Friday, April 4, 2008

Session Six Lecture - The RCA Inside and Outside

Session 6: The RCA Inside and Outside

The Post-Augustinian Context

The RCA is trying to fix its identity (inside) and find its place (outside) in a secular, pluralistic, post-Christian world. This, I believe, is the pressure behind both the Vision and Mission State­ment and the Ten Year Goal. What is our legitimacy? What can we all get behind? Do we have enough in common that we can join together in a common work? Can we find some collective purpose as a denomination, beyond mere maintenance, that we can demonstrate some legitimacy to ourselves? Our leadership is taking us through a process of total readjustment.

Like many other denominations, we feel like we’re in something of a simmering crisis. Our old patterns aren’t working any more, and the world is changing very fast. We are engaged in total readjustment because we find ourselves in a new and unfamiliar (and uncomfortable) environment at the same time that our common traditions and practices and institutions (like our liturgy, our catechism, our colleges and seminaries) have the weakest influence on us. Who are we, what do we stand for, where do we fit?

Christendom is over. But we were founded as an expression of Christendom. The context of Christendom was never in dispute in all our early controversies. Christendom was assumed by both Coetus and Conferentie, by both Albany and New York, by Livingston’s millennialism, by the missions movement, and especially by our Christian patriotism. But at the close of the Second Millennium and the Opening of the Third, it’s clear that Christendom is over, and if the USA and Canada are Christian nations (as fundamentalists of all religions still believe), they are Christian in ways that often defy the Kingdom of God.

It’s no news to anyone that our environment is post-Christian. But I think it’s insufficient to leave it at that. In many ways the deeper issue is that for the first time since the early Middle Ages our world is post-Augustinian, and this is true for Christians no less than for the secularists. For most of Western history the general worldview has been Augustinian, derived from the influence of that great church father St. Augustine. Till lately even the non-Christians and the secularists have been more Augustinian than not. We are watching the development of a post-Augustinian Christianity, and it’s happening in the RCA, and this is causing conflict, because our Constitution and our traditions are very, very Augustinian.

“Augustinian” includes a number of factors. It means that we all agree that there are some ideals, such as the good, the true, and the beautiful, and that these ideals are given to the world, and we can appeal to them, because they don’t depend on us. (“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”) It means that some things are better than others, no matter what may be the current opinions or preferences. It means there is a right and a wrong. It means that the ideals are worth learning about and living by. It means that the purpose of education is teach these ideals, and to teach the awareness of right and wrong, not only when it comes to mathematical computation, but also in matters of society and behavior. It means that children must be disciplined to rise up from a state of nature and ignorance to learn the good, the true, and the beautiful. It means that the purpose of ethics is to learn how the good, the true, and the beautiful lay claims on us. It means that we understand our lives in terms of obligations, and that we live our lives in terms of fulfilling our obligations. It means that if we have freedom, our freedom is not for self-definition, but so that we might be unencumbered for carrying out our true obligations.

This is the general Augustinian worldview that still held sway in North America through the first generation after the Second World War. It was held by humanists as well as by religious people. But the last two generations have seen a huge cultural shift. We no longer see our lives in terms of obligation. Education is for children discovering the truth within themselves. Truth is now whatever is “true for me.” No one has the right to speak for all of us. Our obligation is now to ourselves, and our happiness, and our security. Or comfort. Or prosperity. And this is the way that Christians see the world as well, and it’s the new way we are doing church.

One of the clearest expressions of this great cultural shift is the way that we observe our holidays. Originally you got off from work on a holiday because it was a holy day, a so-called “day of obligation,” and the government recognized that you had an obligation to go to church to worship. This was even the case in early America, when the state and federal governments would call for public days of penitence or thanksgiving, and everyone had off from work in order to go to church to pray. That’s the origin of Thanksgiving Day.

Eventually the US and Canada developed civic holidays, and you had the day off in order to go to a parade or town picnic or hear a speech. That’s all by the wayside. Now we all accept that holidays are an opportunity for either shopping (Presidents Day sales) or recreation (Fourth of July traffic jams) or television sports (football on Thanksgiving). The great tragedy in all of this is that the post-Christian world is also the post-humanistic world, and what our holidays have become most clearly demonstrates that we have descended into this strange and perverse identity of being “consumers”. That’s what we now call ourselves! (In Dante’s Inferno the only “consumers” are the demons, and Satan most of all.)

Churches are struggling with the issue of whether to accept this as the facts of our society or to fight against it. Do we calculate our worship and programming according to the market, do we perform our music in the style and medium of what is being consumed right now, or does that cheapen the gospel too much? And then what’s the point of hanging on to our doctrines and liturgy and government? Why even continue to have an RCA?

Does the RCA have the capacity to address this change in worldview, or only to hang on for dear life? Our doctrinal standards were not written for it. In the early nineteenth century we had a hard time addressing the problems of westward expansion; our resources were not up to it. What about worldview expansion?

At this moment in the RCA, our “Christian action” and “social justice” work is minimal, and we are spending most of our collective energy on trying to keep our numbers up. Even the Ten Year Goal was motivated by the news of our declining statistics. We emphasize new church starts because we’ve been told that new churches are the best at making new Christ­ians. I think it’s fair to make the controversial point that, while there is no question that people in the field are really committed to evangelism and the wonderful truth of the gospel in people’s lives, yet the denomination, speaking institutionally, is mostly in reaction.

It cannot be too much emphasized that Christians today are no less post-Augustinian than the secularists, as is evident in the way that we do church. Our traditional doctrines and liturgy are pretty much “Antiques Roadshow.” Till recently we honored our traditional system of church government, but now even is being challenged by the denominational leadership. We are post-Augustinian when we calculate the value of our worship services on how many people they reach and how much they satisfy. We calculate the value of our doctrines on how much they speak to boomers and busters and whatever latest group defined by marketing. And yet, at your ordinations, the Lord willing, when you stand before your classes to make your Declarations, you will be declaring your commitment to a very, very Augustinian system of doing church. How do you intend to work this out, with faithfulness and integrity?

The RCA as “Bridge”

Let’s take a little detour here. I want to use the modern nation of Turkey as an analogy to the RCA. Lately I’ve had contact with several Muslim Turks, including a leading imam (actually a mufti, if you want to know!), I’ve read a history of modern Turkey (Turkey Unveiled, Nicole and Hugh Pope, New York, 1997), and I’ve just finished the wonderful novel Snow by the Nobel Prize winning author Orhan Pamuk. Turkey, like the RCA, may be understood in terms of the issues that define it, the issues that it will never solve but always manage. These issues generate among the Turks a marvelous creativity and self-awareness, as well as tensions and conflicts. The Turkish leadership has tried to get Turkey to be “one thing,” but the Turkish realities make this impossible.

Externally, Turkey, stretching from Iran to Greece, is a “bridge” country, between Asia and Europe and between Islam and the West. It’s the only Muslim member of NATO, and might become the only Muslim member of the European Union. Internally, Turkey is a coalition, not only of several ethnicities, but also of secularists and Islamists. Its successful politicians are the ones adept at managing the coalitions. Turkey is officially a secular state, yet all its imams are state employees! The Turks are hotly debating what their future shall be, and what shall be the role of religion in the public square, especially since Islam has not yet developed any theology to allow for the separation of church and state. (It didn’t come easy to Western Christianity!)

Of course there are connections between the internal coalitions and the external alliances, but they are not what you’d expect (and are poorly understood by our newspapers). The leader of the Islamist party is strongly in favor of joining the European Union. And after all, why not? The Turks are better informed about us than we are of them, and they know that in Germany, most of the clergy are also supported by the government, that English Archbishops sit in Parliament, the Head of the Church of England is the Queen! Indeed, why not.

There are different versions of secularism in the world. The French and American version requires the separation of church and state, but the German version doesn’t. The British and Canadian version has no “wall of separation,” and they do not want it, thank you very much, and they allow for government funding of some religious institutions. Yet the societies of Canada, the UK, and Germany are probably more secular than America. The Turks are debating what version of secularism they want to follow: French (“no headscarves”) or German or British or Canadian (“protect headscarves”) or American (headscarves are legal but suspect). The Turkish debate about its future identity has implications both internal and external..

The RCA is having a similar struggle over its future and its definition, and we can see it in terms both internal and external.

Internally: We have already discussed how the RCA is a coalition. We discussed how the defining coalition of our middle period has broken down, and our coalitions are amor­phous now. East-and-Midwest no longer works. The East and the Far West have more common­al­ities than either to the Midwest, though these have yet to settle. Our greatest differences come down to the value we place on our traditions. The loyalty to tradition, with huge exceptions, gen­erally weak­ens westward. For example, the ethnic churches of the East are no less ev­angelical than any congregation in the Midwest and Far West, but like the East they tend to honor their tra­ditions. The strongly evangelical African-American congregations in Brooklyn have elders who, as I can testify, like to repeat the Communion Liturgy by heart! The old patterns don’t work, and the coalitions have yet to settle out.

Externally: Wes Granberg-Michaelson has defined us as a “bridge denomination” ecu­men­ically. The Ecumencial Mandate speaks of our particular mission to be a brdige between the “ecumenicals” (of the NCC, the CCC, and the WCC) and the “evangelicals” (of the NAE and the EFC). Many of the essays in Concord Makes Strength deal with this. The “ecumenicals” tend to see Christian unity as institutional or, at best, churchly (see especially Karel Blei’s first essay, # 4, and Allan Janssen’s essay, # 9), while “evangelicals” tend to see Christian unity as individual or, at best, personal (see essays # 10 and 13). Like teenagers, the RCA risks trying to determine its identity in terms of whom it’s hanging out with. This is why our Full Communion with the Lutherans and the PCUSA and UCC is so important (see essays #2 and 5).

