Myodicy, Issue 25, January 2006

The Reformational Movement:
Church and Worship

by Theodore Plantinga

NOTE: This essay on the reformational movement in North America is the second in a series. Click here to go to the first installment. Subsequent installments will appear in future issues of Myodicy. The series consists not just of narrative essays in which ideas, persons and institutions are discussed but also includes files in which documents of one sort or another that shed some light on the movement and its history are presented. In addition there is a web page devoted to the "cast of characters" and another that provides basic information about many of the institutions and organizations involved in the story. For an overview of the series and the web pages or files of which it is comprised, along with links to those files, click here.

The danger of triumphalism

Reformationals are inclined to engage in introspection. Sometimes they wonder why they don't get more credit for their good deeds and striking ideas. They may take to blaming themselves by attributing the problem to what they call "triumphalism," a term that speaks for itself. What many people do not realize, however, is that "triumphalism" bears an interesting relationship to a term that is often used to characterize the ecclesiastical affiliation favored by most reformationals, namely, "Reformed."

When we use the term "Reformed," we should bear in mind that it is a past participle (to be distinguished from a present participle, which, in this case, would be "reforming"). It is sometimes asked whether the past-participle name borne by Reformed churches is not itself an indication of triumphalism ("We have reformed -- mission accomplished"). Indeed, one could go further, as I once did, in a Myodicy essay about the North American churches known officially as "United Reformed," and ask whether one might not get carried away with past-participle thinking. Might it not be better for people who believe that we need to be both united and reformed in our church life to characterize their federation of churches as "uniting" and "reforming"? And could they not tack on "loving" as well? ("I belong to the "Uniting, Reforming, Loving Church.") By using the present participle, they could admit that we are on a journey and are still a long way from our destination: as of right now, even our noblest deeds and intentions are as filthy rags before our holy God (see Zechariah 3:3 and Isaiah 64:6).

There is a semi-official answer to concerns about the "mission accomplished" approach to reforming the church. It is expressed by way of the familiar Latin saying "Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est," that is to say, "A Reformed (part participle) church is always a reforming (present participle) church." [NOTE vanderwalt33] In short, a Reformed church recognizes that its work is never done when it comes to the challenge of reformation. And so the reformationals, along with the other Reformed folks, can nicely let themselves off the hook.

Stern reproaches

Of course one could ask whether continuing reformation (which might remind some people of Leon Trotsky's notion of "permanent revolution") is really what the reformationals wanted. [NOTE permanent33] It is sometimes suggested that they were never really interested in the church in the first place. After all, they trashed the church in the early days of the reformational movement in North America, then paid a great price for their misconduct, and thereafter professed to take a polite interest in church affairs but in effect devoted their energy and attention to other sectors of God's worldwide kingdom. Such, at least, is the line of thought I sometimes encounter, more often in conversation than in print.

Younger readers of this essay will not recall the heady days of the 1960s and 1970s when stern reproaches were routinely directed toward the church by young reformationals. For example, I remember an editorial entitled "The Church Destitute" which appeared in a periodical called FOCUS that was published by a federation composed of Christian student clubs on various Christian and secular campuses (including the Groen Club in Grand Rapids). The editorial, written by a young Runner enthusiast who shall remain unnamed, opened with the following words:

The church as we know it is for all intents and purposes excess baggage. ... The church is by and large a faithless community which tries to fill faithless lives with meaningless tripe, at least so think those who sunday after sunday with next to absolutely no interest at all occupy its stolid pews. Its sunday at 10 and 7 rituals betray all the characteristics of vain and impossible attempts to express belief in obviously unexperienced but much sung and talked about realities. Words are repeated, and then many times with great degrees of sophistication where the establishment has its roots deep-set in the wealth of the community. But they have no real referents as they once had for those who by faith alone boldly confessed them when Christ in the flesh walked the earth and declared the coming of the kingdom, which meant the shedding of the old and the putting on of the new. The forms have endured but the spirit has fled the churches ....

Reformationals today who have come by their gray hair honestly may respond by saying: "Surely that was just a single hothead speaking for himself!" And in a note published in that very issue of FOCUS, the Groen Club board took some distance from these sentiments. Fair enough. On the other hand, in those days a milder version of this stern critique was forthcoming from older and highly regarded leaders who do not need to remain unnamed. I think especially of Hendrik Hart.

In considering the words of Hart, we need to bear in mind that for a time he was the virtual embodiment in one person of the hopes of the reformational movement in North America. Originally, of course, Evan Runner played that role. But from the beginning, the reformationals in North America were convinced that an institution of our own, such as the Institute for Christian Studies that was established in 1967, would be needed if the reformational work was to take root. And while some hoped that Runner would spearhead the development of such an institution, it never happened. Instead the new institution opened with a faculty composed of one young professor -- Hendrik Hart. At that time, when no courses were given, his work consisted largely of traveling to university campuses in Ontario where he met with Christian students and encouraged them and helped them gain insight into issues related to their academic work. A year later (1968), he was joined by James Olthuis and Bernard Zylstra (1934-86); I still like to think of this trio as the "three musketeers" of the reformational movement. They had style, spirit and plenty of enthusiasm.

Hart was one of the authors who contributed to the famous book Out of Concern for the Church. In his essay we find a heading "The church is dead." This heading could be called an instance of hyperbole on his part, for he admits that it may just be unconscious or asleep. As we read, we find an uncharitable reference to Louis Praamsma; [NOTE praamsma33] it occurs in a paragraph in which Carl McIntire and Ian Paisley are also cited as examples of how the Christian faith can degenerate. The heading over the Praamsma sentence is "Forced impotence." We are told that the problem is that a great many Christians have lost the Biblical faith.

You can't split rotten wood

Hart was not writing in a distant or disdainful spirit. Why did he cry out in such pain when talking about the church? He explained, using italics for the entire sentence: "The real problem is this: the church is indeed the most important institution in the Christian community." It would seem that when the church falls down on the job, the entire Christian community is imperiled. There is no escaping the obvious implication: the church is well worth fighting about.

The Calvinist tendency to fight over church issues and then to part ways if no agreement can be reached is much deplored. Yet some observe: "You can't split rotten wood." [NOTE rottenwood33] Whatever one may say of Hart and the young reformationals who stirred up so much dust in the 1970s, one cannot deny their passion. They cared deeply about the church they criticized. True to the fashion that dominated the troubled times in which they wrote, they went to rhetorical extremes, refusing to sugar-coat their sentiments when they spoke out about the church's shortcomings. And so Hart, having admitted the church's importance and centrality, goes on in the very next paragraph to say:

The church of today is unwilling to examine its response to its calling. It is comfortably assured that it is the most important institution anyway. But such a church becomes unfaithful; believing in itself, it no longer believes and understands the Bible. It is not willing to be open to the Word, to the Truth. It is too weak to consider the possibility of its apostasy and deadness. Its preaching becomes ministering to the needs of the people and it ceases to be a ministry of the Word. Such a church becomes an establishment in the worst sense of the word: an institution out to maintain itself, screaming like a wounded animal when criticism comes its way. Criticism makes it uncomfortable; it feels comfortable only in maintaining its rules, procedures, styles, structures, programs, traditions, heritages and whatever else serves to keep the machine well oiled; but it is incapable of carrying on the business of the Gospel.

So what is to be done? Another heading tells us: "We must tell the church to repent." Just before the end of his essay Hart announces: "The only way out of our contemporary mess is the radical way. That is the way of the Cross and of the Living Lord. Break down the temples of evil and Christ will build you a new temple." [NOTE outofconcern22]

When we reread such passages today, we may feel inclined to shake our heads and mutter about "the times." Such passion! Did people really talk that way just a few decades ago, during our lifetime? It all seems like ancient history. And so we may feel we can safely discount such rhetoric by 50%, or perhaps even by 75%.

Runner on the church

Before we dismiss Hart's strong language as a product of the times and turn our attention to other matters, we should ponder what Evan Runner, in the year 1967, said to the Christian Labour Association of Canada (just a few years before Hart wrote his essay):

The battle of our time -- as indeed of any time -- is to determine which spirit is to give direction to our civilization. A church organization, or a world of Christian theological activity, standing alone within a culture all the other activities of which are directed by an anti-Christian spirit must remain impotent and has become irrelevant, and it will in the long run fade away. Even to preserve the organized church therefore we must fight for an integral Christian society. Either there is a quickening of faith, which senses the religious unity of life, or there is the quiet accommodation, in almost imperceptible stages, to a way of life which does not, cannot, hear the Good Shepherd's voice. This is the quiet of the dead. [NOTE runner33]

In those days, it seemed that the church was a valley of dry bones. Could those bones yet live? (See Ezekiel 37.) Yet it remains a fact that many of the reformationals started their university-level studies with the conviction that God was calling them to the ministry: I was among them. Were they encouraged in their sense of calling by their mentor, Evan Runner?

Opinion is divided on this score. Some of the reformationals with whom I have discussed this matter maintain that Runner had a low view of the church, and especially of its local seminary, the one that served the Christian Reformed denomination. But the suggestion is also made that he had other fish to fry and was only giving the church lower priority than other sectors of God's kingdom, thereby trying to correct an imbalance (the bulk of the "talent" used to go into the church).

When we assess Runner's own attitude to the church and to church life in general, drawing on personal recollections and anecdotes and incidents as opposed to his published writings, we are treading on dangerous ground. But in such an essay as this, the question cannot be avoided. In taking it up, however, I need to inject into the discussion another factor which is indispensable if we are to form a fair and balanced judgment. I don't have a good name for this factor, and so I will call it simply the Grand Rapids atmosphere.

It was my impression from the years I spent in Grand Rapids during two separate parts of my life that the Christian Reformed folks living there are almost done in by their own success. Because the church is such an overwhelming presence, many of the Christian Reformed people in Grand Rapids tend in one of two directions. Either they become virtual worshipers of their denomination's success in a number of respects (including finances), or they become uneasy and even start to feel somewhat smothered by the presence and influence of their own churches. I fell into the latter camp when I lived in Grand Rapids; I found it to be something of a liberation to get away from the Grand Rapids atmosphere when I moved back to Canada in 1982 to begin teaching at Redeemer. (I am a Canadian citizen, and my home town is Winnipeg.)

Many years have passed since then, and I have mellowed in my attitude toward Grand Rapids boosterism. But I remember that unique atmosphere well enough to understand how Runner must have chafed under it. Could it be that unkind and uncharitable remarks occasionally escaped his lips because of this factor? It is also possible that Runner's criticism was confined basically to the preaching in the churches, which was often inadequate; this is how Ralph Koops assesses the question of Runner's critical stance toward the church. [NOTE koops33]

When the claim is made that the leading reformationals did not show much appreciation for church life, Hart and Runner are not the only figures whom critics have in mind. I remember that Bernard Zylstra used to tell us that Dooyeweerd was a strict "oncer," and sometimes Zylstra would add that he was too. Later in life, Zylstra began to attend church twice each Sunday. [NOTE zylstra33] The notion that the church claimed too much of our energy and attention and drained resources away from other institutional manifestations of the kingdom of God was fairly widespread in reformational circles, although some felt more strongly about this matter than others.

A professorial religion

Nevertheless, some of us were indeed headed for the ministry. Just what did we expect to do if and when we got there? I suppose I was rather immature when I began my preseminary studies at Calvin College at the tender age of seventeen. I envisioned myself preaching -- perhaps I could better say: lecturing -- to God's people. And what might my topic be? Would I tell them about Nietzsche and humanism and the importance of philosophy? I'm sure such themes would have crept into my sermons if I had ever made it to the pulpit. Years later I discovered what Paul Tillich says about Protestantism as a professorial religion, and I thought of how his words might well apply to the attitudes and thinking of some of the Groen Clubbers, including the undersigned:

Protestantism is a highly intellectualized religion. The minister's gown of today is the professor's gown of the Middle Ages, symbolizing the fact that the theological faculties as the interpreters of the Bible became the ultimate authority in the Protestant churches. But professors are intellectual authorities -- i.e., authorities by virtue of skill in logical and scientific argument. ... The minister is preacher, not priest; and sermons are intended, first of all, to appeal to the intellect. [NOTE tillich33]

Yet I was also a lover of Bible study and of the redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture, and so I suppose I could have put together some respectable sermons. [NOTE waitforthelord33] In any case, I was diverted to graduate school and a career as a professor, as were others. I suppose it dawned on us at a certain point that instead of becoming little professors who used the church as a lecture hall we could become big professors. Even so, a number of Runner's other students in the Groen Club did seek ordination and served for many years as pastors.

