was referring to the tone and relative terseness of the first two comments you wrote. Your tone changed in your latest comment. You were engaged, passionate, but more understanding--even though we will continue to disagree. And now: I am sorry you felt unduly attacked. I did not mean to attack. I did intend gently to reprove. If you took it the way I did not mean it, I take responsibility. I recognize fully that Chad and John Z and you generally are saying the same thing, but they were more complete in their earlier responses--as you have been more complete in your latter respone.

Now, I'm not sure how to respond to your comment about doctrines and the articulations of doctrines. Let me try with this: Let's say we're discussing the DOCTRINE of infant baptism. I know at least five or six different articulations of that doctrine outside the Reformed tradition. They are all the same doctrine, but articulated differently. I know which one I defend (I know you'll like that word!!!); I know which ones I do not agree with and have argued against them.

Similarly, I think within our Reformed confessions themselves we have the doctrines of ecclesiology, baptism, atonement and many others. But the Belgic Confession goes on at great length about ecclesiology, whereas the Heidelberg Catechism spends only a couple of questions and answers on it. Thus the same doctrines are articulated differently--and I would argue more accurately and less accurately in different confessions.

I hope that is helpful--not because it gives a loophole to anyone. Rather, saying "whose doctrines fully agree with the Word of God" keeps reminding us all of the hierarchy of writings: The writings start with the Scriptures--"pasa graphe theopneustos." Those Scriptures are then interpreted by humans who are devout, dedicated, intelligent, but not theopneustoi.  That's why confessions can contain errors--as we have confessed in both the Belgic Confessions and the Heidelberg Catechism.

Regardless, those confessions do define where we stand  within the traditions of Christianity and in God's world. Those are the confessions I teach, preach and significantly defend. As I wrote to Rob Braun yesterday, my sermons and our services refer to or directly teach confessions and creeds very frequently. I signed the FOS 35 years ago. I signed the Covenant for Officebearers last Sunday with more understanding and gratitude that I was capable of 35 years ago. The Covenant (with or without the changes made) would for me have had the same binding character as the FOS did. Others did not agree and we found out way in community together. 

Someday I'd like to talk to you one on one--face to face or over the phone? Maybe that'll happen sooner rather than later. 


Rob Braun on June 30, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I know your love for the confessions. I know it personally because I have witnessed your examination of Licensed Exhorters and Ministers of the Word when you were in my Classis as well in sermons in which I've heard you give. This I have absolutely no doubt about. My concern is by taking the route of a "Covenant" we are basically conceding that the Confessions are some how inadequate, or are too theologically obtuse to hold anyone's conscience obligated to them. Again, why did we feel we needed to go this route instead of putting into affect a program to promote the relevance of the confessions in our world today and help our people understand their simple theological beauty? As I pointed out before, the "Covenant" puts us on the wrong path going in the wrong direction. My fear is, if we keep going in this direction, we as a movement or denomination will become theologically irrelevant. We'll be mirroring the philosophy of the darkened world around us rather than shining the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, this after all is the reason for the confessions-they are written to aid in making clear the simple meaning of the Gospel.

My comment addresses thoughts about whether these confessions are relevant and how we might struggle with them.  I think this thread brings out those concerns, even though maybe it wasn't the primary intent of the article, and maybe these concerns need to be discussed in another thread, but I see questions being stirred up through this discussion.

so one question I have is, where can we discuss our concerns with these confessions?  the areas that we struggle with...without being in danger of being tried for heresy?  or struggling privately with it for many years, and then leaving the denom. because there's no healthy place to discuss our struggles/doubts.  iron sharpens iron, and I think that is something we all want so...

I will risk it here ;)..

   I will ris  I I would say these documents are mostly relevant at a foundational level (although it would be interesting to have a discussion on the doctrine of election, particularly including those from other denominations, because I cringe sometimes when we arrogantly think we are more "right" than other denoms.... Ez. 18:23-32 comes to mind re election, we could have an interesting discussion on infant baptism as well), but my main struggle with these documents, is that there are gaps - that is what can make them irrelevant regarding certain aspects of scripture... 

and so here are a few of my thoughts... 

b4 i start, here's a list of acronyms  =) just in case... PH = Psalter Hymnal, HC = Heidleberg Catechism, Q&A = question and answer, CD = Canons of Dordt, and BC = Belgic Confession

Ok, this thread prompted me to pull out the PH and read through the HC again, a few nights ago, and also read through the CD and BC...   I want to honor the creeds and confessions, and recognize that there is a lot of solid "stuff" (sorry, I'm not going to get too technical) in them and they give a solid foundation to our faith, but there are things I struggle with...  the last section of HC Q&A 80, is one example.  Another aspect I struggle with, is that there are gaps... for example in Q&A 83, 2 keys of the Kingdom are mentioned, I believe there are several and possibly many more keys, such as love and prayer and obedience and ???,but the HC only mentions 2 here...  same  w. Q&A 65, are there more ways that our faith is confirmed?  When we use the catechism, are we only sticking to those 2 points, or are we expanding it to include more?  or do we miss out on other ways, because we just focus on what the catechism gives us?

In the BC, we have support for the offices of pastor, elder and deacon, but what about prophets, evangelists and teachers (and apostles is an entire discussion in itself)?

Then between all of them, I think only the HC briefly mentions the gifts of the Spirit (Q&A51).  But what do those gifts include... What is the gift of prophecy?   What is a word of wisdom through the Spirit?  What is a word of knowledge through the Spirit? 

So, as the prophetic gifting is being stirred up these days, these historic confessions and creeds don't give me a whole lot to connect with on this particular aspect, so in this way they are not relevant.  Make sense?  I hope through the Spirit it does...

so in conclusion, both sides are right... they can be relevant or irrelevant, depending on what we're discussing...

all right, this has opened the door on some other questions, that yes, I think need to be discussed and wrestled with in an honest, open way...  I think that will help bring ownership to what we believe, instead of just getting spoon fed the traditional position, however right that might be.







Greetings, Bev, from the sunny side of the Cascades.

First of all, excellent questions! I wish all of our members would start asking questions like this!