Well, for a bridge to carry heavy loads its got to have sufficient integrity and strength. It’s open to question whether the doctrine, liturgy, and government still have that strength, and if they do, why are the doctrines so ignored in our preaching and the liturgy so ignored in our worship and why is the leadership trying to change our form of government? Are we rather a “ferryboat” denomination, going back and forth from shore to shore, now here, now there?

The Implications of Belhar

Or is the RCA a “bridge” between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and this peculiar nation called the USA which claims the blessings of God and stands for the best political ideals, and also seeks its narrow interests by means of violence and greed? How much shall RCA members question the USA? (In Canada the RCA is second fiddle to the CRC.)

One of the most momentous changes in the RCA’s history is before us right now. While both our Liturgy and Government have been under constant evolution, our Doctrinal Standards have been fixed. And now we are closer than we’ve ever been before to amending them, by adding the Belhar Confession. Dear friends, this is huge. And there are many implications, the first of which relates to the paragraphs just above.

Internally and externally, how much does the RCA belong to North America and how much does it belong to the world Reformed communion? Are we a thoroughly American (and slightly Canadian) denomination with a peculiar heritage, or are we the North American branch of a worldwide movement and a global fellowship of Reformed churches? When the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), at its meeting in Ghana a couple summers ago, declared that Western free-market capitalism was more dangerous a threat to the world than terrorism, how (pace Canada) should RCA members feel? American or Reformed? (And why did we fail to bring this matter up at General Synod: lest it distract us from the Ten Year Goal?)

This international Reformed connection, on one hand, is a return to our earliest origins, but on the other, is a relatively new development. Forty years ago our ecumenical expressions were the WCC and NCC, and the WARC was just a sideshow. Now WARC is probably more important to us than the WCC. I suspect that South Africa, more than anything, caused this change, because WARC provided the medium for the RCA to respond to Apartheid, and in doing so, to rediscover its long lost cousins in South Africa.

Let me give you one example. As you might know, my father was the pastor of a Black congregation here in Brooklyn, where I spent my childhood. Our Black members often felt like “stepchildren” in the RCA, and there were so few of them. Then, in the ’80’s, some of these members went on delegations to South Africa, and imagine how empowering it was for them to be welcomed and even honored by thousands of other Black Christians who were Reformed, and who numbered more than the RCA itself. In the RCA they were stepchildren, but in the global Reformed fellowship, they were in the vanguard.

It continues today. Just twenty blocks from my apartment is a Ghanaian congregation that belongs to the RCA (and PCUSA) but hardly knows a thing about us. And yet a frequent guest in their pulpit is Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi, the General Secretary of the WARC in Geneva, Swit­z­er­land, who is also Ghanaian. This congregation sees the RCA as the local North American expression of the global Reformed fellowship. And yet I imagine that most RCA people have never heard of Setri Nyomi or even the WARC. Indeed, could they even locate Ghana on a map?

One of our students has shared with me the response of a pastor in his classis to the Belhar Confession. The pastor admits that he doesn’t see that Belhar has much relevance to the local RCA experience. (To which my Black colleagues would reply, “How long, O Lord!”) Is this is a sign of the narrowing of Reformed identity, not only to evangelicalism narrowly con­ceived (our Black and African churches are extremely evangelical), but also to being a Reformed Church of America rather than in America? What would happen if the American flag were moved out of your church’s sanctuary? Or at least put in the back of the church, to hear the Word, as Bruggink advocates in Christ and Architecture. How is the American flag different than the sacred poles in the sanctuary that the prophets denounced? When we sing God Bless America, which God is that, and is that God allowed to Judge America? (Apparently not, according to Fox News.)

Well, if the RCA’s connection with America moved from Livingston’s millennial identification of America as God’s instrument for world Christianization, to a more general sort of Christian patriotism, what does it mean that the Reformed churches are growing stronger in Africa and Asia and weaker in North America? What if we have less to give the “Third World” churches than to receive from them? And what about the fact that the nations where we used to send our missionaries are now sending their immigrants to our cities, and that these immigrants are variously rich and poor, educated and uneducated? Where shall our denomination fix itself? Can we simply accept America (and Canada) as given and good? What does it mean for the RCA when Our Lord commissioned us to preach the gospel to, not every person, but every “nation”? Doesn’t that require us to pay attention to our larger theological themes of justice and such, beyond the matter of making new Christians? Doesn’t that require us to pay attention to our doctrines, liturgy, and government?

That’s exactly what happened in South Africa, and what led to the Belhar Confession. In order to answer Apartheid, the Black and Colored Reformed denominations paid heed to their Reformed theology and Calvinistic heritage. And here is a story you need to know about, and some terminology you need to know. It’s the story of the Belhar Confession.

We came to know of Apartheid as a political ideology, but you need to know that it started in the church. A few years after our General Synod heard Dr. How declare “slavehold­ing not sinful,” certain Dutch Reformed congregations in South Africa petitioned their Synod to allow for separate communion services for whites and blacks. With reservations, the Synod decided to allow this “apartness” (apartheid) at communion, “because of the weakness of some.” That was the camel’s nose under the tent.

From this the Dutch Reformed Church developed “apart” congregations, and then “apart” classes and synods, until the various races were kept apart in separate sister denominations: the Dutch Reformed Church (for whites), the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (for mixed-race “coloureds”), the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (for native blacks), and eventually even a Reformed Church in Africa (for Asians). After World War II, political power was gained by the National Party (the Dutch Reformed Church was called “the National Party at prayer”), and the apartness of the church was made the pattern for the whole country. “Coloureds” lost the right to vote were placed in “apart” townships. Native Africans were given pseudo-nations of their own.

There were different strategies for attacking apartheid, but certain courageous Dutch Reformed pastors knew that the foundations of apartheid were theological, and needed to be addressed as such. Finally, in 1982, the Mission Church declared the Reformed Churches of South Africa to be in a “state of confession,” or status confessionis (you’ll need to know this term). A status confessionis means that the church finds itself in a “moment of truth,” a kairos moment, a watershed time, when the gospel itself is at stake, when the church cannot remain silent and must make a choice, and when certain ideas and practices which may earlier have been tolerated are tolerable no longer. The maxim goes: in statu confessionis nihil adiaphoron est.. (In a state of confession nothing is indifferent.)

In a state of confession, the church must confess. The Arian controversy was a status con­fessionis and the church produced the Nicene Creed. The Reformation was a status confes­si­onis and the church produced the Augsburg, Second Helvetic, French, and Belgic Confessions, etc. The Nazi era was a status confessionis and the church produced the Barmen Declaration. In the status confessionis of South African apartheid, the church produced the Belhar Confession, which was the confession to the world about a local situation by a local church on behalf of the whole church catholic. This is not the place to go into the content of the Belhar Confession, but you are now responsible to learn it on your own, and the RCA has resources for you to do so. I only hope you notice how much it quotes from the Belgic and the Heidelberg.

The credibility of the Mission Church’s confession demanded that it question its own “apart” existence as an institutionalization of the very apartheid it was declaring heretical. So the Mission Church proposed that all the Dutch Reformed denominations merge back into one non-racial denomination, which it proposed as the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. The native black denomination agreed in principle, though not without much backpedaling.

The WARC responded by suspending the membership of the white South African denominations until they renounced apartheid. The RCA opened ecumenical relations with the Uniting Reformed Church and suspended our long ties with the Dutch Reformed Church until such time as they declared their agreement to enter the Uniting Church (I myself had the honor of writing the letter). We were told by many voices in South Africa, both white and black, that the RCA had an outsized influence in supporting and abetting the struggle against apartheid.

But then our South African partners began to say to us, “What about America?” What about your own racism, which is still maintained by your educational and economic structures? Would a black pastor be considered by any and every vacant church throughout the RCA? And so by considering the Belhar Confession the RCA is finally examining admitting that maybe it must judge a log in its own eye. If we add it to our Doctrinal Standards we are committing our­selves to the unending witness against racism as much as the witness against, say, Arianism and Arminianism. The Belhar Confession is forcing us to consider what it means to be “confes­sion­al,” and its therefore having the effect of requiring us to examine just how truly Reformed we are willing to be.

It’s difficult for an American denomination with a heritage of millennial triumphalism and American patriotism to take instruction from a Third World church, or to be told by a third world church that we’re not paying attention to our own situation. The RCA cannot continue its comfortable American isolation, not with the globalization of both the economy and the church. We have already seen how the RCA was at its best in Foreign Missions. We were able to be both evangelical in the best sense and also very ecumenical. Indeed, we learned ecumenism in the mission field. Our Foreign Missionaries used to have great influence in the RCA, not only at General Synod itself but also in our publications and our seminaries. That is now no longer so. Our Foreign Missions program is only a shadow of what it once was. And now our Missions department has been charged for raising funds for domestic new church starts. One hand we might say that this is so because, through immigrants, the world is at our door, but on the other hand it even more threatens our Foreign Mission funding. (Before 1968, the Foreign Missions staff was independent, and didn’t take orders from denominational staff. Today, all Missions staff get their instructions from the General Secretary.) The jury is out on whether our ethnic and immigrant congregations will serve to counter the easy American isolation of the RCA.