Radical reformation

One of our favorite buzzwords in those days was "reformation," which we were careful to distinguish from "revolution." We had reformation in mind not only for those sectors of society that seemed in dire need of Christianizing but also for the church. And reformation, we thought, was work for prophets; the enterprise as we envisioned it had an Old Testament flavor. In a book devoted to the notion of reformation, B.J. van der Walt tells us:

Reformation is the Biblical way. Do read about the reformations in the Old Testament of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah. ... Not only did they do away with idols, holy tree trunks and burn pillars, they also banished the cultic prostitutes. The idolatrous priests were slaughtered on their own altars and the bones of long-dead priests were disinterred and burnt on the same altars where they used to offer sacrifices to their gods. When the honour of God and obedience to his Word are at stake, radical action is essential! [NOTE vanderwalt44]

So what was the radical overhaul we had in mind for the church? Or in today's more moderate and nuanced language: what were the reforms we envisioned? Were we serious about reforming the church? Or are the cynics right in suggesting that the church was to be bypassed as irrelevant?

James Olthuis used to say that the kingdom of God has many rooms, and the church was one of those rooms. And so the church was in need of reformational attention just as the other "rooms" were. If we go back to a slightly earlier era in the Netherlands and take in hand a book about reformational philosophy published in Dutch under the title Wijsbegeerte en levenspraktijk (Philosophy and the Practice of Life), we find that right after the introductory essay, which is devoted to the theme and title, comes an essay on philosophy and church, which is followed immediately by another about philosophy and preaching. Then marriage, the state, art, economic life, social life, the youth movement, education, technology, and the special sciences all get discussed in separate essays in which the light provided by reformational philosophy is used to clarify the topic at hand. [NOTE levenspraktijk33] This book is concrete evidence that the church was definitely on the horizon of the reformationals.

Five factors

Reformational efforts were indeed undertaken, but -- to make a long story short -- the reforms did not come to much. There are five major factors which I will comment on separately as having held back the worthy efforts that were intended and attempted in the way of church reformation. I will first list them:

  • (1) The powerful influence of individualism in North American life.
  • (2) The aftermath and consequences of the schism of 1944 in the Netherlands.
  • (3) The bitter struggle over women's ordination.
  • (4) The worship wars that began to tear the churches apart on the local level.
  • (5) The pressing need to bring Christians of various church backgrounds together in an effort to operate what amounted to non-denominational schools.


    The first of the barriers to greater success in church reformation, then, was the powerful individualism that had long been resident in the consciousness of North American Christians as a presupposition that was so deeply embedded that people scarcely knew it was there. The reformationals, as lovers of philosophy, were adept at digging out presuppositions and holding them up to view, and so they took issue with individualism.

    Calvin Seerveld spoke eloquently on this subject and had a keen sense of how much the individualist presupposition held back the healthy unfolding of church life. It is worth noting that he did so in an essay in the very same controversial book from which the Hendrik Hart quotations above were taken. Explained Seerveld: "There are a few Biblical givens about the church that are so foreign to our way of thinking, because of the individualistic, rationalist, American Protestant traditions we have absorbed by osmosis as it were that to mention them, even here, may be confusing, sound almost like glossolalia." What it really came down to, Seerveld wrote, was that the Bible "... reckons with the people of God, not with loose individuals."

    For Seerveld, the Biblical doctrine that there is a single people of God -- as opposed to an aggregate of loose individuals who are referred to collectively as "the church" -- has important ecumenical implications that should not be lost on us as we celebrate the sacrament of communion:

    ... according to the Scriptures, there is a one people of God, a grand body of chosen loved ones -- whether old Israel or the New Humanity -- whose head is Christ, which is a worldwide, enduring, messianic community, a community of saints which has a corporate character, is not a collection of separate individuals but is a single, large communion into which men whose hearts are changed by the Holy Spirit enter as members. This is the holy catholic Church which I confess especially when I eat the bread and drink the wine festively in Chicago -- cheers for the Lord's return! -- knowing I am celebrating it with Harry Boer in Nigeria, Seraphimedes in Greece, Mrs. Neuerburg in The Hague, Smit in Japan, struggling students in Florida, Washington, Toronto, together confessing this glorious, corporate Body to which we all sinfully belong. [NOTE seerveld33]

    Here Seerveld was sounding a familiar reformational note. Runner sometimes used the word "root-unity," [NOTE runner66] which sounds strange in our ears today, although it is related to a familiar notion that is captured in the phrase "the religious unity of life," which he used in a block quotation earlier in this essay. In Dooyeweerd we find the same theme: the human race is said to possess an original root-unity, which is shattered by sin but is in principle restored in Christ, so that all the believers, rooted in Christ, form a single body and can be considered the new humanity. This notion is at the heart of a reformational understanding of ecclesiology. Gordon Spykman used even stronger language than the others in opposing the mistaken way of thinking: the individualism that considers the church an "aggregate of individuals" is a "heresy," as far as he is concerned. [NOTE spykman33]

    But such denunciations of individualism by the reformationals have not had much effect in North America. Individualism is still a powerful force to be reckoned with. It can be compared to the tide that keeps washing away the sand castle you are trying to build on the beach. Gradually, because of the persistence of the elements, many Reformed people decided unconsciously that their ecclesiology would have to be adjusted. [NOTE voting33] The influence of the evangelicals played a role in this theological shift, but it should be borne in mind that when it came to these matters the evangelicals were in tune with the culture, whereas Seerveld, Runner, Spykman, and those who followed them in rejecting individualism were swimming against the stream. In accounting for these things, Runner emphasized the impact on American society and culture of the thinking of John Locke (1632-1704), that renowned apostle of individualism. [NOTE locke33]

    Not satisfied to be saved alone

    In some of the smaller, more conservative Reformed churches, one still encounters powerful resistance to individualism in ecclesiology. Moreover, the implications of the traditional corporate emphasis are brought forward in a forthright manner. For example, in a church paper I found a meditation entitled "Not Satisfied To Be Saved Alone." T.G. Van Raalte, a young Canadian Reformed minister in Winnipeg who wrote the meditation, tells his readers:

    In Christ, the redeemed people are assured, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" (Heb 13:5). But none of us is an island, and so we should be careful not to read that promise as though it is only for individuals. Here God's presence is promised for all of us as his church. None of us should be satisfied to be saved alone. We belong in a body within which we must also seek the salvation of our brothers and sisters. [NOTE vanraalte33]

    Is such thinking intended to get rid of any and all "me and Jesus" spirituality? Are we here being told that it is the church that is saved? Benne Holwerda strikes a characteristically reformational note when he admonishes us by saying: "For when we contemplate eternal joy -- let's be honest now -- we hardly think at all about the church. Most people seem only concerned that their soul shall be with Christ." [NOTE holwerda33] Donald Van Dyken, a minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, writes:

    The Anabaptist spirit, which sought a pure church made up only of elect individuals, largely ignores God's usual emphasis on corporate election; that he chooses, elects a people, an Israel, a church at Ephesus, and that individual election is always in the context of corporate election. Individualism instead shifts to concentrate election on individuals who then make up an invisible church. No longer is the entire church, the men, women, and children assembled in front of the preacher, the object of the grace and love of God, but only select individuals within that church." [NOTE vandyken33]

    An ecclesiology based on such a rejection of individualism would have been to Evan Runner's liking, for he wrote:

    ... we must not think too individualistically about individual human beings in their cultural work. Individuals as atomic or monadic units simply do not exist. Individuals are characteristically swept up into movements, and in these movements we can discern spirits. [NOTE runner44]

    Although Dooyeweerd was not one for stirring up quarrels in churches and much preferred to strike an ecumenical note, he also understood these emphases. Therefore he took issue with the Congregationalists, whom he characterized as the "Independents." He wrote: "For in this congregational thought there is a strongly individualistic tendency, which is accentuated by the repression of the institutional character of the Church in its official organization." [NOTE dooyeweerd33] Neither is Hendrik Hart to be left out of this consensus: "... God is not the Creator of individual men, but of mankind. God created a body of men which, when come to life again in Christ, is the Body of Christ." [NOTE hart33] Indeed, the Christian doctrine of original sin makes no sense apart from such a corporate emphasis. [NOTE corporate33]

    Furthermore, this covenantal emphasis, which reminds us again of the connection between the followers of Dooyeweerd and the redemptive-historicals (remember that S.G. De Graaf wrote at length about "covenant history"), [NOTE covenant33] is the opposite of the individualism that runs rampant in evangelical circles and was denounced by reformational leaders. In the "Educational Creed" inscribed in the academic calendar of the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) for the 1969-70 academic year, which was the first year of full-time student enrollment, we read: "... the essence or heart of all created reality is the covenantal communion of man with God in Christ."

    No church before the fall?

    It is reported that during the heyday of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands, some preachers used to defend the proposition that even Adam and Eve were Reformed. At first this may seem a piece of silly denominational chauvinism, but in the light of what I have written above it might well be regarded as an exemplification and application of the notion of the church as essentially corporate in character (as opposed to being a mere aggregation of individuals). Didn't Adam and Eve live by faith, hoping for the promised Redeemer? Don't we embrace them as fellow believers, along with Moses and David and Elijah?

    Before this matter can be sorted out theologically or philosophically, we need to make a further distinction by asking whether the church existed before the fall into sin. Were Adam and Eve, prior to the fall into sin, the nucleus of what is now regarded as the body of believers, i.e. the church in an ultimate sense (as opposed to the more limited sense of a local congregation)? If there was indeed pre-redemptive special revelation, as Geerhardus Vos maintained, [NOTE vos33] could we not conclude that there was also churchly worship in some initial sense?

    William Masselink says no, pointing to a Christian Reformed synodical report that makes an interesting distinction between science, on the one hand, and the church, on the other:

    Science belongs to creation. Church and State do not belong to creation, but came into existence after the Fall of man. Without sin there would have been no Government or christian Church, but there would have been science. Science was already possible in Paradise. [NOTE masselink33]

    The difference in status between science and the church that is accepted here cannot simply be swept aside, for no less an authority than Abraham Kuyper embraced it as well:

    The Christian church in its visible form is a grace-institute which, were it not for the fall, would not have come about. The church is a postulate of sin and first became possible because of sin. ... It [the church] has sometimes been called the hospital of humanity, and to a certain extent this image can shed light on its position in the life of the people. Everything then depends on seeing clearly how the Church of Christ is something extraordinary added to ordinary life, and how, consequently, it can never be explained on the basis of ordinary life. [NOTE kuyper33]

    At first blush these statements by Masselink and Kuyper seem out of tune with what we read in Answer 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism: "I believe that the Son of God, out of the whole human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself, by His Spirit and Word, in the unity of the true faith, a church chosen to everlasting life." [NOTE heidelberg33]

    To reconcile the Masselink and Kuyper statements with the Catechism, we must bear in mind that the term "church" is used in more than one sense in Reformed thought. In the most ultimate sense referred to in the Catechism, the church is to be understood as humanity in its totality, chosen by God in love. Moreover, the church as we know it now is supposed to be the new humanity restored to its unity in Christ. And so Paul assures us in Romans 11 that although a remnant has been chosen by grace, all Israel will be saved (see verses 5 and 26).

    The root-unity of the human race

    There are profound implications here. One is them is that a rupture in church life is not a situation which, although regrettable, is limited to one sector of life. To make a great deal of church unity and ecumenism, as Schilder and company do, so that even a refusal to join together is a matter of the gravest import, is to hold high what the Catechism says about church in the ultimate sense. [NOTE ecumenism33]

    A similar view is presupposed and defended by Runner, Dooyeweerd and various other reformationals when they talk about the root-unity of the human race. Schism is much less serious if one holds to an essentially individualistic view of society and the human race, a view that allows one to regard the church -- or a "particular" church or denomination -- as essentially a free association of sovereign individuals, for in that case it is one of number of societal bodies of which individual Christians may choose to be members.

    Church and club

    We need to keep the non-individualistic conception of the church in the forefront of our minds as we now turn to the second factor mentioned above as having held back the efforts of the reformationals to make a significant difference in church life, namely, the schism of 1944 and its continuing aftermath. That this historical circumstance represents a problem is understood by all who have studied the situation carefully, but people could easily disagree on just how serious the problem was -- or to what extent the events of 1944 continue to affect us today.

    One's assessment of these matters would depend in part on one's understanding of the church and its role in our lives. If, indeed, the church is essentially a club, the arbitrary exclusion of someone from its membership or offices might be considered unkind and regrettable, but the person excluded would have the option of seeking membership in some other church-club, where his needs could be met.

    It should be noted that Schilder strongly opposed the club conception of the church, [NOTE schilder18] believing that an illegitimate use of church discipline has the potential to inflict enormous damage on the church. He understood that church discipline should never be undertaken lightly; neither should it be regarded lightly by those to whom it is applied. The story of 1944 makes it clear that Schilder certainly took it very seriously.