Neither the Form of Subscription nor our new Covenant was ever designed to keep members or officers of the church from asking difficult questions about our Confessions.

I don't think it is arrogant to consider our confessional positions as being more right than other perspectives any more than I would consider someone arrogant for asserting that 4 is the only right answer to 2+2. Many theological claims are subjective, but most are quite absolute. We base our confidence not on our own intellect, but rather on the clarity of scripture regarding a particular doctrine. For example, scripture is quite clear about election, fairly clear about covenant theology (re: infant baptism), and somewhat clear about eschatology (end times), so it would not be arrogant for me to consider ourselves more correct than the Arminians regarding election, but it would be arrogant of me to tell a post-millennialist that he's completely wrong simply because I'm a-millennial.

I love the word you use several times- struggle. IMHO, struggling is the key to learning theology. I could answer the questions you list here straight out, and you might agree with me or you might not. But my advice to you is to keep struggling. Each question you answer will lead to five more questions, and although the questions are difficult, most of them have answers. God does preserve mystery for sure, but He provides far more answers than what He keeps hidden.

Your questions about QA 83 are a perfect example. Why did Ursinus list preaching and discipline, but not love, prayer, obedience, etc? These attributes do have things in common, but what makes them different? How do the scripture references listed in QA 83 compare with references regarding love, prayer, etc? Get Ursinus' commentary on the Heidelberg and read about this in much more detail. Check out the Westminster standards and see how they treat this topic. Finally, read 84 and 85, and then try and develop your own answers to how the kingdom is opened and closed via love or prayer or obedience. In a sense, the theological method is not much different than the scientific method. You have a hypothesis, now test it over and over and see if it's consistent with scripture.

That process is certainly more difficult that just getting the answer given to you, but when you struggle through it you will own the answer- it will have tremendous value to you then. As an added bonus, you will get to see the extraordinary wisdom that God assembled in the writers of our Confessions, and why their teaching is hugely relevant to contemporary issues. To use your words, “that will help bring ownership to what we believe, instead of just getting spoon fed the traditional position, however right that might be.”

I pray God blesses you as you put His Word to the test!

Bev Sterk on June 29, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

thanks Chad, for your thoughtful reply...  if you and family are ever on the less sunny side of the cascades, up in Lynden area, would love to connect with ya'll  =)... 

I don't agree that some of our positions are as clear as we would like to think...  that's why we have so many denominations with varying doctrines on baptism (infant, believer and baptism of the Holy Spirit) election and pre-destination (inclusivism/exclusivism), communion, (symbolic, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, etc), end times (a mill, pre mill, post trib, mid trib etc), because the diversity of doctrines tells me it is not clear, and the biblical support is sometimes stronger for another position.  These have been debated over the ages, and we are still debating them with brothers and sisters in Christ.  I have some concern for our positions, because of our history of cessationism... how did we get that one so wrong?   This was a huge error.   If we weren't intentionally listening to the Spirit historically or moving fully in the prophetic gifting for the prior several centuries, how much is our own thinking/understanding, and what was Spirit led?   Even 40 years after the crc refuted cessationism, it seems we are still very cautious and skeptical of the gifts of the Spirit, of how God speaks to us through His Spirit, to lead and guide us daily in our walk with Him.   I know there are reasons, but we it seems we close the door on it for a variety of reasons, instead of how do we walk in the prophetic gifting in a biblical way.

Now, because God is God, and a generous and gracious God and He loves us as part of His Bride, He has been leading us to some extent through the Spirit, but I can only shake my head with sadness at what we have missed because we have not been intentionally listening to Him through prayer, because we have not been walking in the prophetic gifting that the Spirit has given us (well that depends on one's definition of the prophetic gifting).     Cessationism has caused us to significantly miss walking in the power of the Spirit, and instead primarily rely on our intellect.

and since you mentioned the Westminster, so when the Westminster confessions says in Ch 1.I regarding the Holy Scripture... "...those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.[6]

 "  How do you understand, what ways have ceased?  was the WC only referring to God inspiring more canon (which we all agree on), or was it referring to God speaking prophetically to us, for a specific time, place, people, etc. (which we don't agree on)?  As I understand, this is part of how cessationism became part of our history... 

again, not sure if this is the thread to discuss this, but these are questions behind the FOS and COB, i will keep wrestling, but part of that wrestling, is others sharing their insights and how they got to their position on whatever it is, that which is called a testimony  =)  so keep sharpening and sharing!!

and I'm not so sure, if we do have safety in questioning some deeply held positions when we don't end up at the same place as the confessions, especially if you are a pastor or spiritual leader.

Chad Werkhoven on June 30, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well, you're right- the debate about cessationalism would be a topic for a whole new thread, but I'll take a stab at what's relevant to the discussion regarding the FoS & COB.

As I understand it, our Confessions are not a comprehensive set of doctrines, but rather a foundational framework by which we interpret and evaluate every doctrine. In regards to this topic, officers are obligated to agree that the Spirit is poured out on us (QA 51) and that the Spirit makes us share in Christ and all His benefits... (QA 53), as well as any other specific confessional teaching on this subject. Since the confessions are largely silent on specific gifts of the Spirit, an officer would be permitted to teach that Glossolalia remains an active gift, but this teaching must be not done in a way that binds the conscience of one who can demonstrate from scripture (or by good and necessary consequence thereof, to borrow from our Presbyterian brothers) that the Spirit no longer works this way. You and I could vehemently disagree about cessationalism yet remain confessionally united as long as we agree that the Spirit is poured out on Christians. Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong here.

I've studied the Westminster Standards as well, and having done so I'm so grateful I belong to a 3 Forms church. The Westminster's are fantastic documents, and indeed they are extremely helpful and enlightening, but they are way too specific to honestly subscribe to. Your mention of WCF 1.1 is one of many examples. Scripture does not shed nearly as much light as we would like on this topic, so the Confessions should not be overly binding in this area.