A final word. It is always a temptation in church history to be too critical of the church. I want to close with this. In spite of all the weaknesses and failures of the RCA, this remains true: over several centuries and in hundreds of congregations the praises of God were sung, the prayers of the people were raised to heaven, the preachers proclaimed the doctrines of Sovereign Grace, the souls of the faithful were comforted in life and death, and homes and families were sanctified as under the Sovereignty of God. Children learned to name the Name of God into whom they were baptized. Men and women made vows to each other before the face of God. People were buried in the hope of glory. People ate and drank in the presence of the Lord. Works of charity, witness, and outreach were extended without fanfare. Great sacrifices were made with joy. Faith was edified, hope was restored, love was strengthened. God gathered, protected, and preserved a “congregation” chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And God blessed with world through us and we sanctified God’s name. Don’t doubt it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Session Six Introduction and Questions - Twentieth Century Issues

Twentieth Century Issues

Read Bruggink and Baker, By Grace Alone, chapters 16-20.
Read Word and World, 93-106
Read Coakley, Concord Makes Strength.
View the three videos on RCA missions linked from the website.
Read Meeter, “The RCA and the Kingdom of God,” in Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought, March 2008, available here on line.

The Chapters You Are Reading

By Grace Alone, chapters 16-20.
Chapter 16 tells the story of the RCA in Canada, in which both Cor and I have some experience. It’s the story of the third immigration, and how the RCA, somewhat reluctantly, backed into the “Thompson Principle” which it had been trying to move away from. (Remember the Thompson Principle?) But the world was beginning to come to North America. The great age of immigration was not over, it was beginning again in a new way. And the Dutch immigration to Canada would be followed by the immigrations of the Koreans and Latinos, all of whom have changed the RCA dramatically, and in different ways. America is no longer able to stand apart from the rest of the world. More and more, especially on the East and West Coasts, we find ourselves part of a global culture.
One of the accidental results of the Canadian immigration was to put us back in touch with our ancient mother church in the Netherlands. For the first time since John Henry Livingston, some of our graduate students went to the Netherlands to study. And we have increased our participation in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. We have begun to see ourselves again as a North American branch of a worldwide Reformed fellowship.
I served one of the Dutch immigrant congregations in Canada. One woman told me that when their immigrant ship landed in Halifax harbor, they were met by Rev. Hari Zegerius. He found an old wooden door, and laid it across saw horses, the handles sticking up and down, and there at the wharf he celebrated the Lord’s Supper. That woman told me it was the most moving Communion she had ever experienced.
Chapter 17 tells the story of the extension into the Far West, perhaps the most momentous demographic change in the RCA since 1847. It is remarkable how the California churches started out very Dutch, with Dutch services in Emmanuel, Paramount till 1948, but now are typically on the vanguard of new ideas and new ministries. How powerful was the influence of Robert Schuller? Or did he rather capitalize on an openness and energy that was already there? I don’t have the historical facts at hand to know which is the case, or whether both are. I have heard Wes Granberg-Michaelson say that the Far West churches have more in common with the East than with the Midwest. This is an intriguing take. I can imagine he might be right, but maybe it’s most about context. New York and Los Angeles are the two truly global cities in the US. Does that make the difference?
Chapter 18 makes an interesting (but maybe shallow) comparison of the relative expansions of the RCA and the Methodists. What the chapter fails to mention, however, is how limited and compact were the goals of Methodist evangelization: the felt experience of conversion, followed by a short list of very specific marks of sanctification, especially abstinence from alcohol. The whole system was very easy to understand and get down. That it tended to narrow the gospel is another matter.
Chapter 19 is the apologia pro vita sua. Do you think Bruggink makes a sufficient case for the RCA’s continued existence? Do you buy his reasons for our membership “leakage”? Chapter 20 is thoughts you might well ponder for your own future.

Video 1, “Building a Mission-Minded Church”
This is a very valuable video. It opens with the Emil Brunner and John Piet quotations which are having enormous impact in the RCA today (and which I believe have all the unfortunate power of punchy slogans made into formative theses). The interviews with DeYoung, Schrock, and Braaksma distill years of missionary experience. The interview with Charles Van Engen is worth the whole video. He’s a remarkable guy, simultaneously brilliant and lovable, great fun and passionately earnest, an RCA pastor, and a world leader in mission theory. He’s a professor of missions at Fuller Seminary, and he’s in touch with missionaries and pastors and churches around the world. Note every word he says. Nobody knows it like he does.

Video 2, “Caleb and Joanna Swart: The Daasenech Windmill Project in Ethiopia.”
I know I cry kinda easy, but I gotta tell you I was in tears while watching this video, I was so moved by it. Joanna gives the short and sweet answer to Roger Schrock’s question (#25 below), when she says, “we show faithful God’s love.” That’s not sentimental or simplistic, that’s very powerful in a context either animist or Muslim. I was very moved when the Daasenech elder said, “Caleb, I always knew you would come back, what took you so long.”

Video 3, “Clancy Street Ministries; Steve and Carol Faas”
Full disclosure: I was a member of the Clancy Street Board and Steering Committee. I need to point out that it was started as a Sunday School (remember what I wrote last session) by an RCA couple, who then got the support of their own congregation and then some others, and then they added worship services and programs, until it finally became an organized church.
The video nicely avoids the fact that at first we could not get any support or assistance from the RCA General Program Council. Ten years ago the RCA Urban Mission philosophy was all about “community develop­ment organizations,” not about starting new churches. (Most of us who had urban experience were very frustrated with this.) Well, our Clancy Street people were being served by the programs, but they also “wanted church,” a real church. I’m glad to see that the General Program Council has come around. And Clancy Street is a wonderful story. And it’s an example of the holistic ministry that Deb Braaksma mentioned, and which lines up with our long-standing RCA mission principles.

Word and World, 93-106.

I. John Hesselink wrote this essay. He was a long-time missionary professor in Japan, who then became the president of Western Seminary and later Professor of Theology. He was also elected President of General Synod. “I. John” studied with two great Reformed theologians, Brunner and Barth, and earned some fame by bringing them back together after a bitter dispute.
In this short article John explores, perhaps with some adulatory exaggeration (eg., only two of us studied at the Liturgical Institute in Groningen), the post-war contributions of RCA people to the wider world of scholarship. Note his point about the revival of interest in Calvin and the Reformation, and how recently seminarians began to read Calvin again! Note also his point about the reconnection with contemporary Dutch theology, especially A. A. Van Ruler. Van Ruler’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit, and on a fully Trinitarian theology, is the most distinctive theological theme in the RCA today.
Names that should stand out for you are Samuel Zwemer, Albertus Pieters, Eugene Heideman, and “I. John” himself. Out of modesty, John fails to mention that he became known worldwide as a leading Reformed theologian, especially among scholars of Calvin and Barth. . Please note, once again, that it’s RCA foreign missionaries who are the best minds of the church, and who stand for that dynamic theological balance of ecumenism and evangelism. The RCA has always depended on its foreign missions to call us to our best, to keep us both outward in our thinking and centered in our faith.
But there’s a sad part to this story. The ground-breaking work, Christ and Architecture, by Don Bruggink and Carl Droppers, which was so fresh and so widely received, has now been repudiated by their own denomination. The contemporary church buildings which I have seen in the RCA completely reject the physical expressions of Reformed theology which Bruggink and Droppers advocated. What does this indicate about the RCA? That our Reformed theology is something we preserve in our books but are reluctant to put into practice?

Meeter, “The RCA and the Kingdom of God”

I am asking you to read this only because it’s an example of what Hesselink points to: the influence (on me) of contemporary Dutch theology in general, and of Hendrikus Berkhof and A. A. van Ruler in particular.

Concord Makes Strength

I am asking you to read the whole book, though some of it is more theology than history. Make special note of the essays by Harmelink, Japinga, Blei, Fromm, Case-Winters, Jansen, and Granberg-Michealson. In my lecture (forthcoming) I will have more to say about these things.

Study Guide for Session 6:

1. Who was Robert McDowell, what did he do, and how did he end up?
2. What caused the loss of our first Canadian expansion?
3. What is the third immigration and what caused it?
4. Why were we reluctant to enter Canada again?
5. How did the Thompson Principle get revived in Canada?
6. Know who Hari Zegerius was.
7. What was a “fieldman”?
8. When was the first congregation organized in California?
9. Why did Dutch people settle in California?
10. How have the Far West churches changed in complexion?
11. Who is Robert Schuller?
12. Be able to name the three RCA colleges and their locations.
13. What is the World Alliance?
14. What is the Formula of Agreement?
15. What is the National Council of Churches?
16. What is the World Council of Churches?
17. What’s the Emil Brunner slogan? The John Piet slogan?
18. Note the value of the Brazil and Annville work group/mission trips: they “opened our eyes.”
19. Is it true that “the RCA has been a mission-minded denomination for 300 years?
20. Note the RCA mission principles:
a. Roger Schrock: partnership
b. Roger DeYoung: responding to native requests rather than doing it “for them”
c. Debra Braaksma: holistic mission, not just as a “hook,” but part of the gospel
21. How do these principles line up with older RCA mission principles?
22. What does Schrock say about “longevity”?
23. Know what this means: You were here before oil.
24. Note Schrock’s statement: we seek not “success” but faithful witness to the gospel.
25. Note Schrock’s question: What does it mean to serve those who do not know Christ?
26. What does De Young mean by: these principles build relationships?
27. Know who Charles Van Engen is.
28. What does Van Engen say about what the 2/3 world and the West can offer each other?
29. Animism is “cool” among American intellectuals. How did it affect the Daasenechs?
30. How does Joanna Swart’s narration reflect on RCA mission principles?
31. Know about Samuel Zwemer.
32. Know about Eugene Heideman.
33. Know about Our Song of Hope.
34. Know about Christ and Architecture.
35. Know about the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Jusitification (Coakley and Bruggink)

Discussion Group Issues

1. Discuss contemporary versions of the continuing tensions in the RCA that still define our character.
2. Discuss the tension between Full Communion and the Ten Year Goal.