    The meeting of June 12, 1946

    The story of how the schism of 1944 affected the reformational philosophers has been told before, most notably in English by Rudolf Van Reest. [NOTE vanreest33] The climax of that story is the meeting of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy held on June 12, 1946, at which Benne Holwerda (1909-1952) undertook to explain why he felt compelled to resign from the Association (Schilder had already resigned). [NOTE runner55]

    It might be thought that Holwerda and Schilder were being excessively principial and dogmatic -- perhaps even absolutistic -- in following the course of conduct they believed was called for. Schilder made no secret of how he thought about such matters. As far back as October 12, 1942, he explained in a letter to Vollenhoven: "I really believe that trying to be a Christian always entails seizing hold of work to be done without having the assurance that anything will thereby be accomplished." In other words, he could hardly be called a pragmatist. And in a letter of April 26, 1944, which was addressed to Dooyeweerd, he declared: "Let me repeat what I wrote: whoever sees injustice must oppose it, looking neither to the right nor to the left." [NOTE devries44] Do what's right, and let the chips fall where they may! Cornelis Veenhof explains: "Schilder had no `plans' and knew nothing of `objectives.' In every situation he wanted only to live in the atmosphere of the Sermon on the Mount." [NOTE veenhof33]

    Abraham Kuyper could also take a very stern and principial stance when it came to church life, even though he was a skilled politician who knew how to make common cause with the Roman Catholics. Kuyper would have sympathized with Schilder's opposition to the "club" conception of church membership. In his Heidelberg Catechism commentary he wrote: "... the church is grounded on the principle of solidarity and of responsibility toward one another ...." [NOTE kuyper44]

    When Holwerda, inspired by similar thinking, addressed the June 12, 1946, meeting of the Association, he took issue with the interpretation of recent events and of the immediate problem that had been offered by Dooyeweerd:

    Prof. Dooyeweerd sees that the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy is now endangered because of the fatal decisions made by the church. He recognizes that our cooperation here is threatened because it has become impossible for us to live together in the church. Now he seeks a way out, and he believes he has found it by saying that the church's confession does not bind me here -- and therefore an error in the church's confession does not bind me either. To this line of argument I would answer: What the church confesses binds me everywhere, also here.
    Before he sat down again, Holwerda addressed some stern words to Dooyeweerd and company:
    You had the obligation to liberate yourself. [NOTE liberate33] Thereby you would have preserved the church, and you would have automatically saved the foundation of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy. But now you have proposed a solution in which you limit the doctrine of the church and the binding to that doctrine to the church itself, thereby withdrawing philosophy from the authority of the confession, and thereby secularizing this entire Association. This is a solution whereby you declare the erroneous teaching of the church to be binding within the church, thereby withdrawing the church from the authority of the confession and thus secularizing the church. Your solution is disastrous for both the church and the Association. The only solution was for you to liberate yourself within the church and to appeal to others to do so as well. You would then have saved the foundation of the Association and thereby the Association itself. [NOTE verburg22]

    The ethical conflict

    In the course of the discussion in and around this historic meeting, Holwerda articulated the objection that is sometimes called the "ethical conflict." He explained:

    Even when I thought I could still sign Article 2 of the Statutes [of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy], I no longer saw any possibility of working together by means of the Association. The same people who continued to accuse and condemn us in the church, on the ground that we were departing from the confessions and creating schism, wanted to accept us in the Association as people who take their stand on the foundation of those same confessions. Therefore I wrote in my official letter of resignation: "That people try to hold on to us in the philosophical setting at the same time that they continue to cast us out ecclesiastically is only in appearance an act of rapprochement. In essence it is a new act of repudiation. What it indicates is that people are playing games with us. The yes to our expulsion on Sunday turns into a no for Monday through Saturday, only to turn into a yes again the following Sunday .... Such people believe that if we continue to work together in Christian organizations, the fire of schism will be restricted to the church. But what it means in reality is that the fire of insincerity is carried over from the church to Christian organizations. Through that fire, the foundation for the Association's edifice will also be consumed."

    Schilder was of the same mind. He summed up the issue in pointed terms:

    If you confess something on Sunday, confess it also on Monday, and vice versa. Do not make something into a problem of the greatest magnitude on Sunday if you are planning to regard it as secondary on Monday. Do not say on Sunday: "This is revolution," and on Monday: "What constitutes revolution in one sphere of life may have nothing to do with revolution in some other sphere." [NOTE ethicalconflict33]

    Holwerda's accusation of insincerity and the conclusion he drew from it did not go unchallenged. Rev. E.G. Van Teylingen (1903-80) took the floor and declared: "His standpoint testifies to such an ecclesiastical absolutism that it is hard to see how it can be harmonized with the foundation of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy and with the fundamental idea of sphere sovereignty." [NOTE vanteylingen33]

    The "absolutism" of which Van Teylingen spoke had to do with conclusion (attributed to Holwerda) that when Schilder and company were cast out of the church, their opponents were actually casting them out of the kingdom of God. If we ignore the logic behind such thinking, we will never understand the depth of the "ethical conflict." Those who thought in terms of an "ethical conflict" and declined to use the doctrine of sphere sovereignty as a handy way to compartmentalize life and relationships were saying: "You cannot cast me out on Sunday and then embrace me on Monday when it comes time to have a Christian school board meeting or some conference of Christian professors who are united by scholarly interests."

    I cannot help but wonder whether there is not something quintessentially reformational about the logic behind the "ethical conflict" issue. After all, the reformationals are renowned for opposing all dualisms, all efforts to compartmentalize our life, all divisions of life into the sacred and the secular, all efforts to divorce what we confess on Sunday from what we actually do during the other six days of the week. Every reformational minister I have known emphasizes that what is proclaimed in church on Sunday must be implemented and carried out all throughout the week, in whatever sector or domain of society God's people happen to be busy. In short, life is all of one piece.

    Of course there is also a deeply personal side to this cry that issued from the hearts of those who had been cast out. Can we reject someone as beyond the pale in one room of the kingdom while embracing him in another? Consider a comparison with marriage practices. There was a time when Christian Reformed churches were very reluctant to preside over the marriage of two persons if one had been divorced, especially if the circumstances surrounding the divorce were murky. In terms of eligibility for holy matrimony, such a person (i.e. the "guilty" party in such a divorce) was an outcast, an unmarriageable, someone not eligible for the church's blessing on a contemplated new marital union. The unofficial advice that such a person and his or her intended marriage partner would sometimes receive was: "Go and get married in a church connected with a more liberal denomination and worship there for a while. Once the dust has settled, the two of you can return to the local Christian Reformed church as married people." Some couples contemplating marriage were willing to follow this path, but many were not. The path they were being advised to take seemed to them to lack integrity. In other words, they sensed an "ethical conflict." If you are thrown out on ethical grounds, you will not want to sneak back in through another door. When the church exercises discipline and pronounces official judgment on the conduct of its members, its decrees are not to be taken lightly.

    If the "ethical conflict" could not be resolved, it would have some far-reaching implications. One was that separate Christian schools would be needed for the "liberated" Reformed people. And because we never really got beyond 1944, neither in the Netherlands nor in North America, such schools have indeed been established. [NOTE: schoolissue33] The logic underlying the "ethical conflict" also made it difficult for "liberated" Reformed people in the Netherlands to cooperate in other areas with those who had not "liberated" themselves; hence there were consequences for Christian political parties and other Christian organizations outside the church sphere.

    I am convinced that the 1944 schism has drained a great deal of life and energy away from both of the ecclesiastical camps which it so deeply affected. To a lesser extent, I think this can be said of the two primary ecclesiastical camps in North America that are affected by it, namely, the Canadian Reformed churches and the Christian Reformed churches.

    It is also had quite an effect on the reformational movement. Part of that effect, I am convinced, was a gradual shift in thinking and attitudes in reformational circles in general; the result was that, over a period of time, a spirit of indifference regarding church affairs set in. The Dutch might speak here of a lack of "kerkbesef." And as for the Canadian Reformed people who have slowly drifted out of the reformational movement (there are exceptions, to be sure), they have paid a price as well in terms of a shrinking of the worldwide vision of the kingdom of God that characterized the reformational spirit at its best.

    Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven and Schilder under attack

    There is more to the story than what happened in and around the June 12, 1946, meeting of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy. If, indeed, Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven and Schilder were attacked by a common foe during the 1930s and found themselves closely allied during the struggle in the churches in the early 1940s, it is fair to ask whether Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven did all that could have been expected of them by way of manifesting solidarity with their friend Schilder and speaking up in defense of the movement for reformation and renewal in which all three were deeply involved. Of course judgments will differ on such a matter. But what does the historical record tell us? Did Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven duck down, so to speak, in the expectation that Schilder could take care of himself in any dispute?

    It is helpful to bear in mind that the attacks which Valentijn Hepp (1879-1950) made on Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven in the early 1930s (see Essay 1 in this series) paved the way for the public dimension of the conflict. Moreover, Hendrik Steen (1895-1953), who had been a student of H.H. Kuyper (1864-1945), attacked the Amsterdam philosophers by writing Philosophia Deformata; [NOTE steen33] after the war he proceeded to attack Douwe van Dijk (1887-1985). [NOTE steen44] Steen also contributed to the situation's spinning out of control and must bear part of the blame. As for making the perceived differences in doctrine an issue for the general synod to deal with, the minister and theologian A.D.R. Polman (1897-1993) comes into the picture. [NOTE polman33]

    Both Vollenhoven and Schilder were members of the committee that was established by the synod of 1936 to look into the doctrinal differences. Hepp was also a member. But if the people at the synod had expected that the differences would be thrashed out in private within the setting of committee meetings, they were sadly disappointed. From the correspondence between Vollenhoven and Schilder, which has been published in book form, we get some idea of what did -- and did not -- happen in those committee sessions. [NOTE devries33]

    Circumstances changed when the second world war swept across Europe, with the result that the Netherlands, which had hoped to remain neutral (as in World War I), found itself under German occupation in May of 1940. Schilder continued to write boldly in the church paper he edited and soon came to the attention of the Nazis. Before long he was arrested. After some months in prison he was released but forbidden to write any further. Somewhat later in the war it became evident to him that he (along with many others) needed to go into hiding, and so he spent much of the rest of the occupation period as an "onderduiker" ("diver"); in other words, he was out of sight and unable to participate normally in church work and in the deliberations about his views.

    Of course he and many others pleaded with the ecclesiastical authorities to delay the official proceedings in connection with the alleged doctrinal differences until after the war, but all such requests were denied. And so events moved ahead until eventually, on March 23, 1944, he was suspended from his offices as a professor of theology in Kampen and an emeritus minister of one of the churches in Rotterdam. In August 3 of that same year he was deposed. And now the question remains what his reformational friends and colleagues and associates did while these events were unfolding.

    Levels of support for Schilder

    The historical record reveals that they were active in his defense. But just what did they do to defend him? How far were they willing to go? Here some distinctions need to be made. First of all, one could conceivably defend Schilder on the basis of flat-out agreement with his theology. Or secondly, one could defend Schilder by claiming that his theology was within the bounds set by the creeds of the churches. Or thirdly, one could defend Schilder by saying that even if his theology was suspect in some regard, the way the synod was proceeding against him was contrary to the church order and therefore illegitimate. Members of the reformational movement in the Netherlands fell into all three of these groups. It appears to me that Vollenhoven would fit into the second category: that he had differences with Schilder on theological points is no secret. [NOTE stellingwerff33] As for Dooyeweerd, he had less interest in theology than Vollenhoven and probably had less distinct views on the theological aspects of the situation. But he had a keen eye for law in all of its manifestations and was therefore strongly convinced that in terms of church order, the procedure against Schilder was a travesty of justice and needed to be opposed strongly. Later in this essay we will see that the view of the church to be found in Dooyeweerd's writings is not in line with the way Schilder talked about the church.

    The published correspondence reveals the following pertinent facts. On May 9, 1944, Vollenhoven and S.G. De Graaf (1889-1955) visited G.C. Berkouwer (1903-96), [NOTE berkouwer33] the president of the synod, on Schilder's behalf. Dooyeweerd met with Schilder after his suspension. De Graaf, M.B. Van 't Veer (1904-44) and Vollenhoven came up with a new formula to try to settle the doctrinal point at issue. Then Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven met with Berkouwer to discuss things. [NOTE devries77] Moreover, a number of the reformationals formed a circle of advisors: they would meet to talk over the situation and then communicate their sentiments to Schilder. They also took some touching measures to encourage him.