So, let's say your study in this area or any of the other struggles you've mentioned leads you to a conclusion at odds with the confessions- there is a process to bring this to the table through gravamens. It's arduous for sure, but it should be. It's a big deal. We are all seekers of the truth, and if you find an error in our core beliefs, I for one want to know about it. If, however, after being properly evaluated by your council / classis / synod you are found to be wrong, you would need to humbly submit and not go down that road any more. If after this a person still feels strongly about their proposition, they need to break fellowship and go to a group more in line with their theology. This is a terrible prospect, but I would have far more respect for a person who goes through this process than one who 'crosses their fingers' when subscribing.

Bev Sterk on June 30, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

again, thx.   =)... good sharpening... Yes, I agree the documents are foundational, and not complete, but that's what makes them relevant and irrelevant at the same time, depending on what we are discussing  =)...

and now James Dekker thinks this is fun =), HAHAHA... and i'm sitting here with sweaty palms wondering what I got myself into  =).. but that's mostly because I just read John Macarthurs views on the prophetic, which I struggle with his views because of his cessationist position (and the comments are nasty toward those who are open to the prophetic, basically saying you can't be part of the "true church" if you think God speaks to anyone other than through scripture) and that's not fun... anyway, it has been fun sharpening with you, thanks for being much more gracious than JMC... but I do have to run for now, and look forward to future discussions on cessationism, the prophetic, etc. 

Rob Braun on June 30, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I was a Charismatic Pastor for nearly 15 years and worked very closely with that movement with the blessing of my Classis for about 5 of those years, Believe it or not, the group I'm working with is very, very interested in Calvinism. Why not? Calvin is renown as the "Theologian of the Holy Spirit." In fact, a string of these churches I inter-act with even have a Bible School that teaches out of Berkhof's Systematic Theology and Calvin's Institutes. Also, some years back I was invited into a church to teach a church history class and then a theology class. The HIstory book was RB Kuiper's and the theology was from Berkhof's "Church in History". I also taught the Heidelberg Catechsim in one church. Along with this, there is an ever growing interest in Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist movement as well. Just take a look at Christianity Today on line. It is article after article about this growing trend among our Baptist brethern. We are sitting on the edge of an explosion of interest in Reformed teaching in the Evangelical church community. So, my simple point is; Why are we acting like we're getting tired of being Reformed right when everybody else around us is just getting excited about it? We need to appreciate what we have, getting excited ourselves about it's simple beauty and being prepared to explain the hope that is in us. We have answers that many, many fellow Christians are very interested in. We can help them by helping ourselves.

so we discussed the prophetic a bit at the prayer gathering I was at tonight, and the book "convergence" by Sam Storms was mentioned, it's a book about the convergence of the charismatic and Calvinism ... BOQ...I appreciate the difficult task of trying to communicate to different worlds when you have one foot in both. As the author says, you open yourself up to being shot at from both directions EoQ.

    I Hmmm, I can relate to that... oh what fun =) 

Thanks, Beverly, Chad and Rob. This is getting interesting, informative and helpful. And since I'm ready for my doubleheader tomorrow and have some time after returning from a b'day party, I'll chip in here.

Yes--a "3 forms" church I too find advantageous, somewhat more versatile, since the forms are so different, while closely related. They serve(d) different purposes for different users/audiences. Yet Chad is right that they never end up being able to state the truth  completely. There are always gaps, omissions, teachings that could be stated more clearly, more felicitously, etc. But they are fine foundational documents. 

We're wondering about cessationism, which to me also seems erroneous. We say we preach the Word of God in sermons, but then handicap ourselves with cessationism. The confessions to consider the canon closed, of course,.  I believe there is room in them, however, for contemporary prophecy (telling forth and foretelling [w/ modesty, humility, in community]) to be permitted, encouraged. Hence the charismatic contributions that Rob describes.

But we shouldn't be surprised about cessationism broadly believed and applied within and outside the CRC. Tony Hoekema  who taught at CTS for decades was as strict a cessationist as Macarthur, We had LOTS of talks about that in classes! 

But keep going, Bev. And I do want to respond more fully to Rob also. I will do so more fully later, but for now, Rob, I'm still not getting your difficulty w/ Cov for Off, It seems to me that it is doing precisely what you are hoping for--opening confessional living and conversation up to a larger group of sisters and brothers w/in the CRC and outside in other traditions--like Reformed Baptists. We're not loosening bonds; I pray we're opening doors for conversation and work w/ other believers who indeed are looking for confessionality. 


By the way, Mary Vanden Berg teaches a pretty well-subscribed course every year or two at CTS on Creeds and Confessions, but I don't know its content or her approach. Anyone else know the course?

Rob Braun on July 2, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I guess I haven't made my biggest concern over the CO. It is that it allows Office Bearers to not agree with the confessional doctrines of the church and yet still be allowed to "Guard the Table and the Pulpit." This is where I'm concerned the most. I guess I have been beating around the bush here way too much. My concern is that we could easily allow someone into the Eldership of the church that is a three point, two point, none point Calvinist. (5 point is a full Calvinist-Tulip-for those who were wondering). As a case in point: We even had to make a synodical statement on "Infant Baptism" at this very same Synod because it too is starting to lose favor for many in the CRC. Again, the Officers of the Church are there to protect the biblical, theological and confessional integrity of the church and its pulpit. How can they do that if they don't agree with, or simple don't know or understand, what it is we believe? (And whose fault is that they don't understand the confessions of the church?) In my opinion, we'll end up with the "King/Prophet Pastor" who alone declares and knows what it is that the church will believe. I've already been through that and I don't want to see or wish this experience on anyone else, especially for us in the CRC.

great comments Rob. I greatly appreciate your passion for a confessional foundatoin for churches.


I have a question for you. Where do you see that the CO allows for people to be 3 point calvinsts and things like that?

to me, the language of "fully agree with God's Word" takes care of that. Jim seems to find a loop hole in that only the doctrines agree with God's word but not the articulation of those doctrines. However, an articulation of a doctrine is a doctrine, isn't it?

I hope this makes sense. I am trying to be concise. very concise.

Rob Braun on July 3, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes, Yes Yes, Steve, you are entirely right. The CO statement is ambiquious but the original intent of it was to give a loop hole for people who were never educated in the confessions, didn't understand them or simply don't agree with them. This here is my original concern: Why did we feel when churches sent us ovetures that their office bearers didn't understand or know the confessions that they were signing, why did we feel that "dumbing things down" for them was the answer rather than pursuing the opposite direction and come up with a way to get them educated?

