Friday, February 25, 2011

Dutch Church History: Why Start a New Church?

Dutch Church history is a complicated subject, to say the least. I've been reading about some of the controversies surrounding the formation of the Christian Reformed Church. The following is bit one-sided, but I found it fascinating, taken from this link.

Koene (Conrad) van den Bosch accepted the call from a congregation in Zeeland, MI. In May 1856, van den Bosch "preached from a farmer’s wagon at the first service for a new church established north of Holland to serve the nearby rural community." This church was part of the Reformed Church of America. Less than a year later, he sent the following letter to the denomination:

“By this I notify you that I can hold no ecclesiastical communion with you, for the reason that I cannot hold all of who have joined the Dutch Reformed Church to be the true Church of Jesus Christ, and consequently I renounce all fellowship with you and declare myself no longer to belong to you. I am more constrained to do this by the fear of God on account of the abominable and church-destroying heresy and sins which are rampant among you, which, if the Lord will and we live, I shall present to the next meeting of the Classis. I hope that your eyes may yet be opened to see your extreme wickedness, to take it to heart, and be converted.”

The letter was signed by sixteen families. "This letter was regarded by many as vitriolic. It was indeed biting, caustic, sarcastic, sharp and bitter. This was the start of the Christian Reformed Church. Rev. van den Bosch had a small church built near his house." That part is a bit simplistic, it was more complicated than this simple letter. The CRC went on to be a rather large denomination, faithful to the Scriptures for many years (alas well... ).

Yes (for better or for worse) I have a lot of Dutch in me. And, the church I'm a member of is the direct result of the history of both the Reformed Church in America and the CRC. As I've worked through many of the details surrounding the formation of the CRC, I would say they had many proper reasons for leaving the RCA: departure from Calvinism of the standards (election and atonement), toleration of Free Masonry, etc. They had some silly reasons as well, like problems with a hymnbook.

I realize posting something like this here is simply ammunition for my Roman Catholic friends. But, it's history that's part of my history. This leads then to the bigger point, probably most controversial.

While not every church split or new denomination has a justified beginning, many do. So, I don't necessarily have a problem with a justified church split or new denomination. If the result is many unjustified church splits and new denominations, well that's sin for you. This though doesn't negate that all church splits or new denominations are necessarily wrong or bad. Simply because a church split may be based on sin or faulty premises doesn't mean that all are. That's why I'm a student of the Reformation! That was not a split based on sin or faulty premises.

Consider this. Jesus and the apostles were Jews, and part of Judaism. Why didn't they stay within Judaism? Why didn't they simply stay within the confines of the religious structure that surrounded them and "reform" it? No, the Lord Jesus had a church to build quite distinct from the religious structures of his day. He didn't nail a list of complaints to the temple door. Rather, the people and religious leaders nailed him to a cross. If anyone was ever declared a heretic by a religious organization, that was it. Thus in a sense, Christianity was the Reformation of Judaism. Of course, for various and complicated reasons they aren't referring to us as "separated brothers" and asking us to swim the Jordan or return home to Israel.

Of course with the Christian Church, Jesus wants us to be "one" as do I. Discussions about the invisible and visible church could augment this in many ways, but I don't have the time to venture down those paths. But when a particular organized body departs significantly from the faith, it may be time to move on. There are certain structures that can't (or refuse to) be fixed.

I may not be proud of all my Dutch heritage, but I am proud of those who cling to the gospel and Scriptures. If ever the church body I belong to now loses that and refuses to repent, I'd lead the Exodus out the door. I'm sure I'm not saying anything that someone else has said far more eloquently. I don't expect I've ever had an original thought.

15 comments:

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"No, the Lord Jesus had a church to build quite distinct from the religious structures of his day. He didn't nail a list of complaints to the temple door. Rather, people and religious leaders nailed him to a cross. If anyone was ever declared a heretic by a religious organization, that was it. Thus is a sense, Christianity was the Reformation of Judaism. Of course, for various and complicated reasons they aren't referring to us as "separated brothers" and asking us to swim the Jordan or return home to Israel."

That's a very good way of seeing things. Thanks James for this post.

You schismatic, you.

;-)

James Swan said...

wow, I just posted that 36 seconds ago. Are you a computer program?

Rhology said...

To this post, I say: Yes.`

scotju said...