    And that wasn't all. A handful of well-known reformationals (with Vollenhoven, Dooyeweerd, R.J. Dam (1896-1945), and Van 't Veer leading the way) picked up the pen (which Schilder was not allowed to do). They addressed the synod via a letter dated March 10, 1944. The letter was co-signed by over 700 people, among whom were a great many members of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy and other adherents of the philosophy of the law-idea. [NOTE verburg33] In May of 1944 Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven proceeded to address their own consistory (they belonged to the church of Amsterdam-South) with a twelve-page letter about the issues at stake. On June 5 the two of them wrote a still more extensive letter (sixteen pages in its printed form), this time addressing the general synod. [NOTE dooyeweerd44]

    Vollenhoven was more deeply and personally involved in the struggle than Dooyeweerd. In a letter of March 28, 1944, addressed to Schilder, he reveals just how devastated he felt when the synod took the dreaded step of actually suspending Schilder:

    Thank you for your last two letters. I had already heard the bad news .... I had wanted to write to you right away, but I felt just the way I felt at the beginning of the war -- stunned by the blow and therefore left with the sensation that something extraordinary had happened, something whose influence will make itself felt for a long, long time. In the first place you have my sympathy. One would first have to know what such offices as servant of the word and professor, when assumed with heart and soul, really mean in order to be able to sense from a distance what this blow must mean for you. May God strengthen you. Of course I have quickly begun to consider the question what we can do now. [NOTE devries55]

    Indeed, what could be done? Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd did their best to head off the final step, which would be Schilder's deposition and removal from office, but they were unsuccessful. Now, many other sympathizers of Schilder joined with him in the act of "liberation," which meant worshipping in those churches in which Schilder and his associates continued their church life and thereby rejecting the synod's suspensions and depositions as illegitimate. But Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd did not "liberate" themselves; if they had done so, the sad exchange at the 1946 meeting of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy (see above) would probably not have taken place. Many years later Dooyeweerd explained diplomatically: "Despite the fact that Vollenhoven and I had presented an extensive petition against the disciplinary measures taken against Schilder and his followers we did not find the liberty to join the liberated churches." [NOTE dooyeweerd58]

    Vollenhoven's response to Schilder's deposition

    At that 1946 meeting, where some members were taking careful notes on the discussion, thereby acknowledging the historic character of the occasion, Vollenhoven unburdened himself. He declared:

    I will not be satisfied until such time as we get such a declaration on this point [i.e. the point at issue in the church struggle], a declaration of such a nature that the break between us, as Reformed, can be healed again. Before that time comes, my joy in church life will not return. Of course there will be things here and there of which I will take joyful note. But my joy in church life is in good measure gone. Does that mean that I must now liberate myself? If I was in agreement with the direction which the thinking of the liberated represents, I might well have taken this path. But I see certain dangers there, dangers that leave me convinced in advance that I would have no joy there either. [NOTE vollenhoven33]

    Vollenhoven had long realized how serious the crisis was: there was much more at stake than Schilder's own future. As far back as December 10, 1943, he had written in a letter: "If the churches separate, [there is] no longer a future for Reformed action, for Christian action in our fatherland." [NOTE vollenhoven44]

    How did the 1946 meeting end? Marcel Verburg informs us:

    Finally Prof. Holwerda asked the meeting for permission to leave in order to catch the last train departing for Amersfoort that evening. Vollenhoven asked to shake hands with him before he left, and then he said to Holwerda: "Strength, until we see each other again soon in the Association." Holwerda responded by saying: "First in the church!" Then he left the meeting, accompanied by Rev. R.H. Bremmer, [NOTE bremmer33] a minister in Zwolle, and Rev. A.G. van der Stoel of Boskoop.

    Verburg adds that most Association members who had followed Schilder ecclesiastically stayed put and continued to participate and function as members. Included were a number of younger men who had presumably not been suspended or deposed as office-bearers in the church. [NOTE verburg44]

    Of course one wonders how much contact there was between Vollenhoven and Schilder after that fateful set of decisions was made. There is no way to be sure, but the published correspondence does give us a strong indication. Some years later, on October 31 (Reformation Day!), 1950, Schilder wrote to Vollenhoven:

    You pray with those who have suspended Greijdanus and who have permitted H.J. Schilder [NOTE greijdanus33] to be forbidden to preach in God's name and who have condemned me, not on account of my sins, about which they have never spoken with me, genuine sins or those they might suspect me of, but because of my faithfulness and willingness to sacrifice, because of my act of faithfulness to the church and to the prince of the church, Christ. Before God and man, you have allowed them to fix to your chest the pin that you all wore (fully) when they cast me out. When you come right down to it, whoever remains silent is regarded as agreeing (that is, "agreeing" except for the written objection, the bezwaarschrift). And so, in the final analysis, you also find that I am a public coarse sinner (een openbare grove zondaar), for I have hardened myself in my sinful ways -- from the standpoint of those who brought you to the point of letting go of those who were your brothers (for the initiative was taken by the others, and not by us). And so what lies between you and me is just what lies between all the others and us.

    Vollenhoven wrote back to Schilder and assured him that he was welcome at the Vollenhoven home. [NOTE devries66] But less than a year and a half later (on March 23, 1952), Schilder died unexpectedly, eight years to the day after the synod had suspended him.

    Reformational pleas for ecumenicity

    Since those dreary days of tension and bitterness, some members of the reformational movement, especially those with a keen sense of Dutch church history, have continued to agonize over the deplorable events of 1944 and their impact on other sectors of life, including Christian education. As for me, I tried to use the fiftieth anniversary of those events as an occasion to nudge the two sides somewhat closer together by working locally: what I was hoping to accomplish, in partnership with Rev. Richard Wynia, can easily be ascertained from the contents of a book I brought out in those days in which the issue was raised for reconsideration within the North American church scene. [NOTE seeking33] But the efforts made by me and by others of the same mind did not have much effect.

    In the course of those endeavors I discovered just how hard-hearted many people in my own denomination were in their attitudes toward the people who had been cast out of our fellowship by our sister-churches in the Netherlands. What I often got to hear was that the Canadian Reformed people appear disdainful and judgmental toward the Christian Reformed community. I did talk with some who were slightly more amenable to what Wynia and I were proposing, but they wanted to see Schilder's descendants in Canada repent first and get that chip off their shoulder. [NOTE chip33] As I look back on those years, I cannot escape the conclusion that the callous attitudes I encountered in my own faith community played a role in loosening the ties in my heart that bound me to the denomination in which I had worshipped since the age of four.

    With an eye to the issue of the unity of the church (we confess that there is one church of Jesus Christ -- not a whole series of clubs in which we may do as we please), other reformationals continued to call for genuine ecumenicity. Their attitudes would surely gladden Schilder's heart. Yet some of their remarks could also be read as critical of Schilder's ecclesiastical descendants, who may appear too content with their de facto isolation. The accusation of ecclesiasticism (Dutch: kerkisme) still gets hurled at the Canadian Reformed.

    Calvin Seerveld is one of the reformationals who yearns for ecumenicity. Years ago he addressed Christian Reformed leaders and asked them:

    How firmly are you church leaders committed to the oneness of Christ's Body, the corporate nature of our one, holy Universal communion? Do you reduce Christ's body in your mind, churchify it? or even denominationalize it? How permanent and pervasive is that Communion of the saints? and to be openly professed? Does it stop as soon as you have two or three Christian carpenters gathered together? or a handful of Christian voting citizens? Should evidence of Christ's body then go underground? [NOTE seerveld44]

    Bernard Zylstra had a keen sense of how the church's witness and mission was compromised by its continuing disunity and in-fighting. He pointed out:

    The brokenness of the institutional church spells its weakness. It has lost its directive place in human culture. The churches no longer make history since they do not speak the unifying language of Pentecost but the confused language of the Tower of Babel. This loss of catholicity is distinctly contrary to the New Testament norms for the church. (cf. John 17; I Cor. 12) The unity of the body of Christ must be manifest in the institutional church. And an escape into the conception of an "invisible" church here is indeed that: an escape. A body is visible, so should its unity be visible.
    Zylstra lamented further:
    Every Sunday we confess: "I believe a Holy Catholic Church." Because of faith I still hope that millions of believers and hundreds of churches can break down the walls of traditions and compromise and narrowmindedness and denominational introversion to come together in one congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ in North America to accomplish the task which that Lord -- in the Scriptures -- so clearly sets before us. [NOTE zylstra44]

    My own hopes and views on this subject are considered a bit unusual. I have sometimes asked myself whether I have not, in effect, been trying to do penance for misdeeds performed before the day of my birth by people with whom I came to be in ecclesiastical fellowship. In my attitudes toward these matters I was influenced by my father, Folkert Plantinga (1916-75), who thought highly of Schilder and respected the "liberated" and said to me when I was a boy: "Schilder was a good man -- he stood up to the Nazis."

    Other members of the Reformed community have tried to heal the breach on a practical level, in the hope that they could quietly bypass what Schilder and others have called the "ethical conflict." For example, at Redeemer it was made known from the beginning that the Canadian Reformed and any other lovers of Schilder's theology are more than welcome in the college in all kinds of functions. Our first president, Henry De Bolster, played an important role in positioning Redeemer in this respect. [NOTE debolster33] But it would be an exaggeration to say that the children and grandchildren of the people who fought so bitterly in the 1940s are now coming to know and love one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    Women in office

    I stated earlier that there were five factors that made it difficult for the reformationals to accomplish great things when it came to reforming the church. So far I have dealt at some length with the first two, namely, the pervasive role of individualism in North American society and the aftermath of the lamentable 1940s schism in the old country. Now it is time to move on to the third one, which, like the second, was not of the reformationals' own making but must be regarded as a challenge that put them to the test. I am referring to the debate that ran through many denominations in the last three decades or so over women's ordination.

    The leading reformationals were split. And because at times the debate grew bitter, some of them became estranged from other members of their fellowship and had a hard time regarding one another any longer as fellow laborers in the same cause.

    It is sometimes thought that the reformationals signed up with the "progressive" wing of the Christian Reformed denomination, but this is not a fair assessment. In the Reformed community of St. Catharines, Ontario, lived many members of the reformational movement who had also contributed quite substantially to keeping the ICS afloat financially; yet a fair number of them wound up leaving the Christian Reformed denomination and joining the new group that came to be called United Reformed, the group that rejected women's ordination. It is worth noting that Evan Runner himself became United Reformed and remained strongly opposed to opening the offices in the church to women.

    It should be remembered that there were two issues at stake. One was the church order question whether women should be ordained. For some reformationals, however, an even more important issue was whether Biblical authority was being surrendered in the effort to justify a change in the church order that would permit women to serve as elders and ministers. The depth of the feeling about this issue cannot be understood if the Biblical-authority angle is overlooked.

    The worship wars

    A fourth factor that held back the influence which the reformationals might have been able to exercise over church life was the rise of what is now referred to as the "worship wars" in many denominations and local congregations. Again, this situation was not of the reformationals' own making. In good measure, it came about because of the very deep hold that television has on our consciousness. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when Marshall McLuhan (1911-80) was regarded by many academics as an oddball, most of his fellow English professors stuck to their elitism and snobbery and seemed to think that television could safely be ignored. McLuhan saw more clearly than anyone else that television was doing truly transformational work among us. His writings were enigmatic, and he was much misunderstood. A couple of decades after he passed from the scene it became ever more clear that he was not endorsing television but pointing out its enormous cultural power. [NOTE mcluhan33]

    His lesson has taken quite some time to sink in. His ideas went out of style for a while, but now he is again in fashion. Conservative Protestants, who are inclined to be very critical of television because of its positive portrayal of violence and casual attitudes toward sexuality, are coming to realize that television cannot easily be held at arm's length: it has shaped the popular consciousness at a very deep level. And so Daryl G. Hart, a Presbyterian, acknowledges the hold which television has on us by pointing to its influence on Sunday worship practices: "... contemporary worship -- and church life for that matter -- depends increasingly on the products of popular culture, shown in its musical mode of expression, the liturgical skits that ape TV sitcoms, and the informal style of ministers that follows the antics of late-night TV talk show hosts." [NOTE hart44]

    It was not to be expected that the church would be exempted from the influence of television -- unless it isolated itself from the culture to the extent that the Old-Order Amish continue to do. [NOTE television33] And so, as television changed us in subtle ways, it also came to change our worship services and our taste in church music, to the point that even words like "hymns" and "sacred music" began to sound quaint. Worship committees sprang up in many churches, and a great many innovations were introduced.

    Once again, reformationals could be found opposing each other on an issue that generated a lot of heat. But this time, their differences did not lead to as much in the way of hard feelings against one another as had occurred during the women's ordination debate, for the disagreements were not, for the most part, of such a nature that they needed to be brought to a general synod for a final decision. Instead the battle was joined church by church, and there was not the same expectation that one's position on the issue would either be definitively endorsed and implemented or completely rejected.