By the way, I do a series of teachings on the Catechism that is basically what I feel the job of the confessions are for-"The Simplicity of the Gospel."

Chad Werkhoven on July 4, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I totally agree with your question - "Why did we feel when churches sent us ovetures that their office bearers didn't understand or know the confessions that they were signing, why did we feel that "dumbing things down" for them was the answer rather than pursuing the opposite direction and come up with a way to get them educated?"

In fact, the FoS Committee report stated it even more plainly- that they realized the issue was not about the means of subscription, but rather the nature, necessity, and rationale of confessional subscription at all.  In other words, the Form of Subscription clearly was not the problem, the problem was all of the officers who either skipped the subscription process altogether, or even worse, signed knowing they had issues, or in most cases signed out in a state of complete ignorance.

You're right, Rob.  If we don't address the root problem of theological, confessional and even scriptural illiteracy within our walls, it won't matter what document we give them to sign.  

If I were CRC pope for a day I would put nearly every other program and agency on hold and focus all efforts on building strong consistories of elders and deacons throughout this denomination.  Isn't that the core mission anyway?  Sustaining healthy congregations?  Speaking as a CRC elder, we're not getting much - scratch much - ANYTHING - from the denomination to help us address this critical need.

Jim, I would love a discussion on cessationism - maybe a different thread, as cessationism is an underlying reason why we might not be open to the prophetic.  As Rob alludes to as well, it has been abused, when you get a controlling type leader who abuses it, and a council/congregation that doesn't understand how to test it.   A key test is that the person sharing the "insight" is open to having it tested.  If they aren't then, that's a pretty indicator that it might not be the LORD. 

It seems there are so many misunderstandings surrounding the prophetic, and having a 500 year tradition of cessationism is significant, I think much more so, than we realize.  For example, if J Calvin is considered to be the "theologian of the Holy Spirit", and yet was a cessationist, that does not make sense to me (I'm going to do some research on that)... 

The good news, is we/crc do have a strong leadership structure in place, instead of a monarchy type arrangement, and we/crc do have strong foundational confessions to keep us together, and as believers, we do all have the same Holy Spirit, so if we are listening to Him together, theoretically, we will come together on whatever issue or question we might have... 

I am currently studying the prophets and their prayer life, and seeing a pretty strong correlation...

anyway, lots of food for thought, am very interested in a discussion regarding cessationism/the prophetic for some good sharpening



Rob Braun on July 3, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


 I’d be more than happy to discuss the subject of cessationism. But to stay on this point, you picked up my concerns about our Charismatic/Pentecostal brethren which have the same concerns I have about using the CO. I started with the Charismatic movement way back in 1971. I saw it in its infant origins arising out of the early Jesus People Movement. And, you have picked up from what I previously wrote why I believe it is so very important to have some sort of confession to hold leadership accountable to as well as the people in the pews. In most of these churches, accountability runs only one way. Another problem with this movement is that virtually every one of these churches came into existence as a personality cult of one sort of another. We don’t allow that here in the CRC. Our church order tells us that no officer of the church is above another and nor is any church above another.  Biblical accountability is the bottom line for me and to this day, despite all the abuses I witnessed through the years, very few of these churches will allow true bottom to top, top to bottom accountability. The reason? These churches very existence were started around one or more particularly gifted individuals. Remove them or tarnish their reputations and the whole house of cards come tumbling down. I wrote an article in the Banner on this. Check it out. But, bottom line, my concern with the CO is the accountability issue. As I wrote before, how can leadership who either don't agree with our confessions or plainly don’t know or understand them, be able to guard the pulpit in our churches? We need a theological upgrade in our churches when it comes to understanding and appreciating the confessions, not a downgrade. Spiritual abuse comes when there is no accountability and that is what I witnessed over and over again through the past forty years. We start backing away from our creeds and confessions and what we will be left with is a church movement filled with personality cults and spiritual abuse. "“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35 This is what a confessionally based church is about!

Bev Sterk on July 4, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks Rob... appreciate the thoughts you share, and your background in this...  will read the article in a bit, and just curious when you use "CO" is that the new covenant for officebearers or the church order? 

Yes, accountability aka testing, is a key to walking in the prophetic on behalf of the Bride of Christ...  it cannot be done in a controlling manner... and yes, the personality thing is a problem, as we are always to reflect Christ, we must decrease, become less, and He must increase, become greater...

Again, I truly believe God is converging these streams, the charismatic and the calvinist... we/crc, have much to offer in the way of structure (dba church order), and a solid foundation (aka the creeds and confessions)... and a love for the Word... Scripture is always the plumline - the universal canon, everything must line up with scripture, Who God is as revealed in His Word...

However, we will not walk in the prophetic, if we believe God doesn't "speak" to us anymore, and that's what the cessationist position holds... I think there is confusion here... the God inspired universal canon, the Bible as we know it, is closed.  I believe a significant majority (90%+) of both streams agree on this.  The Spirit inspired prophetic insights we receive today, are not universal, therefore they are not canon, not scripture... today's prophecy is for a specific time, place, and person or people for the building up of the Church, His Bride (I Cor. 14).  Sometimes it is a calling... how do pastors know they are "called", it doesn't say in scripture, in 2012. these 43 people will be called into ministry in the crc... yet, pastors say they are "called" by God to that ministry...

I still have to do some more research on J Calvin and why he thinks they ceased... haven't found the exact reference in his institutes yet, just stmts. that say he already addressed that somewhere else, and so he won't repeat it where i was reading... 


Bev Sterk on July 4, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hey Rob... exactly which Banner article were you referring to, as I see there are several...  and I'm thinking CO is the new covenant based on re-reading your post...

Rob Braun on July 5, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Here's the link for the article I was referring to.

It's called; Confessions: Why have them? You can find it by going to the Banner's home page and then type in my name or the name of the article and it should show up.

Bev, you raise some good questions. And I have learned a lot from the discussions.