Reflect on following issues: Show me you know the stuff. Give implications.

1. RCA Mission Principles and how we practice them domestically and worldwide.

2. Discuss whether the RCA deserves to continue its own existence in the light of comments by Bruggink and Karel Blei.

Monday, March 17, 2008

RCA Missions Today

Please become acquainted with the different mission efforts of the RCA at:

We have asked that the IT folks place some of the video clips about our mission sites and people be placed online... they have gracefully done this for us...

Building a Mission-Minded Church:

Caleb and Joanna Swart:

Clancy Street Ministries:



Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lecture #5 Education, Social Concerns, and Domestic Missions

Session 5: Education, Social Concerns, and Domestic Missions

Read Bruggink and Baker, By Grace Alone, chapters 14-15.

Read P&P, 111-62, W&W, 119-39

Read Meeter, Meeting Each Other, chapter II.


There were not always Sunday Schools! They are a relatively recent innovation in Christian practice. You should have some knowledge of the history of the Sunday School movement, and this is not the course in which to learn it, but let me remind you that the first Sunday Schools were begun in England because the traditional patterns of education failed to reach the displaced children of the industrial revolution. Often, the Sunday School was the only school these children went to, and they had to learn reading and writing no less than praying and singing.

Originally Christian education was simply education. In post-Reformation Europe there was no distinction between Christian schools and public schools. The same was true of colonial North America. We were part of Christendom, and all of life was Christian, so common (public) schools in early America were Christian schools. The colonial Dutch churches sponsored parish schools which were common schools. The Church Order of Dort required each consistory to employ schoolmasters, who taught reading and writing as well as the catechism and the Psalms. A literate population was the key to Protestant success.

After the Revolution, with the separation of church and state, the parish schools became public schools, supported by public funds. The public schools continued to teach Bible and prayer in a general Protestant way. It was because of how Protestant the public schools were that when Roman Catholics began arriving in America they set up their own parochial schools (which were regarded as anti-American). Eventually, however, with the development, first, of religious pluralism, and then of secularism, necessitating the widening separation of church and state, we developed a second sort of Christian education: the catechism class.

Catechism was removed from the common curriculum and moved from the school house to the sanctuary. Catechism was regarded in the RCA as the primary educational program of the church, even with the later rise of the Sunday School. This continued until quite recently. In my own childhood, it was typical for the children of RCA members to go to catechism class on a weekday afternoon, to be taught by the pastor (or occasionally by an elder). The pastor used a catechism book that was pub­lished by the denom­ination. The publication of such materials was considered the duty of the denomination. (We didn’t learn from the Heidelberg itself; the RCA knew that the Heidelberg was written for adults.) The children attended catechism until such time as they made their confession of faith (in Dutch-background congregations) or their confirmation (in German- background churches).

Besides catechism there was Sunday School, and that was a later development, and it had a different purpose. Sunday School was more evangelistic, and less “covenantal.” It was taught by volunteers, not by the pastor. Sunday School was for everyone, regardless of your parents’ lack of membership. Even though there were likely more children enrolled in the Sunday School than in catechism, I think it’s safe to say that is was regarded as less essential to the church.

Sunday School was originally for the poor. The first Sunday School in the USA was started in 1799 by Ms. Sarah Van Doren at the First Reformed of New Brunswick, NJ, for the poorer children of the city.

This is the symbol of an important development in the expression of Reformed doctrine, with regard to the church’s responsibility to the Kingdom of God. Consider that under the Dutch gov­ernment of New Netherland, the Dutch Reformed Church had the responsibility for the Christ­ian character of public life at large. But with the British conquest in 1664, the Church of England took over this responsibility. We were now responsible only for the public morals of our own membership. While “Public Morals” was a lemma on the agenda of General Synod for many years, this came to be interpreted individualistically, in terms of such things as drinking and gambling and sex and such. We held to a remnant of our public responsibility as long as we ran some of the common schools, but this too passed from us with the evolution to public education.

The innovation of the Sunday School provided a new way for us to contribute to the public life of America. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons we stepped into the vanguard of Sunday School education—we could apply that same passions for mission, service, charity, and Ameri­can­i­zation that we poured into foreign missions. The fact that we conceived Sunday School in very broad public terms finds evidence in our leadership of citywide Sunday School unions that sprang up in all our urban centers.

The Brooklyn Sunday School Union was still a force in the borough even into my childhood. They sponsored the annual borough-wide Sunday School parade, and I can remember marching in it with our Sunday School. It was the occasion for a public holiday, Anniversary Day, and the pub­lic schools had off. All the Sunday Schools came out of the churches onto the streets with our floats and banners and the teachers with their ribbons and bouquets and the pastors in their col­lars and we collected in the avenues and marched downtown to Borough Hall. It was a memory of Christian America.

A second purpose for the Sunday School soon evolved, and that was church extension. In our Eastern cities, especially, the strategy was to start a Sunday School in a new and growing neigh­­borhood or in an older neighborhood among a new population. If the Sunday School took off, a congregation would be developed out of it. I don’t know exactly how this process worked, and how the various consistories and classes took part, and cooperated with the Sunday School unions of the day, but I know it did work.

Let me summarize. The RCA was originally a sponsor of parochial Christian schools, which combined reading and writing with catechism. These schools evolved into American public schools, and catechism was taken over by the church itself. Sunday Schools were started to compensate for what these systems missed, and they originally expressed the Kingdom or mission vision of the church.

In the last fifty years we’ve seen the virtual disappearance of catechism in the RCA. When I was at seminary, our Christian education professor didn’t mention the word. The denomination stopped publishing catechetical materials. The Sunday School curricula were adjusted to include some catechetical elements (the joint CRC-RCA “Bible Way” curriculum was the case in point). Doubtless some congregations continue to have catechism classes, but they are certainly no longer characteristic of the RCA as a whole.

I want to move on now to higher education. It is a curious fact that while the RCA came to reject private Christian schools in general, it has valued its Christian colleges. Again, this reflects the history of American education. The early public school system in America was short on high schools and colleges. The various denominations kept founding them. Our first such was Queens College, the last of the colonial colleges, founded in 1766. Queens was always short on money, and so to boost its revenue we moved the seminary there from New York (including John Henry Livingston) and we renamed the school after a major donor, Col. Hentry Rutgers. Rutgers College became the State University of New Jersey through a gradual process of transferring ownership from the RCA to the state.

One of the conflicts between the RCA and CRC has been over Christian schools, which they support, and we don’t. And yet, we supported two Christian schools (but not for ourselves!) in Annville, Kentucky, and Brewton, Alabama. Our Midwest Dutch and German immigrants founded a number of high schools and colleges, which evolved into our three: Hope, Central, and Northwestern. And these three, especially Hope, served the whole denomination, even students from the East. Until a few years ago, the great majority of RCA pastors were graduates of one or other of these colleges, not to mention our two seminaries.

My father was the pastor of an African-American congregation in the ghetto of Bedford-Stuyvesant. I remember in the early ’60’s that he was able to help Sherry Jenkins, from our church, side-step the usual racial discrimination and get into Northwestern College. The Hope College Chapel Choir used to make a regular tour of the Eastern churches, to encourage both financial support and recruitment. While the RCA still supports the three colleges, it is a fact that they no longer play the role they once did in serving the denomination with a common mind. We would have to say that education is not at all the denominational priority it once was.

In the paragraphs above I have mentioned “Public Morals” as a regular lemma in the agenda of General Synod. This was changed to “Social Welfare” in 1932 and then to “Christian Action” in 1955. These changes reflect a broadening of interest and witness out again from simple individual behavior. For a long time we believed that the public good would best be achieved by the sum total of the good behavior of Christian individuals, we began to move toward addressing social structures, practices, institutions, and public policies. Our most radical period as a denom­ination was during the 1960’s. I can remember the debate and controversy in the RCA over the reports and recom­menda­tions of the Christian Action Commission on such matters as race relations, the Viet Nam War, and nuclear weapons.

Please notice the subtle change in the RCA’s witness to the government. For most of our history we were generally supportive of US policies. This was true of our leaders as much as of our rank and file. I think the high point of this was the celebration of our 300th Anniversary Dinner of our denomination, in New York, when the honored guest was the U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg, who announced that we had just signed a treaty (the Kellogg-Briand Pact) repudiating war as an instrument of national policy—and Kellogg was a Republican!

But since the 1960’s our public voice has often been a protest voice, even when we did not express the mind of the generally more conservative rank and file. This is one of the unintended outcomes of our increasing diversity. Since we have to spend so much more energy having to learn to listen to each other, it’s that much harder for us to speak out together. Some folks have bemoaned how the RCA has been avoiding controversial public issues lately in order not to threaten the unity required to accomplish the Ten Year Goal.

You will be reading about civil religion in the RCA. Many RCA churches today have American flags in their sanctuaries. This was never allowed until the time of World War I, and then it became expected. Does that tell us that Americans see the American flag as something sacred? (Compare that to the Old Testament prophets preaching against the “sacred poles” that the kings erected in the Temple.) Bruggink argues that the only proper place for an American flag is at the back of the church, behind the congregation, so it can be preached to! What also happened during World War I is that a couple of our Dutch immigrant church buildings in the Midwest were destroyed by arson, because the people still worshipped in Dutch. It was the War that forced the great switch to (more patriotic) English in the Midwest RCA.