    Worldview and popular culture

    It is probably no coincidence that the notion of worldview as the key to one's reformational identity also came to prominence during the earlier days of the worship wars. On the one hand there were professors who were not afraid to identify themselves as cultural conservatives, who loved organ music and pretended they had never heard of Bruce Springsteen. On the other hand, among the younger reformationals were some who insisted that popular culture must be taken seriously, on the ground that it represents a vehicle in which the "Zeitgeist" (spirit of the time) and the current "worldview" [NOTE worldview33] come to potent expression and take our young people by the throat -- and just what do we propose to do about it anyway? Such talk eventually extended itself to take in postmodernism, which is in good measure the legitimation of popular culture and of a somewhat irreverent attitude toward the cultural domain that used to be the preserve of highbrows and longhairs.

    The reformationals who drew our attention to popular culture include William Romanowski, [NOTE romanowski33] who wound up at Calvin College, where the cultural conservatives managed to find a place for him, Brian Walsh, who used to teach worldview studies at the Institute for Christian Studies, and Richard Middleton, who has co-authored a couple of important books with Walsh. [NOTE walshandmiddleton33] Also active in this area was the philosopher Lambert Zuidervaart, whose years of doctoral research in Germany investigating the later flowering of the Marxist tradition left him with a healthy respect for the power of popular culture. [NOTE zuidervaart33] Another philosopher deserving of mention in this regard is Calvin Seerveld, who managed to strike an interesting pose that identified him as a serious connoisseur of high culture and at the same time a youthful spirit sensitive to popular culture -- yet without endorsing "kitsch." [NOTE seerveld66]

    I hardly need to add that old-fashioned redemptive-historicals would be aghast at what becomes of historical consciousness in a setting where so much credence is given to postmodernism and popular culture. For many reformationals, the style of preaching favored by Benne Holwerda, S.G. De Graaf and M.B. Van 't Veer was only a vague memory; and for those reformationals who had grown up in non-Reformed circles there was no memory of such preaching at all. Moreover, Redeemer got into the worldview-and-postmodernism business too, especially during the days of Michael Goheen, who has since departed for Trinity Western University, but not before playing a role in the local Christian Reformed battles about what should be happening Sunday by Sunday when God's people gather for corporate worship.

    The Canterbury Trail

    Some of the reformationals, reacting against these developments began to cast a longing eye at the Canterbury Trail, as Robert Webber has called it. [NOTE webber33] But when they departed for Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic or Anglican churches (called Episcopalian in the USA), they were not taking a step that can be hailed as reformational in the classic sense. Of course there are also reformationals who simply started out as Anglicans and were never enticed into joining a Reformed church, such as Craig Bartholomew.

    Reformationals eyeing the Canterbury Trail could appeal to Abraham Kuyper for a degree of understanding, for in his book on worship Kuyper had written that the "English church" was much more developed in liturgical respects (liturgisch veel fijner ontwikkeld). [NOTE kuyper55] And there was nothing particularly original about the decision of some of the reformationals to choose the Canterbury Trail; they could hardly congratulate themselves for being on the cutting edge. Rather, what they were doing was going back; in other words, they were embracing worship practices and sacramental emphases and forms of church governance which had been rejected by their ecclesiastical forefathers in centuries past.

    It was as though the middle had fallen away. Many people had grown to love the "low-church" tendency that was more and more taking over the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Gordon Spykman (1926-93) observed that while Lutherans were toning down their sacramental emphasis by thinking more like Calvinists, the Calvinists were moving away from their traditional position and beginning to sound more and more like the Zwinglians, who had advanced the "memorial feast" view of the eucharist during the early days of the Reformation. [NOTE spykman44] But a minority abhorred these developments and began to yearn for sacrament and liturgy and tradition. Some discovered the celebrated Anglican Book of Common Prayer and were drawn into the Anglican communion, while others remained closet Anglicans.

    I was among those who were drawn to the Book of Common Prayer: early in the new millennium I turned Anglican. The aftermath of the worship wars within the Christian Reformed denomination were a major factor in my decision, as was the coldness toward the 1944 problem and toward the many Canadian Reformed people living among us that I had experienced especially during my days of ecumenical endeavor in the early 1990s (see my remarks above). There was, in addition, a third, very personal factor in my decision, which I will not discuss here. [NOTE presbyterian33]

    Cooperation in Christian education

    A fifth factor that stood in the way of efforts which the reformationals wanted to make by way of genuine reformation of church life was the growing need to make common cause with various non-Reformed Christians for the sake of building institutions for Christian education on all three levels. Inevitably, the alliances that were established for the sake of the schools led to a degree of pragmatic indifference to ecclesiastical and ecclesiological differences. In other words, it appeared that what the Dutch call "kerkbesef" (awareness of ecclesiastical issues and priorities) had to take a back seat. This process got started with the need to develop a somewhat more ecumenical creedal basis for Christian schools. I will have more to say about the creedal issue in a later essay in this series.

    Was there an alternative to moving in such a direction? Some of the reformationals who worship in Canadian Reformed churches would say yes. They have managed to operate schools which stick much more to Reformed distinctives and which do not take a neutral stance with regard to important issues in church life on which Protestants are divided, e.g. whether children ought to be baptized. Of course there was quite a cost associated with their determination to keep their schools identifiably Reformed in an old-fashioned sense. But at least they have shown that it can be done.

    The "club" conception of the church which Schilder lamented is also promoted by the need to keep Christian school supporters of all sorts of denominational persuasions on board and feeling content. Billy Graham's "Worship at the church of your choice" advice then becomes the watchword of the Christian school. The same mentality works its way into the Christian college, where it is hard to know which worship practices and traditions should be held before the students in chapel services as preferred or correct. [NOTE haan33]

    What would Abraham Kuyper say to all of this? Would he stand with the Canadian Reformed? Or did his famous remarks about "multiformity" (also called pluriformity) in application to church life make him thoroughly modern? [NOTE kuyper88]

    When Kuyper uses such a term as "religious monism" in the context of a discussion of the church, we are left with the impression that he would regard such attitudes toward church life as are found among many reformational supporters of the Christian school movement as tantamount to the trivialization of the church. For him the church was "a city set upon a hill," which should therefore be visible from all directions, like the imposing Catholic church that dominates the architectural landscape in many a small Quebec town. Wrote Kuyper:

    To be sure, there is a concentration of religious light and life in the Church, but then in the walls of this church there are wide open windows, and through these spacious windows the light of the Eternal has to radiate over the whole world. Here is a city, set upon a hill, which every man can see afar off. Here is a holy salt that penetrates in every direction, checking all corruption. And even he who does not yet imbibe the higher light, or maybe shuts his eyes to it, is nevertheless admonished, with equal emphasis, and in all things, to give glory to the name of the Lord. All partial religion drives the wedges of dualism into life, but the true Calvinist never forsakes the standard of religious monism. One supreme calling must impress the stamp of one-ness upon all human life, because one God upholds and preserves it, just as He created it all. [NOTE kuyper66]

    Lack of clarity in ecclesiology

    Up to this point in my essay on the impact of the reformationals upon church life, I have been pursuing a somewhat defensive line of argument, in which it might appear that I was letting the reformationals off the hook in terms of their not having accomplished all that much when it comes to the instituted church. But now I will adopt a somewhat more critical stance. Before turning to issues of worship in the last part of this essay, I must raise the question whether there was fundamental clarity in the thinking of the reformationals with regard to the nature and task of the instituted church. Of course such clarity would only be possible if there was a reasonably well-developed ecclesiology among them.

    Critics of the reformationals might well raise an objection here. They might argue that the reformationals were never really interested in theology anyway, and therefore it should not surprise us that they have not accomplished much by way of developing an ecclesiology. Now, there is some justice to the charge that the reformationals had only a minimal interest in theology; this is a matter well worth discussing. I will pursue it in a later essay. For the present, it suffices to point out that the Institute for Christian Studies did indeed appoint a theology professor in due course, in the person of George Vander Velde (1939-2007). Of course a theology professor could conceivably have ignored ecclesiology in favor of more trendy topics, but the historical record reveals that during the 1988-89 academic year, Vander Velde taught full-year courses entitled "Ecumenical Ecclesiology" and "Kingdom and Church." Moreover, he is known for his contributions to this field. [NOTE vandervelde33]

    Visible and invisible church

    So what is the reformational ecclesiology? I see two major possibilities. One is to pursue the familiar distinction between the visible church and the invisible church, which allows a subsequent distinction between the church as institute and the church as organism, with both of the latter falling under the heading of the visible church. The other possibility is to explore unique ideas regarding the church that seemed to be suggested in the writings of Dooyeweerd (e.g. that the church is qualified by the pistical modality or faith aspect), but without being followed up to any great extent. I will begin with the former possibility.

    It is worth noting that Dooyeweerd himself was uneasy about the notion of the "invisible church": he called it a bad term but added that he was not denying that there is some such thing. [NOTE dooyeweerd55] Of course it is the strong tendency of reformationals to look at standard distinctions with suspicion: could the distinction actually be a "false dualism"? On the Schilder side of the reformational movement there is also resistance to the notion of the visible church as distinguished from the invisible church. For example, Jacob Kamphuis, following Schilder, professes unease with the notion of the "empirical" church. [NOTE kamphuis33] Perhaps it's like the business of the two natures of Christ: the church must be human and ordinary -- sometimes it is even pathetic in our eyes -- but at the same time there must be something transcendent and glorious about it, something that cannot be captured in our everyday gaze. And the two sides or dimensions or natures must not be sundered from one another.

    Gordon Spykman gives us a good summary of the reasons why people are uneasy about the notion of the church as "invisible." He writes:

    Clinging to the idea of an "invisible" church easily fosters the seductive tendency to privatize the Christian religion. It downplays our calling to stand up and be openly counted as people of God in the public square. Some appeal to it, moreover, to minimize the importance of bringing healing to a badly broken church in a badly bleeding world. They argue that, though the Christian community is visibly rent asunder by countless schisms, this is not a serious problem. For this visible disunity is offset by our invisible oneness in Christ. [NOTE spykman55]

    Church as organism and as institute

    Setting these objections aside for the present, I will focus on what is the heart of the mainline reformational conception of the church, namely, the thesis that we must not identify the instituted church with the church considered as "organism." The church in the latter sense makes its presence felt in many sectors of society that the layman does not ordinarily associate with the term "church." A standard example would be the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC). Of late Gideon Strauss has taken to emphasizing that the CLAC includes people of quite a number of religious persuasions:

    Today the more than 28,000 members of the CLAC belong to as many different religious traditions as do Canadians in general. It has members who are Muslims, Catholics, Sikhs, Buddhists, evangelicals, and plain old-fashioned agnostics. Among its staff over the past fifty years you will indeed have found quite a few members of the Christian Reformed Church, as well as members of the Free Reformed Church, the Canadian Reformed Church, the United Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in North America, several different stripes of Mennonites, Pentecostals, Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, members of diverse independent churches, and probably several other brands of Christian that have not come to my attention. [NOTE strauss33]

    Borrowing Biblical language, we could say, then, that the CLAC is a "mixed multitude" (see Exodus 12:38). In other words, it includes both believers and non-believers. Could the same be said of the church? This is a big issue in ecclesiology: it has been the desire of some theologians to make the church (as strictly defined) into an inner body of true believers, an "ecclesiola in ecclesia," that is, a small church within the church. Luther comes to mind here; this inclination is also to be found among the Anabaptists. But any such ideal would have to fall to the wayside if we were as open about church membership as Gideon Strauss would have us be in relation to membership in the CLAC. If we were nevertheless to follow such a route, we might soon wind up with something akin to a "volkskerk" (church of the nation or the people), which was an idea sternly opposed by Kuyper. I will have more to say about some of these matters in the next essay in this series.

    Disagreements about the Reformation

    It's time for me to narrow my focus. Under the heading of the visible church, our focus for the present is on the instituted church. Now then, isn't it also in need of reformation?

    This is not as simple a question as one might think, for there are two distinguishably different impulses to be discerned within the reformational tradition in response to it. One common line of argument is to say that the Reformation of the sixteenth century did a fine job with the church, but then it seemed to run stuck. In other words, it never got around to reforming the other sectors of life. But there are also reformationals -- I'm thinking especially of those who are tempted by the Canterbury Trail -- who have concluded that the Reformation of the sixteenth century went too far in some respects.

    I am inclined to argue that such reformationals are not solidly rooted in their own tradition, for old-fashioned reformational lore (think of the B.J. van der Walt quotation earlier in this essay) would have it that reformation always has a radical character. It would almost appear that reformation, like the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China in the days of Mao Tse-tung, is never complete. In other words one can never rest content and say: "Mission accomplished." Therefore Albert Wolters warns us that "the reformational worldview" must not be identified with conservatism. He adds:

    ... every situation calls for a crusading activity of societal reformation. The status quo is never acceptable. Every "establishment" needs internal renewal and structural reform. In this sense the Christian may never be satisfied with the achievements of any given economic, or political, or generally cultural state of affairs.