You ask where in Calvin's Institutes does he talk about cessationism. I have found his remarks on this subject in his commentaries. Read his commentaries on 1 Cor 12-14 (prophecy and tongues) and James 5 (healing). I just read it on James 5 a few weeks ago in preparation for a sermon.

Also, the idea that cessationism teaches God doesn't speak to us any more today is a misunderstanding. This position teaches God does speak to us today in his living Word. What was written in the Bible many years ago still applies to us today. Through the preaching of the Word explained and applied to us God speaks.

The topic is confessions in this thread. And this does relate to the confessions. Those who are more Charismatic, i could use some help more in understanding how you look at our confessions in light of the Charismatic teachings.

For example, Belgic Confession 5 says that only the book recognized as canonical can be used for the regulating, founding, and establishing our faith. And Belgic Confession 7 says that the Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely.

So if our confessions keep us within boundaries as we have been discussing, how can a Charismatic view of "prophecy" fit within our confessional basis? doesn't the Charistmatic view of God speaking in individual situations through dreams, visions, internal thoughts or whatnot, contradict BC 7? Why do we need "other ways" of speaking if his will is perfectly contained in the Bible?

I am curious to learn more about the position I have not had much interaction with. So thanks for discussing.

Rob Braun on July 5, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 1 Cor.14:1

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 1 Cor.14:39

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 1 Thess.5:19-20

These are a few of the many passages that speak of the expected prophetic nature of the New Testament Church. Even the Pentecost experience of Acts 2 is based on the words of the Prophet Joel declaring the prophetic nature of the church era in these words; “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

So what do we do with these very explicit biblical texts that tell us the Apostles themselves understood that a key characteristic of the church was to be its prophetic nature? It is a quandary for many in the church today. The reason is because if we forbid prophecy we almost seem to remove the very thing that was to make the difference between the Old and New Testament eras. Prophecy, according to the prophet Joel, was going to be the defining difference. Prophecy, according to the prophet Joel, was going to be an almost common experience of every believer.

So how do we not quench the Spirit and still be eager to prophesy, not forbidding the speaking in tongues, all the while still doing everything in a fitting and orderly way. It was obviously a very difficult task in the churches under the leadership of the Apostle Paul as can be seen in 1 Corinthians 14 and in my own 40 years of experience a nearly impossible one in the church today. In my opinion, when churches are running rampant with every wind of doctrine and an everyman for himself kind of theologies, the prophetic ends up being a tool of control and spiritual abuse rather than an instrument of love as 1 Corinthians 13 tells us it should be.

So going to the point at hand, the necessity of Creeds and Confessions are what is supposed to keep us biblically and spiritually honest. They lay down a foundation that keeps anything done in the Spirit or the flesh in check. Traditionally, in the Reformed Church, preaching was understood as being prophecy. I also believe much prayer is very prophetic as well. But as for what goes on in many Charismatic churches, what passes for prophecy is often heresy unchecked (although I’ll admit not always). I left my ministry in the Charismatic church to join the CRC over this very issue. There was hardly a prayer meeting or church service I went to that someone would shout out, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and put all sorts of ridiculous, unbibilical and heretical words in God’s mouth totally unchecked and unchallenged by those who we’d consider “Officers of the Church”. I even wrote a paper for a Pastors group on this entitled; “Crises of Conscience.” My main two points were based on two of the Ten Commandments. The first was “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” and the second, the ninth commandment, “Do not bear a false witness” and I added to this, “especially against God”.

So whether we are a charismatic church or not, a solidly confessionally based church makes a lot of sense because, as our Belgic Confession says in Article Seven concerning “The Sufficiency of the Scriptures” that “all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.”

I really, really appreciate you being willing to discuss cessationism (it seems Jim is ok with us changing course a bit on this thread, and still trying to keep it tied to the confessions  =) so as long as he's having fun, we're good right? =)

Thank you Steve, for being honest... that brought tears to my eyes...

3 scriptures that I pray often for the church/crc/Bride of Christ, but not as consistently as I should are:

Eph. 1:17-18... That we have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, that the eyes of our hearts are opent to know God more fully...  I could write a chapter on this passage alone, how God "gave" me this scripture 5 different "random" ways over 4 days, the weekend He "reopened" my ears to hear Him and my eyes to see Him, in His Divine orchestestration.  Only one time was it directly from scripture.   I will quick list them... one, it was workshop title "Open the eyes of our hearts"... 2, it was part of the scripture used at a friend's memorial svc., 3 it was in the book I bought at the conference I was at that weekend... 4, it was in a song, as I was working on preparing the childrens Christmas worship service, and 5 on Sunday morning on my way to church, I hear a chord on my radio that was turned low, turn it up, and it is "open the eyes of my heart LORD!"   So was it miraculous, yes, as to have all 5 of those very different ways of emphasizing that passage over 4 days, the odds are mind blowing... it's never happened again to that extent...

the second passage is Ez. 36:26... for the LORD to give us new hearts and new spirits, to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh...  again, I've had confirmations on this one...

and the 3rd is Malachi 3:2-3 about refining His Bride... the verse in How Firm a Foundation is one of the confirmations... the flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine...  I strongly believe we/crc are in a time of refining...  He is shaking what needs to be shaken, so that which cannot be shaken remains (Hebr. 12:25-28)  ED Joel Boot's state of the church address, confirmed that (at least for me)...

