Over the past five years, several of us have been blessed with the friendship of Dr. William VanDoodewaard, Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bill spent a few years with Barry York in Kokomo, Indiana, and many of us in the Great Lakes-Gulf Presbytery came to know and love him in those years as well. He recently submitted the following article to Gentle Reformation describing his experience. This article was first printed in Outreach North America, the church planting newsletter of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and is reprinted with permission. Bill and his wife Rebecca blog regularly at The Christian Pundit. – James Faris
Last Lord’s Day evening, I had the great joy of preaching at the ordination and installation of two new elders in the Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church (Kokomo, Indiana). The event was special because I was involved in the Kokomo work from age six through high school. And the event was doubly special because I was able to lay hands on my father-in-law, Joe Marcisz, and Scott Hunt, a friend of many years. Finally, the Lord encouraged us that evening because the congregation is looking forward, in time, to church planting in the city of Marion, Indiana, which is 30 miles east of Kokomo. These two men are the first to be ordained to the office of elder who live in Marion. They will focus especially on leading the outreach ministry in Marion and on shepherding members who live there. This makes them the first of Marion’s Men.
I’m deeply thankful to have been invited to write for this site. I thought I’d begin by introducing myself in light of the site’s name and nature.
Writing for a blog entitled “Gentle Reformation” is a bit of an historical irony for me. During my first decade or so of life in Christ, the terms “gentle” and “reformed” did not really apply.
When I first learned of Calvinism in college, I immediately and vehemently opposed it. I thought it taught a puppet master God, a fatalistic view of history and an unnecessarily dark view of humanity. I hated what Calvin taught. True, I had never read Calvin, but that did not deter my zeal!
I read just enough of the Reformer to feel justified in my preformed conclusions. Brimming with what I deemed righteous indignation, I felt I had found my purpose, the great contribution I’d make to Christ’s church. I announced to one of my college roommates that my life’s mission was to debunk Reformed Theology.
I’ve been thinking about the current economic crisis, and whether the Covenanter doctrine of National Covenanting is for such a time as this. I thought I would post some of those thoughts here to invite discussion from anyone interested—mostly as an exercise in thinking through the practical application of that biblical doctrine we call, “National Covenanting.”
Mary is the mother of Jesus.
Jesus is God.
Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.
God commands us to honor our mother and our father.
Therefore, Mary as the mother of God deserves to be especially honored (insert veneration).
Sometimes our reasoning can slip out of joint; bend in directions not entirely proper. In the case of Roman Catholicism, I’ve found that they’re extremely good at formulating some real head scratchers; lines of argument that make you feel uneasy, even if you can’t put your finger on the exact point where the logic runs askew.
Here I’m reminded of something Melville once wrote. In his classic work, Moby Dick, which I might add, is the single greatest work of English literature (sorry, Jane Austen fans), and with which, I might also add, R.C. Sproul agrees (see here), and which, ahem, inspired the last chapter of my book, Melville provides an interesting little twist in “Christian” logic. In the following quote, Ishmael is debating whether or not he should bow down to the idol of his new friend, Queequeg. Ishmael reasons as follows:
As recounted last month, Rev. William Martin, on June 4, 1780, preached to the Covenanters of Rocky Creek, South Carolina, and stirred them up to fight in the revolutionary cause. As we celebrate Independence Day in America, it is good for us to recall what happened in the following days that year. The story continues from Mrs. Green whose first-hand account can be found in William Glasgow’s History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in America, followed by a few personal reflections.
This week, I was humbled twice with reminders that the people of God must be about the work of Isaiah 58:6-7 in response to the great grace that the Lord has shown us. In the examples that I saw this week, I was struck with the need not simply to honor the work of those saints of yesteryear but to take up similarly costly work today in service to the King today. Both stories tell of people who personally gave up their lives in some capacity to show mercy to one person at a time. Is there at least one needy person in your life currently to whom you are intentionally showing mercy?
The church continually needs men and women committed to a gentle reformation, and I am encouraged to pursue the same by considering examples of saints in past generations.
Today, we consider Dr. J.G. Vos (1903-1983) who gently, yet vigorously, pursued reformation in his era. He was the son of Princeton theologian Geerhardus Vos, and served as a Reformed Presbyterian missionary in Manchuria, China, in the 1930s. When he returned to the States in the late 1930s, he was saddened and frustrated by the spiritual state of the denomination.
In the years following his service in China, Vos fought a number of battles in the RP Synod, but did not make significant progress and was
When approached by the Elders to return to the Topeka pulpit after 10 years of retirement, Pastor Bob McFarland read the following to the congregation on his first Sabbath Day after his ten year absence.
And it came to pass that the Topeka congregation once again in 2008 went to the auto showroom to consider the automobile to meet their needs since they no longer had a car of their own. ( 10 years earlier they had taken their old car and retired it, they assumed, for good.)
Is it not easier to hide who we are than who we are not?
To disguise our selfishness is but the work of a moment, whereas the lack of a generous spirit is too big a void to conceal.
To covet a neighbor’s position can be mostly contained within, but a failure to rejoice spontaneously in a friend’s success creates a loud silence.
To talk big about prayer and pray big in public can, like a rug over swept-up dirt, mostly hide the fact that we do not pray quietly in private, but it is not a very good cover up for a long distance relationship with God.
Is this not the way of the Pharisee Jesus exposed so devastatingly?