    Lest we get the wrong impression, however, Wolters also cautions us, on the very same page, that "... reformation always takes as its point of departure what is historically given and seeks to build on the good rather than clearing the historical terrain radically in order to lay an altogether new foundation." [NOTE wolters33]

    John Calvin may not have been one of the reformationals, but he is given credit for going about the work of reformation in the radical spirit of which Van der Walt would approve. In a book on worship, Evelyn Underhill explains:

    Calvin desired, as so many great religious souls have done, a completely spiritual cultus; ascending towards a completely spiritual Reality, and rejecting all the humble ritual methods and all the sensible signs by which men are led to express their adoration of the Unseen. God, who "hath no image," was the ultimate fact. Therefore a pitiless lucidity of mind, which ignored the mysterious relation between poetry and reality, and the need of stepping-stones from the successive to the Eternal, insisted that all that which is less than God must be abjured when man turns to adoration. ... Hence he cast away without discrimination the whole of the traditional apparatus of Catholicism; its episcopal order, its liturgy, symbols, cultus. No organ or choir was permitted in the churches: no colour, no ornament but a table of the Ten Commandments on the wall. No ceremonial acts or gestures were permitted. No hymns were sung but those derived from a Biblical source. The bleak stripped interior of the real Calvinist church is itself sacramental: a witness to the inadequacy of the human over against the Divine. [NOTE underhill33]

    We normally associate the term "counter-reformation" with the Roman Catholic world, but eventually something akin to counter-reformation also began to take place in Calvinist circles. For example, the organ crept into the church to lead congregational singing. Even so, there are still small Calvinist groups that insist that the congregation must sing a cappella. In quite a number of Calvinist groups, only psalms were permitted, but then a few hymns began to be sung, and then came thicker books filled with hymns, and then praise choruses, and so forth. The visual austerity also fell away as Calvinists became more sophisticated about church architecture; some even permitted colorful vestments for the clergy. Banners began to appear on the walls, and they were rotated with an eye to the liturgical calendar.

    Restoration and differentiation

    Within the Christian camp there is an interesting tradition that conceives of reformation as essentially a restoration to the way things used to be. In good measure, reformation is a process whereby we get rid of things that have crept in over the years. This tradition would presumably approve of the changes Calvin had introduced, as detailed by Underhill. Indeed, there is a so-called "restorationist" movement within the Christian world (sometimes referred to as the "Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement") which seeks to bring the church back to the circumstances that prevailed during the earliest centuries of the Christian era.

    The reformationals, however, having learned from Dooyeweerd the importance of the historical differentiation process, would regard any such understanding of reformation as utterly unrealistic. Therefore they would also affirm that the process of reformation must not be conceived of as solely and essentially negative, as though it were just a matter of getting rid of things that don't belong, all of this being done in an effort to recapture the past. Reformation must be combined with the positive unfolding of potentials within creation.

    Just as Roman Catholics, under the prodding of Cardinal Newman, came to embrace the notion of the development of doctrine, so reformationals are committed to the notion that church life should unfold and develop. In other words, the church should not aim to remain the same from age to age. This realization sets the reformationals off from a certain class of Christians and churches, i.e. the ones officially named Churches of Christ. It is also part of the reason for the widespread reformational embrace of aesthetic thinking and categories, as exemplified especially in the contribution that Calvin Seerveld has made to reformational thinking in general and especially to the renewal of church life. The difficulties which the Brethren Churches have encountered over the years in their stated desire to cling to the patterns and customs of the New Testament church can be regarded as evidence that there is wisdom in the stance taken by the reformationals with regard to these matters. [NOTE bowman33]

    Among the reformationals who are deeply under Dooyeweerd's influence, one finds a cultural impulse than runs directly contrary to the thinking among the "Brethren" and the "Churches of Christ." James Olthuis, appealing to the Dooyeweerdian term "differentiation," even goes so far as to say that what we call the church is not to be found in the pages of the New Testament:

    Today we recognize the church as something different from a family, or a school, or a palace. It is not a factory nor a supermarket. With this idea of church we go to the scriptures and assume that they mean the same thing by the church. But they don't. They do not -- because churches as we know them today did not exist in the first century A.D. when the New Testament was written. ... To begin with ... there was a simple community which dealt with all the affairs of life for its members in a relatively free flowing, undeveloped, unorganized way. There were no clearly marked off tasks, or complex organizational patterns or distinct buildings for the various concerns. ... More organization and differentiation slowly developed as the community grew, and diverse task communities emerged with their own distinct character and office. The fact that during the second century a distinct cultic organization emerged was necessary and good. It is an outgrowth of the New Testament Church. The institutional church that we are familiar with today is a further development. [NOTE olthuis33]

    The notion of a Dooyeweerdian differentiation process forms the background to the theoretical understanding of "church" articulated here by Olthuis. As society undergoes a God-ordained process of differentiation, the church seems to lose certain of its functions, with the mission field serving as a reminder of how things used to be. And so an ecclesiology inspired by Dooyeweerdian philosophical ideas will inevitably involve us in a consideration of the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. If genuine reformation must be understood within the context of the larger differentiation process within history, could it be that time trims the church down, so to speak? Might we say, for example, that at an earlier point in history -- or even today, on the mission field -- the church could legitimately operate a day school, whereas in our time and place such a possibility would be ruled out by our commitment to sphere sovereignty? This sort of thinking about the narrowing of the instituted church and its task creates tensions between the Dooyeweerd and Schilder wings of the reformational movement.

    Holwerda's complaint

    I think again of Benne Holwerda and his remarks when he cut his ties with the Association for Calvinistic philosophy. I am convinced that there was more to the issue on the table that day than just the question what position the reformationals should take in response to the deplorable events in their denomination. Ecclesiology in some abstract sense was also at stake. Holwerda complained: "It is not right to talk as though there are all kinds of organized communities, one of which is the church, led by faith, which we establish ourselves. Then we are simply denying that the church comes first." [NOTE verburg55]

    The kind of thinking that gets criticized by Holwerda, Douma and other Schilder sympathizers is articulated by Leendert Kalsbeek in his introduction to Dooyeweerd's philosophy. Kalsbeek writes:

    We might be tempted to rank societal structures in an axiological hierarchy, placing the institutional church at the top. Dooyeweerd considers this incorrect. Where the Body of Christ, the una sancta ecclesia, manifests itself as visible church in the entire range of societal relationships, the latter are of equal value. [NOTE kalsbeek33]

    I am tempted to say that when it comes to the doctrine of the church, Dooyeweerd and his followers lost their nerve. In other words, their basic ideas had some interesting -- and even radical -- implications for what we might take the instituted church to be, but they did not carry those basic ideas forward and develop them; instead they fell back on ideas inherited from Kuyper and advanced those ideas as the reformational understanding of the church.

    Dooyeweerd's own observations about the church, which are not sustained at great length in any of his publications, have a strange and somewhat non-theological flavor. It is as though they are meant to fit within a philosophy of society and are geared mainly toward explaining how the instituted church relates and compares to other institutions that are also part of society. Many of the standard questions taken up in ecclesiology do not get addressed. But then, Dooyeweerd was not a theologian.

    Back to Spier

    In reformational circles it is generally thought that the chief example of a reformational trying to do systematic theology in a comprehensive way is Gordon Spykman. In his book Reformational Theology, Spykman devotes a considerable amount of attention to the church. A curious feature of his discussion is that he does not attempt to use unique Dooyeweerdian categories, such as "the pistical aspect," which might be said to "qualify" the church and help us understand what is unique and different about it. Yet Spykman praises Dooyeweerd elsewhere in his book.

    Furthermore, in a book that bears the intriguing title The Legacy of Herman Dooyeweerd, we find an essay on Dooyeweerd's view of faith and religion written by no less an authority than James Olthuis, who has shown himself to be a very capable scholar in a number of areas. In this piece, which is the only theological essay in the book, Olthuis makes no attempt to apply Dooyeweerd's unique ideas about faith and religion to issues in ecclesiology, even though faith or "the pistical" is one of the modal aspects. (For Dooyeweerd, "faith" is to be distinguished from "religion," which embraces all of life.)

    If we seek insight into what might have developed in terms of a uniquely Dooyeweerdian understanding of the church, we must turn to an earlier source, namely, the introduction to Dooyeweerd's philosophy written by J.M. Spier (1902-71). [NOTE spier33] And in reading Spier, it is probably wise to bear in mind that although he had a keen interest in philosophy, he made his living as a minister of the Word of God. Therefore, relating theological issues to philosophical themes came naturally to him.

    Spier says openly what other reformationals writing about the church don't seem to get around to, namely, that the church is pistically qualified; this is to say that it is defined by the pistical aspect as its leading function. This claim on Spier's part is standard Dooyeweerdian philosophy. But as he thinks and writes about these matters, Spier seems to be mulling over the traditional Reformed discussion about the true and the false church (see Belgic Confession, Articles 28-29). How does traditional Reformed theology as reflected in this creed fit in with the categories and distinctions developed by Dooyeweerd? Spier reaches the conclusion that the church, as defined and qualified by the faith aspect ("the pistical"), must of necessity be true church. In other words, there can be no such thing as an apostate church; indeed he calls the very notion a contradiction in terms. On the other hand, he does use the term "apostate faith" (afvallig geloof).

    His discussion includes a very interesting passage that invites careful reflection:

    A non-Christian family, a non-Christian state, and so forth are yet indeed a family, a state, and so forth. A legal marriage between non-believers may not be called concubinage. Even an anti-Christian state is as such not an organized band of robbers. But with the church it is a different story. The instituted church ceases to exist as a church institution if it is no longer a revelation of the body of Christ. An unchristian church, a false church, is no longer a church. Such a societal organization may be a "religious community," an "association for promoting religious interests," or a "society for carrying out cultic acts," but it no longer has any connection with the ecclesiastical community which was established by Jesus Christ as the Head of his church on earth. And this is not just a question of a word, of terminology; rather, it is a matter of the character of an ecclesiastical institution being essentially different from the character of a non-Christian religious community. For such a non-Christian society no longer bears an institutional character but instead has a social character; it originates in the free association of human beings with one another, all of them being on a footing of equality. [NOTE spier44]

    When we turn to the Leendert Kalsbeek introduction to Dooyeweerd by way of comparison, we do not find much to sink our teeth into. Suffice it to say that Kalsbeek remains vague when he approaches the question whether there can be such a thing as an apostate church. The closest he comes to making such a statement is this intriguing sentence: "... no such phenomenon as a non-christian church can exist since the very structural principle of the church demands a christian character." [NOTE kalsbeek44] Yet Kalsbeek's book is widely thought to be superior to Spier's as an introduction to Dooyeweerd's thought, partly because his book was written later and therefore could take into account the second edition of Dooyeweerd's magnum opus, the trilogy entitled A New Critique of Theoretical Thought.

    At this point we find an important question staring us in the face: Is the church unique among the various organizations and institutions that we encounter in human society, or do the followers of Dooyeweerd -- as some of Schilder's followers have long suspected -- regard it as just another of the institutions that make up human society? Within the general framework of Dooyeweerdian thinking, one would be tempted to hold to the latter position and admit that the suspicions of Schilder's followers are correct. Then it would seem an elementary deduction that just as there can be a Christian school and a Muslim school and a Sikh school and so forth, all of which are to be recognized as genuine schools, there can be a Christian faith community (called a church in a broad sociological sense), a Moslem faith community (worshipping in a mosque, which could be considered a church in a broad sociological sense), a Sikh faith community (worshipping in a Gurdwara, which is also akin to a church), and so forth. One would then be tempted to appeal to the doctrine of "structure and direction" to make sense of all this: the local church and mosque and Gurdwara are structurally similar (or even equivalent), but among the communities worshipping in them we find radical differences in terms of ultimate religious direction.