The Chapters You Are Reading

Meeting Each Other, chapter II

I am asking you to read this not so much for the polity but for the history. You need to know the story of how the offices were opened to women, and you need to understand the difference in how it happened for ministers compared to elders and deacons. This chapter will augment chapter 14 of By Grace Alone.

(Note bene: we who write for the RCA Historical Series get no royalties! All we get is a free trip to General Synod, the year the book gets published. Ain’t that an incentive!)

By Grace Alone, chapters 14-15.

Chapter 14, on women, presents a story not well-enough known. You realize how much leader­ship and support for the RCA’s work in missions and education came from women, sometimes against the discouragement of male officers. The names of women are often lacking in our standard RCA histories, and that’s because our histories mostly mention office-bearers, and women were for so long prevented from ordination. We don’t often see the names of women in our standard RCA histories, and that’s because they we

Chapter 15 opens with a key first paragraph. You need to know the historic Calvinist doctrine of the relationship of Church and State, as given in the Belgic Confession., but which is difficult, if not impossible, to carry out in a pluralistic nation. Please take the rest of this chapter seriously.

Piety and Patriotism, pp. 111-129, “Social Concerns”

I don’t know John DeJong, or anything about him, but this essay is a treasure. It is calm, concise, reasoned, and articulate. He really gets at the issue of how a Calvinist church tries to witness to the “sovereignty of God” in word and deed. Every paragraph is a gem, really.

Piety and Patriotism, pp. 130-148, “Education”

Here is another excellent essay. Here are the rudiments of a Reformed theology of education, based on the Heidelberg Catechism. May I remind you that this is not optional for you—not if you sign the Declaration for Ministers. Kansfield gives the only good short review of the evolu­tion of the educational mission of the RCA. How much has changed since this was written, how­ever. I would say that education is no longer one of our denominational priorities. The best proof of this is that the Ten Year Goal has absolutely no realistic component of education in it.

Piety and Patriotism, pp. 149-162, “The Role of Women in the India Mission

Here is yet one more great article, with lots of original research and scholarship. What a fascinating picture of the accelerating evolution of women’s roles. It wasn’t some awful secular feminism; it was responding to the necessities of the gospel.

Word and World, pp. 119-139, “Piety and Patriotism: Reformed Theology and Civil Religion”

This is the fourth of four great essays. Dr. Voskuil is the outgoing President of Western Sem­inary. His controversial analysis of the Civil War as a Holy War has been buttressed recently by some highly regarded publications by major American scholars. As a pastor in North America, you will need seriously to wrestle with the issues he raises, and to take your part in helping the RCA wrestle with them as well. When you promise, in your Declaration, to “pledge your life to preach and teach the good news,” doesn’t that raise the question of whether you can pledge your allegiance to the flag?

Study Guide for Session 5:

1. What did Sarah Van Doren do in 1799?

2. Know the story of Dr. Ida Scudder.

3. Know the BCO amendment that opened the offices of elder and deacon to women.

4. Know the classical action that opened the office of minister to women.

5. Be able to identify the Domestic Mission sites.

6. Know about Annville.

7. Know about Brewton.

8. Know the Calvinist / Belgic Confession doctrine on the relation of Church and State.

9. Know about A.J. Muste.

10. Know about Heideman’s connection of “justification” to “justice.”

11. Know about the Four Chaplains.

12. Notice DeJong’s opening quotation about making America a “Christian country.”

13. Keep track of the RCA’s connections with “revivalism.”

14. What is a “voluntary society”?

15. What is “Culture-Protestantism”?

16. Note DeJong’s two reasons why the RCA was conservative on social and political issues.

17. Does social change come from individual conversion or from addressing institutions?

18. How did the Depression change the typical stance on the Social Gospel movement?

19. Why has the RCA not fully supported peace movements?

20. Note the quoted judgement of Elton Bruins on the RCA and race relations.

21. DeJong’s paragraph on the bottom of p. 127 is excellent.

22. What two levels of education does Kansfield say the Dutch church was interested in?

23. Who is Adam Roelantsen and why is he important?

24. Note how the RCA gradually gave up its interest in parochial schools run by consistories.

25. How did the decline of our parochial schools accompany our interest in Americanization?

26. What happened in 1771 to move from university to seminary?

27. Why did our first evangelistic efforts in India reach only men?

28. Know the story of the night when three men came asking for help.

29. When was the great decade of change for women in the Arcot Mission?

30. What is a “Bible Woman”?

31. What did Rufus Clark write in 1876?

32. William Linn was a preacher at the Collegiate Church in New York. What did he do?

33. What is the “cult of the American Revolution”?

34. How did the RCA respond to slavery?

35. How did the Civil War become a Holy War?

36. What was the role of The Leader?

37. How did Blekkink and Kleinheksel apply scriptural images to America?

38. What did Winfield Burggraaf write?

Discussion Group Issues

1. Discuss how the RCA responded to the Social Gospel movement.

2. Discuss how we should interpret “Americanization” to one of our new ethnic Chinese, Korean, Latino, or other Asian congregations.


Reflect on following issues: Show me you know the stuff. Give implications.

1. Civil religion in the RCA: how has it varied? Consider variations among conservatives, liberals, minorities, the East, the Midwest, the West, and Canada. Consider this as one of the defining issues for the denomination, requring management rather than solution.

2. Describe the significant events and changes in the RCA between 1868 and 1968.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Brouwer and DeVelder

This picture, taken from the book Ecumenical Testimony by Arie Brouwer, was described as a meeting of the ecumenical testimony. Brouwer is in the center of the picture (dark hair and glasses). Others are Glenn Bruggers, John Hiemstra, Chuck Wissink and Don Bruggink... all RCA folks meeting at Western Theological Seminary.

Allow me to add some other information regarding General Secretaries and the leadership of the RCA in areas of domestic, foreign mission and ecumenical relationships. Two men who served prior to Ed Mulder and Gene Heideman were Marion (Mert) de Velder and Arie Brouwer. Both were raised in Northwest Iowa and both are now deceased; but, each did their part - you will read about them in By Grace Alone.

Brouwer was born in Inwood, Iowa in 1935 and was married to Harriet Korver, sister of Harold Korver, my pastor at Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, California.

Marion de Velder was born in Boyden, Iowa in 1912 and retired as General Secretary in 1977. Rev. de Velder was much like Mulder, most people felt he was on their side no matter what the issue. Brouwer on the other hand ended his service with the World Council and National Council of Churches and many in the RCA felt he had sold out to the liberals...

For anyone wanting bonus points... can you name my father-in-law (Jane's dad) who is mentioned on page 177 in By Grace Alone?



Friday, February 29, 2008

Session Four - Lecture and Questions

RCA History & Missions (DL), Session 4: The Second Immigration, and the Flowering of Missions

Read Bruggink and Baker, By Grace Alone, chapters 11-13.
Read P&P, 77-110, W&W, 31-74, 107-17

Time line of Missions
1792 William Carey (British), beginning of Protestant missions movement
1796 NYMS
1804 Livingston’s sermon
1810 ABCFM
1817 UFMS
1819 John Scudder to Ceylon
1830 David Abeel to Far East, eventually Borneo (Netherlands East Indies)
1832 Board of Foreign Missions, Board of Domestic Missions
1838 South India–Scudder moves, locates in Arcot; first field
1842 Amoy, China–Abeel moves, stays; second field
1853 Classis of Arcot, RPDCNA, organized
1857 RCA withdraws from ABCFM, all our missionaries supported by BFM
1859 Japan–Brown and Verbeck to Japan, third field
1864 Amoy controversy settled
1875 WBFM
1889 Arabian Gulf–Cantine, Zwemer, fourth field
1895 Oklahoma–Frank Hall Wright to Native Americans, first domestic work
1897 WBDM
1900 Kentucky, Annville Institute, second domestic work
1919 Brewton, Alabama, Southern Normal School, third domestic work
1924 Chiapas, Mexico–Kempers, fifth field
1947 Church of South India organized
1948 South Sudan–Swarts and Kats
1949 missionaries leave China (to Taiwan, Philippines, etc.)
1968 General Program Council merges all missions and program boards
1971 John Gatu, “missionary, go home”