Steve, Rob mentions prophetic prayer... I will share another testimony of how the Holy Spirit prompts... I was driving past a home, that as I drove past I remembered picking those kids up with the bus, when i was in school,but hadn't seen them in 15-20 years... and for whatever reason, I kept thinking about that family... and I thought, "LORD, do you want me to pray for them?"  and I thought, well, either way, if it's the LORD or me, prayer is always a good thing, so I will... so I spent a few minutes praying for that family... and then totally forgot about it... the very next day, I run into one of them... and so I had the opportunity to ask how things were going, and pray with them for their situation...  haven't seen them since...  I don't understand it!  But that's just one story, and I have 100's like that, and others that I pray with have similar testimonies...  Did scripture tell me to pray for that specific family right then, no, but scripture tells me to pray.  The Holy Spirit, in His mysterious way, somehow prompted me to pray for them the very day before I run into someone from that family...  That's prophetic... there is no way I knew I would see them the very next day...  the Holy Spirit prompted me the day before, so I could make a point of talking with her when I saw her, and praying with her and hopefully encouraging her...

as Rob shares, unfortunately, the prophetic has been horribly abused... what that points out to me, is that the enemy is putting a lot of time and effort into keeping this gift from being used appropriately in the Church.  I believe that indicates there's a reason the enemy is particularly concerned about this gift... because it is such a powerful gift given on behalf of the health of the Church, when we are walking in it in accordance with God's will as revealed through scripture.  That is why, the prophetic is always tested, by others that are sensitive to the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:29-32; and the 2 that Rob referenced -  I John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:19-22)  God warns us in His word, that we will have to wade through claims of prophecy that are not from Him.   That's a given, expect it... that's why it takes a team... a team devoted to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4)... You have to know the Word, and it has to be living and active in your walk (Hebr. 4:12), AND one must spend significant time in prayer because for whatever reason, that is one way we become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8)...  as I study the prophets (looking at Samuel particularly) I see an intercessor someone who was much in prayer (I Sam 12:23 is just one reference to his commitment to prayer), ... Ezekiel was called a "watchman"

Please, please, don't hesitate to test what I share - I crave the sharpening (iron sharpens iron)... and it HAS to stand the test of God's plumline, His Word.  I have the fear of God, that I do not want to be outside of His plan.  Several years ago, I had a situation, that had me questioning if I was in alignment with Him, and even the thought that I might not be, made me sick to my stomach (i feel nauseous and upset just thinking about it again).  It ended up being a spirit of fear from the enemy, it was awful, but through that, the LORD showed me that I never, never want to be outside of His covering (that's a whole story in itself too).

I ask myself, who am I to question John Calvin, and John MacArthur and many other strong leaders that have held the cessationist view over centuries, Godly men, who know the word, and yet I know we all have the same Holy Spirit leading and guiding us, that will put us on the same page/wave if we are listening and testing together, so, this has to pass the testing check and balance God put in place... and I will share that it was a very, very good day, when I discovered that the crc had refuted cessationism back at synod of 1973!

hope that makes sense, to the extent that it can, considering how the Holy Spirit leads, guides and prompts is a mystery...

I apologize for the length of this post, but it is a something dear to my heart...









Rob Braun on July 5, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Bev, perhaps we should start another discussion group on the issue of the gifts, prophecy, tongues in the church today but to keep on point here: Can you see my reasons for wanting to be in a confessionally based church? Why I believe it is so important, no matter where you stand on the “Charismatic issue”? It doesn’t matter, the confessions lay a foundation, a common ground upon which we all agree is the way we understand the heart of the Scriptures. As I mentioned in my article in the Banner that I had you read, “Confessions: Why do we need them?” the Apostle Paul warns us to be careful about what foundation we build our faith upon. 1 Cor. 3:10-15 The biggest mistake many people make is the idea that we constantly need a “New and Improved” belief system to be able to draw people to Christ. It is the opposite that is actually true. In the Canon of the Scriptures Paul says in Roman 1:16-17; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed —a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

            There is much more I could say to all of this but the bottom line is: Can you understand why I so deeply believe that we need to commit to a common understanding, interpretation of the Good News of Jesus that syncs up with the historical body of Christ in the Creeds and the Confessions?

Bev Sterk on July 7, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Rob,  I hope to respond to the questions in your post more fully, when I have more time, but what I'm thinking is that there is something even more foundational than the confessions that we need to focus on (so I'm not saying they are irrelevant, but there's something deeper)...  and I believe that is prayer in and with the Spirit...  I was thinking about it again this morning, then went to spend some time in the word, and I opened to Zechariah, not intentionally choosing that at all...  read through chapter 4, and the verse that tells us how God is building His Church is 4:6... not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of Hosts...  I will elaborate more fully on this later and share my testimony of when the Spirit transformed my faith, from duty to delight, and it was through seeking Him in prayer that that the Spirit stirred up a hunger to be in His Presence/draw near to Him through prayer, the Word and worship...

Rob Braun on July 7, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)


I can’t wait to read about the life changing spiritual experience you’ve had. I love to hear about this from people who have come to know our Lord in a deeper spiritual way. I suspect you and I have had similar experiences but there is something here in your reply that makes me wonder what happened to your view of the confessions that perhaps makes them seem dry and unspiritual. (Bad Teachers-No teachers?) You see, I didn’t grow up with them and only came upon them as a young adult in my own spiritual quest for theological and biblical stability. I came to them through a Dutch Theologian named G.C. Berkouwer. I was searching for some spiritual meat rather than the usual experiential emptiness that I had been hearing from the pulpits at the time. When I went through his explanation of the Reformed faith in his 16 volume Reformed Dogmatics a huge light went on for me. After that I read Berkhof , then Calvin’s Institutes, and at least for me, it was only after this that the Bible finally began to make simply sense. You may find it odd that after reading all this heady stuff I’d say that it helped me see the very simple and yet powerful nature of the Good News of Jesus the Messiah. But it really did. This can be a key mistake of some who teach the Reformed faith, sometimes we can get into a situation in our teaching that loses site of the forest for the trees.  


A good example of the simple nature of our confessions that I’m referring to is found LD1. “What is your only comfort in Life and death?” I read this to my son when he was seven and he quickly responded, “Jesus”. Exactly, how simple! The LD tells us that salvation is about Jesus and not really about ourselves. The LD answer, “I not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death to my Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is, of course from 1 Cor.6. It is the foundation of what our Christian faith is built upon. It is the same as when Jesus says in Luke 9:23-25; ““Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” And the Apostle Paul states that the starting point of being a Christian is to declare, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal.2:20


My problem with much of the Charismatic preaching I heard through those decades was that, more often than not, it made salvation sound like it was all about us. It made God sound like he was our genii in a bottle that with the right biblical phrase you can get him to do whatever we wanted him to do rather than the other way around. And even at times it seemed like they’d make the Bible itself sound like a book of magical incantations. 