    Now, whether such a doctrine of structure and direction can properly be attributed to Dooyeweerd himself, or whether it is even to be found in the writings of Evan Runner, is a point about which people might like to argue. "Structure and direction" is most prominently associated with Albert Wolters and his book Creation Regained. [NOTE wolters44]

    One implication of the doctrine would seem to be that any human organization can be inspired either by true faith or by what Spier was willing to call "apostate faith." So what is the conclusion we must reach, then? Have we, with Spier, defined the false church out of existence? Need we never fear that a given church, seeming to have lost its moorings in Scripture, has turned into a false church? In that case we could disregard the warning in the Westminster Confession, where we read: "The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture [impurities] and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan." [NOTE westminster33]

    But there is more to be said, lest one form a mistaken impression of Dooyeweerd's theological views. Harry Fernhout has explored these matters in Man, Faith, and Religion in Bavinck, Kuyper, and Dooyeweerd. He argues:

    ... Dooyeweerd, following especially Bavinck, at crucial points is virtually forced to maintain that the creational structure of the faith function implies covenantal fellowship with the true God through orientation to true Word-Revelation. Dooyeweerd is thus in danger of somehow "christianizing" all men, since he maintains that all men fully possess the faith function. Of course, Dooyeweerd can not allow this possibility. But in his framework, the only other possibility is to compromise the full humanity of unbelievers. And this is what Dooyeweerd does. Outside of Christ, man's (mis-directed) faith function is structurally "closed" (although the reality of the unbeliever's unfolding of reality ironically forces Dooyeweerd to speak of "opening-up" in the context of "closed" faith). Dooyeweerd allows that sin not only has radically directed man away from God, but also has tampered with the structure of his being. As a result, life outside of Christ can not fully structurally unfold .... [NOTE fernhout33]

    I do not have further light to shed on this matter, and Fernhout has not carried the discussion further in subsequent publications. [NOTE olthuis44] It appears to me that this is a loose end in Dooyeweerd's philosophy, and that it needs to be addressed in connection with the question how the fall into sin changed man and the world.

    Did Dooyeweerd read Schilder?

    It is widely understood that Schilder did not share Dooyeweerd's views on the church; moreover, in later years he publicly criticized Dooyeweerd's doctrine of the pistical modality. [NOTE schilder66] Yet, because of the friendship and mutual regard between these two intellectual giants who towered over the ordinary professors of their day, there was some expectation that during the years when Schilder wrote extensively about the church, he would bring about some changes in the thinking of his friend Dooyeweerd. In the days before the publication of the second edition of Dooyeweerd's magnum opus, Johan Stellingwerff circulated a report by way of a published article hinting that the view of the church in the second edition (entitled A New Critique of Theoretical Thought) would be different, having drawn some benefit from what Schilder had been writing in the years since the publication of the first edition (which was entitled Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee and was never published in whole in English translation). [NOTE friesen44] But this turned out to be a false report -- or perhaps a mere hope on its author's part. It appears that Dooyeweerd did not change his mind.

    My own hunch is that his attention was so preoccupied by the many dimensions and knotty problems on which his philosophy touched that he did not get around to devoting substantial intellectual energy to the question of the church back in the days when Schilder was writing about it. Whether he faithfully read the writings of Schilder we do not know; it is conceivable that he did read some of what Schilder wrote, but without allowing the implications to sink in. We must bear in mind that in those days Schilder's views came before the public (including Dooyeweerd) in spurts, for he published them originally in a church paper rather than in a major systematic work which invites sustained and intensive reading. Thus, when Dooyeweerd participated in the fierce debates in the churches during the time leading up to Schilder's ouster, it was mainly with an eye to the church-order issues.

    In any event, Dooyeweerd provided Spier and his other followers with some interesting terms and distinctions to explore in application to the church. But for the most part, when Dooyeweerd wrote about the church he was not addressing the issues that theologians generally discuss under the heading of "ecclesiology." Instead he was trying to lay bare what he referred to as the "individuality-structure of the temporal Church-institution." [NOTE dooyeweerd88] It appears to me that later followers of Dooyeweerd, having been burned by the church struggle in the Netherlands, generally lost interest in those terms and distinctions. They became rather guarded on the subject of the church and set aside any grand ecclesiological ambitions they might once have had. The Spykman book is significant evidence in this regard. Vollenhoven is likewise cautious on this subject. [NOTE vollenhoven55]

    Schilder's view of the church

    Is the truth concerning the church then to be found in Schilder? He wrote a great deal about the topic, especially in the church paper he edited (called De Reformatie). Much of what he has written has been reprinted in his collected works, but none of it adds up to a systematic treatment. A weakness in Schilder's career as a theologian is that he was too much preoccupied with polemics, which meant that he did not go about his writing in a sufficiently systematic manner. [NOTE schilder22]

    According to Jelle Faber, the key to Schilder's understanding of the church is a pair of Latin terms that are easily confused with one another:

    ... Schilder drew attention to the fact that the French and Latin editions of the Belgic Confession use two words for "assembly." [NOTE belgic33] The one word is congregatio or "congregation," and the other word is coetus, or "coming together." Schilder then said that these are the two aspects of the church.

    In another essay Faber explains further:

    ... Schilder saw in congregatio -- related to the noun grex -- the divine act, and in coetus -- from co-ire, to come together -- the human act. God in Christ brings us together and we in faith come together. This explanation may be deficient in historical and symbological respects, for "congregation" and "assembly" are used interchangeably in the French original of the Belgic Confession. Nevertheless, it is Scripturally and dogmatically sound reasoning, and in line with the Reformed confessions. [NOTE faber33]

    This distinction between the two "aspects" of the church reminds me somewhat of how Spinoza brings together God and nature as two modes of one and the same totality regarded from two distinct angles, as it were ("Deus, sive natura"). And so this certainly appears to be an interesting theological and terminological proposal on the part of Schilder, Faber and company. On the one hand, it tries to do justice to the majesty of the church as rooted in God's electing will and in the church-gathering work of Christ, while on the other hand it recognizes the often very modest and even lamentable state of the church as we behold it concretely here on earth in the form of persons and organizations (the "empirical" church that makes Kamphuis uneasy).

    In his "Nineteen Theses" about the church, which he published in 1935 in his church paper, Schilder made it clear that he, too, would have been opposed to any talk of the church as an "empirical" phenomenon. In Thesis 2 we read:

    "The" church has never been observed. No one has ever seen "the" church. No one has ever seen "humanity." No one has ever seen the Dutch people or any other people. For the church is never "finished," just as little as humanity or a people are "finished."

    In his Thesis 6 he brings out what Faber had called the "two aspects" of his view of the church:

    ... the church is gathered (brought together) every day by the living Lord (Kurios) Jesus Christ. This activity of gathering occurs daily in the "imperfect present" tense. Every distinction between the "being" and the "well-being," between the "invisible" church and the "visible" church, between the church as "organism" and the church as "institute," is therefore false and fatal, if it disengages (abstracts) the coming together of believers, occurring daily in the imperfect present tense, from the bringing together of believers by Jesus Christ (the congregation of believers), which likewise takes place in the "imperfect present" tense. [NOTE schilder33]

    In his fear of distinctions, Schilder strikes a characteristically reformational note. The tendency to look at the church before our eyes (what some would call the "empirical" church) as though it is a whole bunch of churches -- sad to say -- that need to be logically distinguished from "church" in some ultimate sense (perhaps with a capital C!), with the understanding that the ultimate "church" enjoys the unity for which our Lord prayed in John 17, looks dangerous to him. Hence he tells us that we should not abstract the instituted church from the church as such. [NOTE schilder44]

    For Schilder, then, the church before our eyes may not be considered the church as such. Christ is gathering his church through time, and her essence lies beyond the range of our sensory perception. There is a striking passage in which Schilder gets at the heart of his conception of the church as much more than "empirical," but the context is highly polemical. He writes:

    "... from the anti-Reformed side in our time people try to construct the concept of the church on the basis of experience, of that which lies before our eyes, of that which has attained its realization. To do so is to apply the rationalistic, modern method of reasoning to the church. No, the church is a matter of faith (een geloofstuk). I must determine its essence using exactly the same approach that I use when I am describing the Trinity, Christ's satisfaction, and the last judgment. When I describe the essence of the church, my description has nothing to do with empirical givens but only with special revelation, the Word of God. Why is it that people are content to reason about all the articles in our Confession of Faith from the standpoint of Scripture and dogma except for the articles that deal with the church? It is because they want to justify disobedience and on this point no longer wish to be Reformed. They forget that the church is just as much a matter of faith (an offense and foolishness to the flesh) as Christ's Cross! [NOTE schilder55]

    A power bloc within the church?

    We will see in a later essay in this series that although Dooyeweerd was inclined in the direction of movement-building and certainly recognized the need for organization if cooperation is to be effective, he confined such activity on his own part largely to the academic sphere. [NOTE dooyeweerd77] He promoted the development of the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy, but did not greatly encourage debate within it. (I will have more to say on this subject in a later essay.) In the church, however, he seemed to have had no ambitions by way of reformation. He did not wish to use his following in the academic world as a power bloc within the church. His 1940s activities described above were confined to trying to block the forward progress of the train that was headed straight at Schilder. He had witnessed the Geelkerken affair at close hand during the 1920s, [NOTE geelkerken33] even before Valentijn Hepp began making accusations against him and his colleague Vollenhoven in the 1930s. [NOTE hepp33] By the 1940s, presumably, Dooyeweerd had had enough of church politics.

    Perhaps he realized that on some deep level, movement and church are incompatible. Both Schilder and Kuyper spoke of the church as "our mother," [NOTE hart55] and mothers love to see their children living at peace with one another. Indeed, we read in the Psalms that it is pleasant when brothers dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1), and so Dooyeweerd, with his keen eye for structure, organization and politics, would probably have discouraged efforts to make groups of reformationals into a power bloc within a denomination or a local church district or even a congregation.

    But such wisdom was not always to be found among his enthusiastic and occasionally hot-headed North American followers, who did, on occasion, become a problem within church settings. In the first essay I stated that it is sometimes legitimate for a movement to exclude people who think they would like to belong, but there is no place for such exclusion within the church if she is to be our mother. And so, when reformationals sporting doctoral degrees wanted to engage in church reformation, they needed to do so as individuals and not as members of a group or a faction. I believe Calvin Seerveld figured this out and thereby shook off the impression that he was a young turk.

    The church of your choice?

    What, concretely speaking, could reformation within the church consist of, whether brought about by individuals or some movement or other? A typically North American form of reformational activity would be figuring out which church the Lord would want you to join and then sticking to it, devoting your energies to building it up, praying for its welfare, and inviting others to join as well. This is certainly an approach to reformation favored by the Canadian Reformed, even if they do not associate the term "reformation" with their commitments in this regard. But the Canadian Reformed practice such discernment on the level of the denomination. [NOTE denomination33] It is also conceivable that one might feel called to follow such a strategy on the level of the local congregation while maintaining what one reads about the true church in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. In that case one would be deciding where to worship week by week, or perhaps month by month, or conceivably on a yearly basis, always figuring out which was the soundest congregation in the local vicinity (all things considered) and attending its services. Lovers of the free market and North American capitalism might well applaud such an attitude: the consumer should vote with his feet! (Of course the church member should not think of himself as a "consumer.") Such criticism aside, the point I wish to make is that we should not underestimate the cultural power that Christians can exercise in relation to churches when they allow themselves to be drawn to a church in which the marks of the true church are manifested or withdraw, as a matter of principle, from a church because those marks seem to be slipping away or are entirely absent.

    Sometimes institutions practice this type of reformation as well, although the implementation of such a policy can come across as heavy-handed. In a school organized and funded by Canadian Reformed people, it is normally required that all teachers attend Canadian Reformed churches and become members there. Calvin College is owned and operated by the Christian Reformed denomination, and for many years its faculty members were required to belong to a Christian Reformed congregation, although minor exceptions were allowed. Eventually the circle of eligible churches was expanded somewhat to include Reformed and Presbyterian churches that were in close fellowship with the sponsoring denomination. Dordt College also had a fairly strict policy that permitted only a carefully defined range of churches within the Calvinistic family as appropriate membership locales for its faculty. Redeemer University College was somewhat broader in this regard. Early in its history it faced the question whether someone who belonged to a church that did not practice infant baptism was eligible to serve as a faculty member. The answer was yes. On the one hand, one is inclined to applaud such broad-mindedness, but on the other hand it should be admitted that it can serve to promote a spirit of ecclesiastical indifference or even a "church of your choice" mentality of the sort that Billy Graham has always found practical.

    Would a genuine reformational always have to belong to a Calvinistic church? Is it a problem that Redeemer has a Mennonite on its faculty? In view of the fact that Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven established an association for Calvinistic philosophy, one might feel inclined to make it a principle that no one can be recognized as reformational who is not Calvinistic in his church affiliation. But it is worth noting that Evan Runner himself drew a line between British and Dutch Calvinism -- not that he approved of everything under the heading of Dutch Calvinism either. This is not a small issue; I will return to it in a later essay this series.