In this session we are learning about the middle period of the RCA, and the development of the two main defining characteristics of the RCA for a long time: the East-Midwest coalition, and the emphasis on foreign missions. Until very recent decades these two defining characteristics provided a consensus on how the RCA saw itself. By the 1980’s these two characteristics began to lose their force, and the RCA once again became unsure of its identity. The two key leaders of the RCA, Ed Mulder and Gene Heideman, began suggesting that the denomination needed a new vision, and many other leaders agreed with them. This is one way to understand the work of Wes Granberg-Michaelson as General Secretary. He was brought in to give a vision to the RCA, and his vision has been double: to find some new replacement for the East-Midwest coalition (the centralization of the RCA and the leadership of the staff), and to find some new replacement for the foreign missions emphasis (the Ten-Year Goal).
Let me add here that along with foreign missions the RCA also had a positive outward emphasis on Christian higher education. As you already learned, the colonial RCA valued an educated ministry, at some cost to its growth. Both the East and the Midwest shared this value. Out of this we developed a two-tiered system of three colleges and two seminaries. For a long time this system produced a large cadre not only of pastors who were both well-educated and loyal, but also of lay-leaders who strongly identified with the doctrines and heritage of the RCA. This factor, I believe, is largely underestimated. And the fact that it is no more has enormous consequences. We will come back to this, but for this session, we will put the education issue on hold and stay with the foreign missions emphasis.
Now stay with me here, because we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, but I want to put the material of this session in context. The RCA is incredibly different than it was only three decades ago. And if the RCA is in some turmoil, which I believe it is, and if it’s struggling over its “Mission and Vision,” which I know it is, we need to understand why we are in this state.
We have suffered the breakdown of that East-Midwest coalition which you will see being developed in the readings of this session. Three things in particular led to the breakdown of the coalition. The first was the inevitable Americanization of the Dutch-immigrant Midwest, which took a long time, though not as long as with the East. However, the Midwest did not become a second version of the East. While the East maintained its historic character as a Protestant establishment, the Midwest developed a more evangelical and even sometimes fundamentalist character. Much of this has to do with the fact that the East was descended from a “state church,” while the Midwest was descended from “secession congregations,” with the inevitable mood of “over-againstness,” although this mood was never as strong in the RCA as it was in the CRC.
The second was the development of the Far West as a third region. At first, the California congregations were simply the far Midwest. But eventually these developed their own take on things. The signal example of this was Robert Schuller. The Church Growth movement was both a positive desire to evangelize and a negative judgment on the existing churches in the Midwest no less then on the East. (Indeed, it was only the East that had the “tall steeple” churches which Schuller aspired to, as he has written. In full circle, Schuller was one of the first outside the East to be wholly positive about Marble Collegiate’s Norman Vincent Peale.)
The example of the breakdown is the first election of a Far West president of General Synod. For years the General Synod practiced the custom of electing a President alternately from the East and the Midwest. This was an example of how to maintain the coalition: if the leaders could work together, so could the regions in general. This unwritten rule was broken in 1985. In 1984 the President had been Bill Brownson from Classis Holland, so by tradition it was the turn of the East. But Kenneth Leestma from California was elected, and not as a Midwesterner. Well, have we got a third region now? Is there a new dynamic, that power in the denomination comes from a new coalition of two against one?
The third factor was the shift in leadership expectations. For the duration of this middle period, the RCA preferred its leaders to be strongest at relationships. They should be able to work the coalition, and the best training for this was the local pastorate and long experience in denominational participation. They should have gifts of diplomacy and sympathy. You will see examples of this in your readings, not only with Van Raalte, but also Thomas DeWitt and Isaac Wyckoff. Recent decades, however, have seen a new emphasis in leadership, which the RCA has shared with the larger culture in general. The leader should be a visionary, and the ideal type was the new-church pastor, who started fresh, and did not have to compromise. This was bound to be tough stuff for an old denomination which had developed its characteristics over time.
The last decades of this middle period were under the leadership of Ed Mulder, as Geneal Secretary, and Gene Heideman, as Secretary for Program. They held the coalition together. Ed was a native of Minnesota, from the second immigration, but he had served successful pastorates in both the East and the Midwest. He began as a pastor of a small “colonial” congregation in New Jersey. He served on the staff of Marble Collegiate. He pastored a large establishment church in Hackensack, New Jersey. And he pastored a large church in Holland, Michigan. Both sides of the coalition felt that he belonged to them. He was like Livingston and Van Raalte, he was all about relationships.
Gene Heideman was also from the Midwest, but his career had been in foreign missions and in education, and so he represented the two successful outward efforts of the RCA. He had served as a missionary in India, and he had taught at Central College and Western Seminary. He was less about relationships, but, with his doctorate from Utrecht (the first in the RCA since Livingston!), he stood for theological substance. No one could out-argue Gene Heideman when it came to historic Reformed theology, and yet he stood passionately for ecumenism.
What happened at their retirement reminds me of Winston Churchill after World War II. For all the love and admiration of his country, he lost the next election. Great Britain wanted something else. The RCA chose as its leaders someone very different from Ed and Gene. The long middle period of the RCA was over. (If you think it’s been tough for us, just like at the CRC!) For the last three decades the RCA had been scratching its head over its purpose and identity. Seminarians were going elsewhere than New Brunswick and Western. Eastern RCA kids were no longer going to Hope and Central. Even the foreign missions program was dwindling, as Harmelink’s essay points out. And that’s why the RCA has putting so much energy into a single Ten-Year Plan. It’s to replace, I think, what had been before, and what we had taken for granted. It’s over, but you need to know what it was.

The Chapters You Are Reading

Piety and Patriotism

pp. 77-94, “World Mission”

I think you will enjoy this chapter. Here is where the RCA developed its first successful outward look. The RCA earned an extremely positive reputation for its outsized work in foreign missions. Foreign missions provided a vision and mission that, for a long time, united the East and Midwest wings of the RCA. Missions kept providing the cutting edge for the RCA, and, if it’s not where our ecumenism began, its where our ecumenism developed. It seems that the RCA is at its best when it’s looking outward, and when it looks inward it tends to get stuck.
We saw in the last session the beginning of domestic missions. For whatever reason, we have never been as effective in domestic missions as we have been in foreign missions. Maybe the reasons are in the mind of God. Maybe the reason is that God knew that for us to do what we were called to do in foreign missions, we had to develop certain features that would hinder us in domestic missions. I don’t know. Maybe our best historical reasons fall short of fully knowing.
Last session we saw how domestic mission was for a long time simply church extension. We saw how it took three stages. The first stage, I’ll call it the “Daniel Boone stage,” was church extension among the native-born Americans who, after the Revolution, pushed across the mountains to the near Midwest. We’ll include the attempts to assist the German Reformed church in this stage. The second stage, the “Van Raalte stage,” was church extension among the Dutch immigrants of the Second Immigration. We’ll learn more about that in this session.
The third stage, of which you got only brief notice, was church extension among the other immigrants, such as the Hungarians, Italians, Japanese, and Chinese. Only the Hungarians had a Reformed connection. We quickly discovered that this mission would have to find success in other measures than new congregations. Looking back, we can also say that this version of domestic mission is the one that touched the boundary of foreign missions, for with the Chinese and Japanese we were working with the very same people as our foreign missionaries. And only this stage was missions in the classic sense, of “crossing cultural boundaries with the gospel.” In the classic sense, church extension in the first and second stages of our domestic mission was not “missions.” Neither is the Church Growth movement today, with its aggressive appeal to current popular culture. Evangelism, yes, but “missions,” no. It’s only a matter of definition, I know, but a very valuable distinction in definition.
One thing in passing. Protestant often think they invented missions. Well, the Protestants actually were late to missions. As Stephen Neill points out in his excellent history of missions in the Penguin series on church history, the Roman Catholic Church has really been the great missionary church, like it or not. So when we date the beginning of the modern missions movement to William Carey in 1792, we have to write that with a very large asterix.
It’s important for this chapter that you understand “millenialism.” There are roughly three types: post-millenialism, pre-millenialism, and a-millenialism. The latter is the common RCA position, that the “thousand-year-reign” of Christ is metaphorical, and that the Second Coming will be both catyclismic and definitive. Pre-millenialism is of different sorts, but it generally holds that the Second Coming will be preceded by a literal thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth. Post-millenialism holds that there will be a more gradual evolution of the Lordship of Christ upon the earth until the final climax of the Second Coming.
In the recent century post-millenialism has been associated with liberalism. Think of that hymn: “God is working his purpose out . . . till the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.” But early on it was not so. Livingston was no liberal. Yet he seems to believe in a gradual flowering of the Kingdom of God until the Second Coming. Don’t take this to include the gradual eradication of sin, by any means, for this development was not the same as evolution. But what you see in Livingston is a new take on the Calvinist emphasis on the King­dom of God, when the Kingdom of God is not understood narrowly as individual sanctification, but the Reign and Sovereignty of God in real terms in history on the earth.
This is important for RCA people to understand. For when the RCA is examined from a CRC point of view, and in terms of CRC’s “kingdom” categories, the RCA seems to come up short. But, thanks to Livingston, the way that the RCA expressed its Calvinism was in foreign missions. The proof of this is that RCA missions included schools, hospitals, and rudimentary economic ministries.
One other note on foreign missions. If you don’t know Dutch colonial history, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the Dutch connection was maintained in our first three foreign mission fields. Abeel first went to Indonesia, which was not just a Dutch colony, but “the” Dutch colony. Scudder first went to Ceylon, which had been a Dutch colony till 1802, and where a small but indigenous Dutch Reformed denomination continues to this day. Both Abeel and Scudder left these fields for other places: China and India.
Even the mission to Japan depended on the Dutch connection. For two centuries, the only Europeans allowed to visit Japan were the Dutch merchants on their little island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbor. The only Western language known to the Japanese was Dutch. (“Rangaku” was the Japanese word for Western learning, derived from either “Orange” or the pronunciation of “Holland.”) So when Guido Verbeck went to Nagasaki as an American missionary, he was able to communicate with the Japanese in, yes, Dutch! Who’da thunkit. So Arabia and the Persian Gulf was our first foreign mission field to start without a Dutch connection.

pp. 95-110, “Theology”

I cannot stress too much how important this essay by Heideman is. Please take your time with it. Please try to place yourself and your future ministry within it. How will you relate to the system of Dort that you will declare your allegiance to? How will you contribute, as some sort of Calvinist, to the sovereignty of God within America? How will you follow Livingston, or not? What do you want the RCA to stand for theologically?
My own congregation very much values my being their local theologian. I do not believe for a moment that ordinary laypeople don’t want theology. My people ask theological questions all the time, especially my junior high Sunday School class. If you are going to be happy as an RCA pastor, you must accept the gift and obligation of taking responsibility for theology in your context. You need to work at it, and thank God for the chance to work at it. Heideman’s essay is a very good place to do it.