Christianity was not the reform of Judaism, it was the replacement of it.
There was never a religion called Judaism. The Mosiac covenant was called the Law Of God or the Law Of Moses. The sect of the Pharisees, not the Law Of Moses, was the religion that became known as Judaism.
Jesus never embraced or reformed Phariseeism, he condemned it. The Church declared the real Law of Moses and Phariseeism null and void for the Christian church at the Jerusalem council.
Jesus didn't destroy the law, he fullfilled it by acomplishing all its figures and prophecies and by perfecting what was imperfect. Matt 5:21-48 shows us part of the work of perfection that he did. If was "reforming Judaism" he would have demanded the strict letter of the Mosiac law. Instead, he went beyond the demands of the Mosiac code. Matt 5:31-32 is a very good example of this.

Jennie said...

I'm still proud of my pilgrim heritage, but it was tarnished a little when I discovered our ancestor Isaac Allerton seems to have had an eye to the main chance. I see their faults as well as their sacrifices and courage and faith.

Brigitte said...

We can kind of see where you are going with this, but it would be kind of wrong to see the Son of God as a "schismatic" in any sense and it is we all together who nailed him to the cross.

James Swan said...

We can kind of see where you are going with this, but it would be kind of wrong to see the Son of God as a "schismatic" in any sense and it is we all together who nailed him to the cross

I haven't at all argued that Christ was a "schismatic." What I've argued is that religious bodies, however well-intentioned they began, can stray far from the truth, sometimes so far that leaving them is justified.

James Swan said...

Christianity was not the reform of Judaism, it was the replacement of it.

"The truth revealed through Christ and the apostles is the same truth revealed in the Old Testament. The same gospel preached by the apostles was preached in the Old Testament to Abraham (Gal 3:5-14). This is why Paul could say that the gospel which he proclaimed was according to the Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament (1 Cor 15:1-4)." (King, Holy Scripture vol. 1)

I point this out merely to show the Jews had been given the gospel, yet rejected it. The Jews were given the Scriptures, yet had hoisted their own unbiblical traditions on to them, thus covering up the truth.

Sound familiar?

James Swan said...

Isaac Allerton seems to have had an eye to the main chance.

OK, so I spent about 10 minutes looking up "eye to the main chance."

Brigitte said...

Sorry, I may not be getting what you are saying. My husband is making me paint, the fumes may be getting to me. And then I put in a good word for the Pope speaking up for the unborn on the Globe and Mail and was trashed for that. Quite and experience.

Jennie said...

OK, so I spent about 10 minutes looking up "eye to the main chance."

Did you find it? I can't remember when I first heard that expression, but it always stuck with me.

Several years ago I was reading some of William Bradford's account of the Plymouth colony, and came across several records that showed Isaac apparently attempting to feather his own nest (I know you don't need to look that one up :D) at the expense of the others. Very disillusioning. But since that ancestry was somewhat of a source of pride to me, it was a good thing, for me anyway.

James Swan said...

Yes I did find it. At first I thought you were using a phrase that everyone should know, so I was a bit embarrassed I didn't know what you meant.

It's a great phrase. Thanks.

James Swan said...

Sorry, I may not be getting what you are saying. My husband is making me paint, the fumes may be getting to me. And then I put in a good word for the Pope speaking up for the unborn on the Globe and Mail and was trashed for that. Quite and experience.

Yes, well, I tend to like this pope. I do not like painting though, and will remember to make my wife do all the painting!

Jennie said...

Why didn't they stay within Judaism? Why didn't they simply stay within the confines of the religious structure that surrounded them and "reform" it? No, the Lord Jesus had a church to build quite distinct from the religious structures of his day. He didn't nail a list of complaints to the temple door. Rather, the people and religious leaders nailed him to a cross. If anyone was ever declared a heretic by a religious organization, that was it. Thus in a sense, Christianity was the Reformation of Judaism. Of course, for various and complicated reasons they aren't referring to us as "separated brothers" and asking us to swim the Jordan or return home to Israel.

Is that like new wineskins for new wine? The Jewish legalists and those trying to hold power couldn't accept the new wine. Well, the 'Church' couldn't accept the new wine of reform that was desperately needed.
My pastor preached on Matthew 18 (He's doing a series on Matthew) a few weeks ago, and it occurred to me that that whole chapter is talking about the church, the body of Christ, and the offenses (sins) that will come, and how to deal with them: cut off the offending part. The first part of that chapter is talking about being like little children, and then those who cause the little children (His sheep) to stumble. The 'Church' was definitely causing the little children to stumble. It was time for a cutting-off. The reformers were called to that.

James Swan said...

Is that like new wineskins for new wine? The Jewish legalists and those trying to hold power couldn't accept the new wine. Well, the 'Church' couldn't accept the new wine of reform that was desperately needed.

I'm somewhat surprised that the Roman Catholics who frequent this blog didn't put up more of a fight on this sort of point.