    Moreover, it is worth pondering the fact that Dooyeweerd changed his mind about the use of the term "Calvinistic" in application to his own philosophy. In more recent decades, many of his followers have begun to characterize their philosophical tradition simply as "reformational"; the Association has even changed its name to "Association for Reformational Philosophy." Of course the old boundaries between churches don't mean as much as they used to, and the confessions of old have lost their hold on many of the people and churches. On the other hand, there is a section in Dooyeweerd's New Critique in which it is stated that a genuine and integral Christian philosophy could only have sprung from the soil of Calvinism. [NOTE dooyeweerd66]

    The renewal of worship

    The time has come in this essay to address the issue of worship, as promised in the title. Decades ago, Calvin Seerveld lamented:

    There is mostly a hole in my life for the past decade (if I may oversimplify a little and lament out loud), and it goes by the name of Sunday worship. It is not a private grief. I have met with old men who cried because there was no stuffings to the proclamation in our Christian Reformed churches today compared to what they remembered in days gone by, no meat! [NOTE seerveld55]

    When it comes to corporate worship, we as Christians should not be content just to get by. If excellence is attainable, we should strive for it. My own perception is that preaching hit its low point among us somewhere between the time of Seerveld's lament and the time in which we now live. But for many reformationals, liturgy has also been a concern. So what have the reformationals been able to do by way of enhancing, refining. clarifying, and reforming the liturgy used in our worship services?

    Kuyper would have understood the yearnings in many a reformational heart. He was certainly not in favor of standing pat, to say nothing of going backward, as some seem inclined to do. [NOTE backward33] He wrote more than a century ago: "All our confessional and liturgical writings are now almost 300 years old, and in those three centuries conditions have changed to such an extent that just about everything cries out to be overhauled." [NOTE kuyper77]

    When I consider what reformationals have accomplished in a more concrete sense when it comes to the renewal of worship on the non-preaching side, the figure of Bert Polman comes to mind. I contacted Polman about this matter, and he was quick to give credit to his colleagues Emily Brink and John Witvliet. Having recently moved to Calvin College where he can play a key role in the Institute of Christian Worship, Polman is in a better position than ever before to apply his talents to what is needed with regard to liturgy. But the difficulty in his suggestion that Brink and Witvliet deserve credit (as he freely acknowledged to me) is that the two colleagues named are not recognized as members of the reformational movement. At this point one might wonder whether this even matters. Perhaps not.

    Long before he joined the worship institute at Calvin, Polman was instrumental in liturgical innovation at "Hart House" in Toronto, which operated for a number of years as a worship offshoot of one of the local Christian Reformed churches. [NOTE harthouse33] Many of the reformationals worshipped at Hart House; I was among them during my earlier days as a student at the University of Toronto. Also contributing to liturgical change in the Reformed world were the varied worship activities at the AACS and ICS family conferences held at various locations. Some of the conferees took ideas home with them and introduced them in their local congregations.

    Another name that comes prominently to mind in connection with liturgical renewal within the Reformed community is Nicholas Wolterstorff, who taught philosophy for many years at Calvin College and then moved to Yale University in 1989 but continued to be very influential and active in Christian Reformed circles. In this series I have treated Wolterstorff as a non-Dooyeweerdian Kuyperian. In virtue of his philosophical position and his participation in various activities and conferences associated with the reformational movement, he can be considered one of its members. His degree of interaction with it and his influence over it certainly merit such an appellation. And so I believe reformationals can take a bit of credit for his work on liturgy and the renewal of worship.

    Lamentation and worship

    One dimension of Wolterstorff's contribution came about through a set of sad and unexpected circumstances, namely, the accidental death of his son Eric. In response to this shattering event Wolterstorff wrote a moving book entitled Lament for a Son, in which he gave eloquent expression to his grief and was helped, I trust, to come to terms with what God seemed to have ordained for him and his family. [NOTE wolterstorff33] I remembered that book years later when I found myself in very distressing circumstances that cried out for lamentation: my wife of three decades had suffered a severe brain injury and had lost her ability to speak and her ability to walk and much of the content of her memory, with the result that much of the time no longer knew quite who she was and was often puzzled as to my identity as well. She lingered for almost three years in medical institutions. During this agonizing time, when I was in a state of anticipatory grieving -- having lost her, but not entirely -- I often found it difficult to go to church. In particular, I dreaded the prospect of having to endure a worship service that friends at Redeemer would characterize as an example of a "happy clappy church." I sometimes said to friends that I wanted to find a community of believing Jews and sit with them in their circle and lament and cover myself with sackcloth and ashes. I never did join the synagogue, but my own commitment to liturgical renewal was spurred on by the agony I endured during those years. And when I turned Anglican, the practice of remembering the dead in our prayers (which is deliberately avoided by many Protestant churches) became deeply meaningful to me; it remains an important part of my spirituality to this day.

    Liturgy in mainline churches

    Back in my days as a Calvin College undergraduate, when I was studying aesthetics under the tutelage of Wolterstorff, I was made aware of the work of Gerardus van der Leeuw (1890-1950). This Dutch Reformed thinker has certainly contributed to liturgy and the aesthetics of worship in a significant way, not only through his well-known book Sacred and Profane Beauty: The Holy in Art, but also through a lesser-known book published only in Dutch and devoted specifically to liturgy. [NOTE vanderleeuw33] However, Van der Leeuw is not generally considered one of the reformationals, partly because of his church affiliation: he was a minister in the "Hervormd" tradition (roughly speaking, the Dutch state church, as described on the Institutions and Organizations web page connected with this series). But in his thinking we encounter something of the broadness that reflects the spirit the reformational movement at its best. Moreover, it is worth noting that when Paideia Press was just getting off the ground, we chose to translate and publish a little book he had written about the Bible, [NOTE vanderleeuw44] thereby placing him on the same bookshelf as a number of Reformed worthies who lined up on the "Gereformeerd" (free church) side of things in the Netherlands, such as S.G. De Graaf, M.B. van 't Veer and Herman Veldkamp.

    And so the question needs to be asked: What can reformationals learn from the "Hervormden" against whom Kuyper had rebelled? My own answer is: Let's read their writings and find out. I have long drawn the attention of my students to the work of Hendrik Kraemer (1888-1965) as important for certain issues in philosophy of religion. [NOTE kraemer33] Kraemer did not operate within the Free University and Kampen orbit either. For that matter, I believe we have something to learn from Roman Catholic discussions of liturgy and the aesthetics of worship. Worthy of mention in this setting is Thomas Day's provocative and sometimes amusing discussion of Roman Catholic worship practices in a book entitled Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste. [NOTE day33]

    Daryl G. Hart, on the other hand, does not range quite so far afield as Day in his efforts to promote liturgical renewal. He maintains that Presbyterians most certainly can sing well, even if they replace their hymnals too frequently and therefore find themselves having to learn a bunch of new songs well before the old hymnal was properly absorbed into the spiritual bloodstream. In a recent book of essays entitled Recovering Mother Kirk, he touches on a number of themes that are relevant to this essay. But he does so in a curmudgeonly mode, and he carries no credentials as a member of the reformational movement. The Westminster (Philadelphia) connection (he was a history professor and theological librarian there) is as close as he gets; moreover, some of his critics dismiss him as a Lutheran in disguise.

    Hart laments the low-church impulses within the Presbyterian world and would like to see what he calls "Reformed liturgicalism" promoted within Reformed and Presbyterian circles so that members of those churches are not tempted by the Canterbury Trail. He appreciates the liturgical and sacramental tradition to which the Canterbury Trail leads, but he has not taken to the Trail himself. Instead, he works to bring in -- he would probably say: restore -- such practices within the old-line Calvinistic churches. He makes the interesting point that a traditional approach to liturgy is more likely to be found in a comparatively liberal Presbyterian church than a conservative one, for many a markedly conservative Presbyterian church has adopted the low-church approach. And he does all of this while embracing the famous "regulative principle" of the Presbyterians, which is found by many people to be markedly confining. [NOTE hart66]

    Reformational Zwinglians

    It may be that I am letting the reformationals off the hook too easily in this essay by talking about D.G. Hart and Gerardus van der Leeuw and Nicholas Wolterstorff and others who are not core members of the reformational tradition. If so, it is time to admit that there is another side to the story, namely, that some members of the reformational community -- but by no means all -- are markedly suspicious of anything sacramental or mysterious, anything that would set the church apart from other organizations in terms of what goes on at its corporate meetings which we call worship services. Such suspicion on their part may well leave one wondering if they care at all about the renewal of worship in a liturgical direction. They seem quite content with the low-church approach to worship, presumably expecting to pick up the slack through some rock-solid preaching.

    The rationale behind their thinking can be understood in part on the basis of the reformational disdain for "dualism" in any form. A difficult philosophical question which such reformationals should be asked to consider is at what point a distinction becomes a dualism. Surely we cannot operate without any distinctions whatsoever!

    The Zwinglian [NOTE zwingli33] tendency in reformational circles is more often manifested by members of the tradition who have relatively little in the way of academic or philosophical credentials than by its best-educated spokesmen. Such people may argue that there should not be such a thing as a chapel service in a Christian high school or a Christian college since the very notion of chapel presupposes a "dualism" between worship and non-worship activities. We should worship God in and through everything we do. They might further assure us that if this ideal were realized in a genuinely reformational Christian school, we would have the assurance that when we are carrying out our experiments in the chemistry lab, for example, we are indeed worshipping God -- which goes to show that there is no need to hold separate chapel services.

    Similar arguments are sometimes made with regard to instruction in the subject often called "Bible." Should a Christian school teach Bible courses? Or should the Bible be taught in and through all of the subjects in such a natural and everyday manner that a course devoted explicitly to Bible would seem superfluous to the students? The latter would be the ideal in the minds of various reformationals who have taken the anti-dualism emphasis and run with it so energetically that they wound up galloping right off the playing field. The opposition to any notion of miracle in the traditional sense that is sometimes defended by an appeal to the writings of J.H. Diemer (the author of Nature and Miracle, which will be taken up later in this series), also helps fuel such thinking.

    But not all reformationals are of this mind, and at Redeemer we have had regular chapel services all throughout our history. How about the Institute for Christian Studies -- did it have chapel? I don't recall traditional chapel services during my days there as a part-time student, but in the ICS academic calendar for 1970-71, we read (under the heading "General Activities"): "Bible Study: Every other week the Institute community gathers to listen to the Scriptures" (see p. 17). Chapel services are now held each Wednesday afternoon.

    When it comes to the need for worship in a formal sense, I was encouraged by a development at Redeemer a couple of years back. David Naugle's book on the concept of worldview had just come off the press, and a number of Redeemer faculty members were reading it and discussing it together in a formal setting. I was among them. I had expected that those faculty members, who included some of our died-in-the-wool "neo-Calvinists," would insist on talking about the sections in the book where Naugle heaps praise on the neo-Calvinist tradition. But what happened is that quite a number of us were touched especially by the section in the book where he talks about Eastern Orthodoxy and its determination to extend the sacramental dimension of our Christian spirituality into everyday life, even to the extent of making a major production of something as ordinary as eating. [NOTE naugle33] Naugle speaks of the "sacramental worldview." A number of us said to one another: "That's just what we need too." For me, Paul Tillich's observation about Protestantism as a professorial religion (see above) came to mind again. And so it must be possible to extend the spirit of worship into everyday life without thereby appearing to have abandoned worship altogether.

    In this context the name of J. Glenn Friesen also needs to be mentioned, for he has been promoting an interpretation of Dooyeweerd's philosophy according to which certain mystical sources need much more attention. From Friesen's writings, [NOTE friesen33] one gets the impression that Dooyeweerd would also have applauded Naugle's moving depiction of the "sacramental worldview" of the Eastern Orthodox.

    The mention of the Eastern Orthodox, of course, again brings to mind the Canterbury Trail that seems to tempt members of Reformed and Presbyterian churches and even a number of the reformationals. [NOTE schaeffer33] Some Christian Reformed reformationals may be quite comfortable with the thought that various of the brothers and sisters are now worshipping in the sacramental and liturgical churches, whereas others might be more inclined to see it as the end of the movement, since reformational commitment, as far as they are concerned, is inconceivable apart from participation in traditional Reformed church life.

    Just three years before he died, Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, wrote: "Philosophy as science, as serious, rigorous, indeed apodictically rigorous science -- the dream is over." [NOTE husserl33] Can a similar lament be raised in relation to the reformational movement? Has the reformational dream died in something akin to the Jewish dispersion? Do we need Ezra and Nehemiah to call the scattered reformationals back to Jerusalem, or perhaps to Grand Rapids or Toronto? I don't believe so; the reformational tradition is a going concern, as far as I can tell. Therefore I have many more essays to write and more topics to cover.

    The next essay in the series will be devoted to technology and verzuiling. In case you don't recognize the latter word, look it up in a Dutch dictionary. TO BE CONTINUED .....

    Click here to read Essay 3 in this series.

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