But salvation in Jesus is not about us, it is about Jesus in us, it is about Jesus owning us, transforming us into his likeness. This means death to self every single day. This is not what I had heard from many pulpits in either the Charismatic church community or from many other pulpits anywhere else at the time. But it is in the opening line in our Catechism, declaring what is simply true about being a Christian, “We are not our own but belong to Jesus!” This is our only comfort.  Everything else in the Catechism, as well as the Canons and Confessions are all rooted to this one phrase, “We are not our own but belong to Jesus!” This is how simple Reformed and, for that matter, Christian teaching really is-Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

So hopefully you can appreciate where I’m coming from on this. I have experienced a profound spiritual transformation after finally getting what the very simple message of the Good news of Jesus is. It has helped me and formed me ever since and I wish I could convince others of the power that I have experienced in this spiritual liberation. And I find that the Confessions bring it all home so simply yet profoundly.

Bev Sterk on July 8, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

thanks for sharing Rob, this is exactly why we need both Spirit and Truth, and a healthy balance of them...

Ok, I don't think I ever said the catechism was dry and unspiritual... I said that they have gaps, such as on the gifts of the Spirit, there's not much there... and it's not the first place I run when I have a question on something related to my faith... 

The Word and prayer are my first resource, and I don't how many times, I will have a question, and often within 24 hours, through Divine orchestration, the Spirit will start to reveal insights and answers in various places...  I remember one time I wanted to find a certain sermon by the Scots revivalist Duncan Campbell... I spent some frustrating time trying to listen to some scratchy sermons of his that were online, with lots of interruptions, since I have little ones, and I gave up...  a few weeks later, when I was working on something totally different, the sermon I was looking for was posted on another site that I "stumbled" on, and had just been posted a week or 2 before I "found" it.

I do believe the LORD will use these confessions and catechism to stir up peoples faith, same as He might use a preacher whose message is based on the Word of God, or powerful and profound writing, ie CS Lewis' writings, Chuck Swindoll, and any number of the theologians...

Having been raised in the crc, attended a CSI school, involved in all the youth programs, sunday school, catechisms, attended a crc college... I have a very strong appreciation for grounding in the Word, and that salvation is only through the grace of Jesus Christ, it is not based on anything we do or merit...  from discussions with other believers that grew up in different denominations, they didn't always get that message at the church they grew up in, and it wasn't until high school or college when they went somewhere else that they heard the gospel of Jesus' grace...  So I appreciate our heritage and reformed foundation of salvation, and realize this is unfortunately rare in other denominations.

Now, one of the gaps I found in our confessions is walking in certain gifts of the Spirit and "hearing" God speak to us in our inner man, and through Divine orchestration, as well as through scripture, and always in alignment with scripture... we're (Crc) are good with the Spirit working in our heart and leading us to Christ, we are good with the Spirit convicting us of sin (though not sure how well we always listen to Him when He's convicting us), and that the Spirit helps illumine scripture, and distributes His gifts - though traditionally these have only been the non-sensational ones... ie like administration and giving and encouraging, and somehow He helps us pray...

so the gap in my life was in high school, I would have amazing conversations with the LORD, but didn't really realize what was going on...  at about that time the new age garbage was coming out, and so since there were mystical similarities, I did not pursue these conversations... my prayer life became dry.. because it became a one way monologue...  for almost 20 years...  no one in the reformed traditions was teaching or training on "listening" to God, that He still does speak to us, now one way, and then another (and of course primarily through His Word)... so I did lots of Bible studies, which is all good of course, and lots of serving which is good too, attended church 2x a Sunday (usually) but it was not the delight that I experience now, since the LORD re-opened the eyes and ears of my heart to His Spirit's leading...  now I crave my time with Him, i love abiding in the "secret place" with Him (Ps. 91:1 NKJV)... last night I had the opportunity for extended worship with other believers... 2 hours flew by... I get to spend most of my days in July contemplating/pondering as I work out in our raspberry field...  I'm hungry for His Living and Active Word and have internalized more scripture in the last 5 years, than I ever did in all my school, catechism and beyond years, and even this morning as I was thinking about your questions, and how I was going to respond, I wanted to spend some time in the Word first...

Before reading Zech. this morning , I was thinking about responding on how the Spirit had transformed my life,   and as I reflected on it, I wasn't sure if it was an infilling by Him, or a stripping away of what was blocking my receptivity to Him...  I concluded it's probably both...  and right after that I read the intro to Zechariah in the Bible that I use, which has a section on "the Holy Spirit at work" for each book of the Bible... and here's what it says:  "Zerubbabel is comforted in the assurances 1) that the rebuilding of the temple will not be by military might our human prowess but by the ministry of the Spirit of God  2) that the Holy Spirit will remove every obstacle that stands against the completion of God's temple."

so 1 would be an infilling, and 2 would be removing what is blocking our receptivity to Him .. ......

that confirmed my "both" conclusion

and God's temple is us, as He indwells us through His Holy Spirit...

I have run into similar types of attitudes like you mention in the charismatic circles, for example, but that is not always the case... if you praise God for 20 minutes at a prayer meeting, then you have invited His Presence and then can request whatever you wish...  one time, when I was praying with them... I felt the LORD was asking for us to keep praising Him... and the prayer leader was on the same wave... but one of the ladies was not!  it was like a punch in the gut... the comment was "we already did this, we don't need to do it again, it's a waste of time" or something like that.. the prayer leader literally fell back in his chair with a very shocked look, and i was in tears, it was so harsh...

amen!  Salvation is not about us... we are Jesus reward... it's all about Him, He deserves the reward (us/our souls) of His suffering... I love this sermon exposing humanitarianism in the Church by Paris Reidhead...  on 10 shekels and a shirt...   here's the link if you aren't familiar with the sermon.  yhr

 the story he shares of when he is in Africa is especially insightful...