Word and World

pp. 31-43, “New York and Holland”

Eenigenburg’s essay is valuable in bringing out the theological aspects of the East-Midwest coalition. You’ll get background and subtle differences, but also the basic unity that Van Raalte sensed.

pp. 45-74, “Saints and Sinners”

I wish you could have known Gene Osterhaven. He was brilliant, personable, and passionate. He was humble and kindly. But when he turned on the heat, watch out. This essay is all him. I think you will enjoy it too. It doesn’t back off from controversy. But I believe it all stands up. Please note the spirit in the quotations included. Please note the vision of the church.
Let me remind you of the prior 1822 Secession at Hackensack under Solomon Froeligh. Froeligh had been a contentious descendent of the Coetus, and he used the Hopkinsian issue as cause to lead a secession of several pastors and consistories out of the RPDCNA, and start the “True Reformed Dutch Church in the United States of America.” This remained a very small group, with classes in Hackensack and Albany. They were all first immigration people.
During the second immigration, Gijsbert Haan met some of these people in New York, and learned from them their criticism of the RPDCNA. This very much influenced his later behavior in Grand Rapids. In the 1880s’ the True Reformed Dutch Church split again; some of them joined up with the United Presbyterians, and others joined up with the CRC. One of the two classes of the CRC in New Jersey is still called Classis Hackensack, though there hasn’t been a CRC congregation in Hackensack since who knows when.

pp. 107-117, “Heidelberg and Grand Rapids”

Here’s another insightful essay by Heideman. He lays out the three step movement in the RCA’s understanding of the relation of church to missions. The beginning was establishment, which Livingston changed this to voluntary church membership. John Piet moved it, controversially, to the next step, that election is for mission. You should be able to trace this out and understand, because it’s had a powerful influence on the RCA today, especially its Mission and Vision Statement, which led to the Ten Year Goal.
This essay should help you to spot the huge flaw in the Vision and Mission Statement, however. It never mentions the Kingdom of God. The church seems to be the whole focus of the church, instead of the church being for the Kingdom of God. Well, on the basis of this essay, what would Albertus Pieters have said about that?
The Three-Self mission strategy of Rufus Anderson is given short mention by Heideman because he’s doing historical theology, not history itself. But the Three-Self strategy was very important in World Missions history. Did you know that to this day that the huge inde­pendent indigenous Christian Church in China is known as the “Three-Self Church?” How many people know that this was thought out in the rooms of the RPDCNA Foreign Missions Board in NYC?

By Grace Alone, chapters 11-13.

What shall I say? Well, it’s just not fair to leave it at “irascibility,” but there’s a lot of “family history” here.

Study Guide for Session 4:

1. By the 1850’s, was the RPDCNA Dutch-Calvinist, American Evangelical, or both, and to what extent?
2. What happened in 1847, and what profound effect did it have on the RPDCNA?
3. What is the “Thompson Principle”?
4. What was the first immigrant group to be ministered to in the Nineteenth Century?
5. Why did the Hollanders leave Europe for the Midwest? Who led them?
6. What were the Seceders’ stated reasons for leaving the RCA?
7. What does Osterhaven say are the real reasons for the secession?
8. Comment on this: The cure that is secession is worse than the disease.
9. What other immigrant groups were ministered to after the 1890’s?
10. Identify the three waves of Dutch immigration.
11. Should the DRC Americanize, or is it the DRC’s divinely given responsibility to try to get America to be more purely Reformed?
12. How did Domestic Missions begin to change at the end of the 1800s?
13. What’s the importance of Livingston’s 1804 sermon, The Everlasting Gospel?
14. Be able to identify Van Raalte, Scholte, and Vander Meulen.
15. Know who De Cock was, and what happened at Ulrum in 1834.
16. Be able to define the Afscheiding.
17. Be able to describe Livinston’s millenialism.
18. What did this have to do with America?
19. Know what ABCFM stands for, and which denominations were in it.
20. Know the connection from Livingston to Bork to John Scudder.
21. Know what the UFMS stands for. It merged with the ABCFM in 1826.
22. Understand the deal between the Board of Foreign Missions and the ABCFM.
23. Why did the Board break off with the ABCFM in 1857?
24. What else happened in 1857?
25. Be able to explain the conflict between the Amoy mission and the Board and the General Synod. Does it remind you of Classis Amsterdam? How did this permanently affect RCA mission policy? How did Barnerd Luben state it in 1953?
26. Describe the WBFM and its significance. Who is Ruth Ransom?
27. Who is A. L. Warnshuis?
28. How did missions strategy change with the change in name to World Missions?
a. sister to sister rather than mother to daughter
b. local determinaiton of need and recruitment
c. lengths of stay and other kinds of specializations
29. Explain the decline between 1955 and 1975.
30. What’s the importance of John Gatu?
31. What were the two orientations that Heideman says the RCA was trying to balance?
32. After 1664, unlike in New England, the DRC was no longer responsible for the
morality and piety of the community at large. What’s the long term effect for
the mission of the RCA in America, compared to, say, our mother church, or
the DRC in South Africa?
33. What’s Hopkinsianism? The Ten Eyck case? What was the effect?
34. What’s the difference between Frelinghuysen’s Awakening and later American revivalism?
35. What are the Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian differences on Election?
36. Mercersburg Theology argued that the RCA had left true Calvinism. How? Why?
37. What are the predestinarian and eschatological interpretations of our confessional system as experienced in our history?
38. What did Van Raalte fear more than persecution?
39. Who is Gijsbert Haan?
40. What’s the True Reformed Dutch Church, from 1822, centered in Hackensack, New Jersey?
41. What are Osterhaven’s six reasons for the secession?
42. Note the theological issues of essentials vs. non-essentials, and the difference between truth and our perception of it.
43. You need to know and understand the General Synod’s decisions on Freemasonry.
44. What are the three purposes of mission, according to Voetius?
45. You need to know Rufus Anderson’s Three-Self Mission Strategy.
46. How did the Amoy Mission demonstrate the Three-Self strategy?
47. How did the RCA follow this as general missions policy?
48. What was Albertus Pieters’ disagreement?
49. For your classis exams, let me recommend that you be able to reel off the succession of RCA mission sites, up to and including Chiapas, Ethiopia, and the Sudan.

Discussion Group Issues

1. Discuss Heideman’s two essays. Use the related study questions above to do so.
2. Discuss the idea of coalitions in a denomination, and what they’ve developed into.


Reflect on following issues: Show me you know the stuff. Give implications.
1. The Secession that birthed the CRC
2. The Freemasonry issue.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Session Three: Lecture and Questions

Session 3: The Doctrinal Shift, Church Extension, and Missions

Read Bruggink and Baker, By Grace Alone, chapters 7-10.

Meeter, Meeting Each Other, chapter VI.

Read P&P, 35-76, W&W, 1-30

Please note: correct the Syllabus. The Word and World readings begin at page 1, not page 15.


Your Books for Session Three

Welcome to the Third Session. You will have less reading to do from now on, though I repeat that your reading De Jong was time well spent. I am sorry to report we don’t have a book like De Jong’s for the subsequent history of the RCA, that is, a single volume that puts it all together. So you will have to rely on what you can patch together from our readings. And you will find some overlap between the next sessions. As Tony Soprano says, Waddaya gonna do.

I am also sorry to report that By Grace Alone is not reliable as history. There are some embarrassing errors of both fact and interpretation in Chapter 10, “How We’ve Worshipped.” (For example, there was actually nothing in the confession of sins and absolution that made any difference to Mennonite-sympathizers, and John Henry Livingston had nothing to do with the translation of the Liturgy.) So I have to wonder about those other chapters in which I am less expert. But, as I said in the beginning, think of the book as a family picture album rather than dependable scholarship.

More happily, I am introducing you to two very excellent books: Piety and Patriotism (published 1976) and Word and World (published 1986). These collections of historical essays by RCA scholars are both edited by James W. Van Hoeven. These two books express the RCA’s collective attempt to understand its own history. Responding to the American Bi­cen­ten­ni­al, P&P looks at RCA history in terms of its American context, including the issues of patriotism and civil religion. W&W looks at RCA history in larger theological terms. These two books are wonderful. Their essays, while topical, are, grounded in the sources and in scholarly research. They are an example of RCA integrity and accountability. You will see below that I have offered you some questions in the form of a study guide on what to look out for in your reading.

The DRC becomes the RPDCNA

With this session we begin to study, at last, the Reformed Church in America in its own right as an free-standing Protestant denomination. But what’s a “denomination”? Please understand that a “denomination” is a very peculiar thing indeed, and that denominations did not exist for most of Christian history, though looking backward we can certainly trace the roots of them. Who knows how long they will continue to exist? Are they going the way of cassette tapes and VCRs? Steam locomotives? Or, like windmills, will they endure in some new form?

The very existence of denominations requires the external factors of immigration and the separation of church and state. These factors first came together in the American colonies and were formalized after the American Revolution. The ecclesiastical bodies left standing became, well, denominations, and the Dutch Reformed Church was among the first of them.

When the DRC became the RPDCNA, the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in North America, it had a peculiar place among the denominations. Like the Episcopalians, Presbyter­i­ans, Congregationalists, and American Baptists, the RPDCNA had a long and worthy pedigree and it belonged to the old colonial establishment. It was fully at home in Protestant America. As I told you before, John Henry Livingston participated in George Washington’s inauguration.

But alone among this group of established denominations, it had come late to the English language. In this sense it was more like the second group of Protestant denominations, which included the Lutherans (of many stripes), the Moravians, and the German Reformed. These Protestants had emigrated from the Continent. These groups held onto their native languages even longer than we did. So the RPDCNA was in a peculiar spot between these two groups, and it had elements of both groups within it.