I don't think I'm bitter about the cessationist tradition in the crc, as God's sovereignty is a key and well loved doctrine in the reformed tradition, and so I trust He had a reason to let us believe that for so long...  I would say I have some frustration though, that we refuted cessationism almost 40 years ago, and seem to not have made very much progress in moving forward in the more complete power of the Spirit.  I get a little irked when i hear about denominational "dominees" and professors that continued to teach cessationism after 1973...  and i have to be careful not to get too snarky when we point out all these charismatic personalities, and yet John Calvin seems to be one of ours...  granted most of his stuff has stood the test of time...  but it's time the cessationist thinking goes... at least that's my opinion, and unfortunately the confessions and creeds do not address this very well, if at all.

hope that all makes sense... again, thanks for being willing and taking the time to get more in depth here...









It seems that the issue of being true to What God Wants is pertinent to the discussion of prophecy and cessationism.  The reason the creeds and confessions are relevant is that it gives us a way of deciding whether the book of mormon is prophecy or false.  It gives us a way of deciding whether Ellen White is prophecy or false. 

I think the point of cessationism is not that God does not speak to us by means other than His Written Word.  The real point is that in regard to the miraculous nature of His revelations , we don't today find any apostle Peters saying to someone that they would die because they lied, nor an apostle John who revealed the battles and victories of the endtimes as well as deatils about the celebration of God's judgement in the kingdom of heaven.  I had thought that cessationism related to the lack of need for miracles and speaking in tongues as a sign of God's Spirit, since the growth and witness of the people of God now provided that sign.   And that in some cases in certain new mission fields, those miracles and signs would again sometimes show up as a way of God speaking directly about his power and majesty. 

Jesus himself said that they have Moses and the prophets;  if they will not listen to those then miracles won't help.  Perhaps in the same way, a new prophecy will also not help because they do not listen to the original word of God.  But on the other hand, prophecy garnered through prayer, can still speak truth to people.  For that reason, prophecy can indicate to us that as long as we follow the direction, the fads, the current popular trends of the world, we will continue to lose our witness, not gain it.   For that reason, when the church concentrates on the latest fads about gender equality, color based affirmative action, inevitability of climate change, bathing suit styles, tattoos, belly rings, haircuts, poverty eradication, family planning, physical "safety", primarily because that is what the world is doing, then we can all prophecy that the true church will begin to die a slow death.   Whenever we follow the trend of the world, rather than witness to that trend, then we are definately not prophecying, but we are slipping into following, which is the opposite of leading (in case you were wondering), and is also the opposite of witnessing. 

When we desire not to be mocked by the world, we have probably lost the effectiveness of our witness, and prophecy will disappear. 

The confessions speak to this in various ways.  One example:   

"Question 32. But why are you called a Christian? (a)

Answer: Because I am a member of Christ by faith, (b) and thus am partaker of his anointing; (c) that so I may confess his name, (d) and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him: (e) and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life (f) and afterwards I reign with him eternally, over all creatures."


The greatest and most common sin of the Christian is to want to do what the world does, in the way the world does it.   Often we even use "christian" excuses to do it.  David's sin of adultery, the Israelites worship of false gods, Israel's desire for a "king", Peter's disagreement that Jesus would die, Judas betrayal of Jesus, Annanias and Sapphira's attempt to get extra credit, all fall into this trap, this sin.  Satan loves it.   God hates it.  

Bev Sterk on July 11, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

just a couple thoughts in response to your post John Z....

first, having the gift of prophecy does not necessarily make one a prophet...but a prophet will always have the gift of prophecy?

second, there will be no new doctrine given through prophecy... that is complete in the canon...

and third...  yes, prophets are mocked as in 2 kings 9 when referring to a prophet, the military refers to them as a "madman" or "maniac" depending on version of scripture, and their prophecy was considered "babble" (NKJV?)... doesn't sound like much respect to me... 

Is all prophecy preaching? i don't think so... is all preaching prophecy?  No, I don't think that's true either... do they overlap, yes, I would say some prophecy is preaching and some preaching is prophecy...

Is prophecy more than preaching?  Yes, I think one aspect is getting a "rhema" word (Eph. 6:17) for a current situation.

Is prophecy "foretelling"?  I believe it can be, but it won't always be, and maybe just a small fraction of the time, based on OT prophecies, the NT example of Agabus, and my experiences, as well as many other testimonies.

Is prophecy more than this?  Yes, I think it includes the gift of a "word of knowledge" and a "word of wisdom" from the Spirit...

either this gift is an old one that we have missed and are now realizing that, or it is gone (which I don't agree with), or we have no idea what the gift of prophecy all entails, or ??? 

what does this have to do with the confessions... well that's my point, the confessions do not cover this to any significant degree that I can determine...  which tells me there are gaps in them... which make them relevant and irrelevant at the same time, depending on what we are discussing.  They are foundational, I don't question that, and I don't think their intent is to cover everything in scripture, but let's agree, they are not the end all for everything related to our faith.  And as we mature in our faith, we will start to dig into areas, that the confessions do not address (Hebr. 6)






Bev, the confessions describe the significance of scripture.   Heidelberg 19 and 98, Belgic 2,3,4,5,6,7, address the basic authority and sufficiency of scripture.   Therefore whatever scripture says about prophecy, the work of the spirit, miracles, prayer, is affirmed indirectly by the confessions, even when these confessions do not speak specifically about these things.   But I agree with your implied conclusion that it is ironic we would try to  make a confession on racial equality(Belhar), while not making a specific confessional statement on the place of prophecy and prayer, or other things such as divorce and abortion.  

Bev Sterk on July 11, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

thanks John... i wasn't clear on my post... my first 3 points were prompted by reading some of your comments... the second half of my comment was just general thoughts reflecting on all the comments so far... and not part of the response to your post...

but you bring up a good point, and that's the sufficiency of scripture, which is my point #2... all the doctrines that we need are in scripture, there will be no new doctrines... prophecy is in scripture... this is not adding anything new, just something we have mostly ignored for a variety of reasons...

then as I was thinking about this a bit more, and that prophetic is foretelling, I think one of the most profound examples in the NT. is Caiaphas in John 11:49-53... he had no clue what he was prophetically saying and scripture very clearly says he was prophesying... that one just blows me away...

Bev Sterk on July 11, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

and absolutely, the scripture is authoritative... every prophecy must line up with what's in God's word...  that is our safety net, that is our protection, that is our plumline, that is how we test it!

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