To be true to itself, the RPDCNA had always to recon­cile aspects of both the American establishment and the continental immigration. America was both its native soil and a constant problem. How “Americanized” should such an American denomination be? At the same time, was its basic mission still to serve its own ethnic group, like the Continental immigrant deno­mi­nations, or to witness to America at large, like the Protestant establishment? And if so, how distinctive should its witness be?

What we will see, and what contributed to the succession of the Christian Reformed Church, is that the RPDCNA came to believe that while its Doctrine and Practice was good and faithful and Biblical, it was not necessarily more right than anyone else’s. That is, it assumed and was content with a practical pluralism that more strict Calvinists would find intolerable. But that’s jumping ahead. That’s the story of Session Four.

The Intermezzo Period

This Third Session studies the least Dutch period in our history, the intermezzo from 1793 to 1847. This was the period between the resolution of our Constitution and the beginning of the Second Immigration, with the arrival of Van Raalte and the founding of Holland, Michigan.

After 1847, the denomination played more and more to its continental immigration side, while before it, the RPDCNA played more to its American side. This was the period when it was defined less by its ethnicity and more by its Doctrine, Government, and Worship. During these decades, to be “Dutch Reformed” was actually to be very American. The Dutch language which many of its members still remembered was not real Dutch but the Yankee-Dutch dialect which no European could speak. And from 1837 to 1841, one of its members, Martin Van Buren, was in the White House.

The very American way of being Dutch Reformed still lives on in Brooklyn, the borough of New York City where I serve, as did my father before me. The motto of Brooklyn, as you can see at Borough Hall, is “Eendracht mackt maght.” To this day in Brooklyn, you get blank looks if you identify yourself as RCA, but if you say that you are “Dutch Reformed,” every Brooklyn native knows what you mean (and it has no more to do with your ethnicity than if you say that you speak the English language). It’s about the landscape and the ground. It means you belong to one of the churches that define the map of Brooklyn and that sport the names of its neighborhoods. And it means you’re mostly likely to belong to a Black congregation.

At the center of Flatbush is the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, at the corner of Flatbush and Church Avenues. At the center of Flatlands is the Flat­lands Reformed Church. The center of the New Utrecht neighborhood is the New Utrecht Reformed Church, the center of the New Lots neighborhood is the New Lots Church, and at the center of the Park Slope neigh­bor­hood is Old First Church. The membership of each of these is whatever ethnic group now lives in that neighborhood, so three of the congregations are African-American and one is mostly Italian.

Brooklyn suggests how the RPDCNA might have evolved without the Second Immi­gra­tion of 1847. One could also look to Bergen and Monmouth counties in New Jersey, or to the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys in New York. The classes in these regions might have eventually become part of a single Reformed Church in North America, representing the merger of the Dutch and German denominations, which in itself might have either anticipated or even prevented the subsequent United Church of Christ. Who knows? My point in raising this is not for nostalgia or “might-have-been,” but to illustrate the course we were on until the great course adjustment that came with the Second Immigration.

During this intermezzo period, the RPDCNA had quite remarkable growth in numbers, despite many failures and frustrations, as Chapter 7 of By Grace Alone indicates. The strongest growth was within New York and New Jersey, but there was also the growth that followed the pioneers who took their Conestoga wagons to the new lands for settlement beyond the Appa­la­chians. Two whole classes were organized in the Midwest already before the Second Immi­gra­tion, including the Classis of Michigan.

For example, three pioneers from upstate New York settled in Grand Rapids, worshipped for a few years with the Congregationalists, and then, on their own, founded the First Reformed Church and petitioned for a pastor to be sent to them. None of the three had particularly Dutch-sounding names. One of them was John Ball, after whom the Grand Rapids Zoo is named.

But as you will learn, after the first successes, the early classis of Michigan dwindled over time, and most of its congregations dissolved or became Presbyterian. The First Reformed Church of Grand Rapids limped along at first and almost suc­cumbed, if not for the influx of new immigrant members after 1847. These were the immi­grants who wanted to Americanize as quickly as possible, and to worship in English without delay.

You need to know the general story of these years. You need to know this to track those issues that continue to define our denomination, especially the problem of Church Extension, or Domestic Missions, or as we say today, “new church starts.” You need to know this story in order to have a fair estimation of the RCA as a denomination with something to offer in its terms. These are the years when the denomination was, for the first, time, free to keep its own house and set its own course. It could no longer blame any overseas body for any of its ills. And its switch to English would have the effect, in just one generation, of making it closer in feeling to its American cousins (Presbyterian and Congregational) than to its European mother.

At the same time, its very strong combination of Doctrine and Liturgy would make it always, I think, an acquired taste. The sympathies of American cultural development were all against what we stood for. We were Calvinist, stressing the sovereignty of God in a context of increasing humanism, and stressing divine election in a context of increasing Arminianism. The denominations that had the explosive growth were the Methodists and the Baptists, and their doctrines were much more acceptable to the American mind.

Two Particular Issues

The RPDCNA had to solve the problem of making its theological heritage relevant to North America. It had to have something to offer. In the attempt to do so, the denominations went through two significant theological changes. The first, and most subtle, is what I call the Doctrinal Shift. The second, and more obvious, is the theological embrace of patriotism. I want you to pay special attention to these two issues.

The Doctrinal Shift had its roots in the pietism of Bertholf and Frelinghuysen and the like. But it was the teaching and example of John Henry Livingston that brought it to fruition. As he was the professor who taught a couple generations of pastors, his acceptance of the extra two marks of the church from Johannes á Marck and his emphasis on “the experience of God” will have had a powerful influence on the whole denomination.

Constitutionally, we remained objectively Calvinist, and the Canons of Dort warned us against reading too much into our own experiences, and always to look instead to the objective promises of God. But our emphasis and practice changed.

Once again, we were trying to solve a problem, to manage a dialectic. But I wonder if we were unable to forge a compelling synthesis to offer to America, and this is partly why our first efforts at church extension eventually did not pan out.

You will find this Doctrinal Shift discussed most clearly in the first two essays in Word and World. Please take note of this and understand it. It may be hard for you fully to imagine or even consider its alternative, that is, what our common practical doctrines would be if we had not shifted. That’s to be expected, since the whole denomination of your experience is within the field of what it shifted to, rather than what it shifted from. The question for you is not so much whether you think it was good or bad for the RPDCNA to shift this way, but to understand the shift, and why it might have happened, and what its results were.

You need to know about the expansion of the marks of the church from three to five, under the Dutch theologian Johannes á Marck. You need to know what long-term affect this had on the RPDCNA. You need to know why Van Hoeven makes the claim that the Word and personal holiness replaced the Word and sacraments. I am assigning the discussion of this to your discussion groups.

The second issue is how the public witness of the RPDCNA tended to identify with American patriotism. This was connected with the new emphasis on missions both foreign and domestic. This was connected also with the second of Livinston’s three big theological impacts, and how missions moved from an emphasis on simple church growth to the Christianization of the nations. You need to reflect on why this can be understood as valid Calvinism. You need to reflect on the connection of evangelical Christianity with “democratic” goals. By going from Dutch to American, did we just replace one kind of culture-religion with another? And is it almost inevitable? I am assigning the reflection on this to your individual journaling. Don’t just journal your opinions. Please write in your Journals in terms of facts and specifics.

Okay, folks, go to it.

Study guide for Piety and Patriotism and Word and World.

1. What shift in the doctrine of the church did Johannes á Marck represent? What was he?

2. List the various church extension sites (domestic missions).

3. What were Jacob Jinning’s four problems and were they typical? The shape of things to come?

4. What were the 3 responsibilities of the Church Extension Committee of 1786?

5. How did Domestic Missions strategy change in 1819 & 1822, and how does Van Hoeven interpret it? To what extent was it successful?

6. How did J H Livingston change the RPDCNA from being hesitant on missions?

7. Identify J H Livingston’s contribution to the evolution of RPDCNA theology, 3 main areas.

8. What is Hopkinsianism, and what effect did it have on the RPDCNA?

9. What is the Mercersburg Theology, and what effect did it have on the RPDCNA?

10. What were some of the Church Extension efforts after the 1830's?

11. By the 1850's, was the RPDCNA Dutch-Calvinist, American Evangelical, or both?

12. What was the first immigrant group to be ministered to in the Nineteenth Century?

13. What other immigrant groups were ministered to after the 1890's?

14. How did Domestic Missions begin to change at the end of the 1800s?

Journal Questions

1. What shift in the doctrine of the church did a Marck represent? What was he?

2. What were Jacob Jinning’s four problems and were they typical? The shape of things to come?

3. How did Domestic Missions strategy change in 1819 & 1822, and how does Van Hoeven interpret it? To what extent was it successful?

4. How did Domestic Missions begin to change at the end of the 1800s?

5. How did RPDCNA theology shift towards supporting American patriotism? Why?

6. The Reformed emphasis on the sovereignty of God suggests that, of the several tasks of the church, the “sanctification of all of life” is prior to “winning souls for salvation.” Doesn’t this say that the Reformed Church should have a pastoral interest in the daily culture of its people?

7. Reflect on the relation between evangelization and patriotism.

Discussion Group Questions

1. Each group is assigned to come up with its own group definition of the Great Doctrinal Shift. You need to discuss its significance.

2. What was it about J H Livingston that changed the RPDCNA from being hesitant on missions to being pro-missions?

3. Identify J H Livingston’s contribution to the evolution of RPDCNA theology, 3 main areas.