Baarda in Canada

Rev. Leonard T. Schalkwyk is pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of St. Thomas, Ontario. His article, “Baarda in Canada” was delivered as an address at the Canadian Reformed Fellowship meeting held in Toronto on September 16, 1972.

On September 11, 1972 Professor Dr. T. Baarda of the Free University of Amsterdam spoke to the Ontario Christian Reformed Minister’s Institute, in Hamilton, Ontario.

Professor Baarda became well-known as one of those promoting the “new” theology. Others of this school of thought are Professors Dr. H. M. Kuitert, Dr. C. Augustijn and Dr. Herman Wiersinga.


In the series “Cahiers voor de gemeente,” Dr. Baarda wrote the book De betrouwbaarheid van de Evangelien. (The Dependability of the Gospels) Publisher: J. H. Kok, N.V., Kampen, The Netherlands, 1967).

One of the most startling things in this book is that the virgin birth of our Lord and the resurrection of our Savior are left out of the “life of Jesus.” Baarda states:

“The critical historical scholar looks for the historical Jesus. He wants to look behind the words that got the glow of the resurrection message—he wants to look behind those words to that which he can say about Jesus with scientific accuracy and certainty. What does the scholar discover? We will try to indicate this in a few sentences.

“He discovers that Jesus, born of a woman, called Mary. He was of the lineage of David. He was the Son of Joseph the carpenter, and grew up in Nazareth. He had brothers. He was baptized at the beginning of his ministry by John the Baptist. In Galilee and Judea he proclaimed a message that brought him into conflict with his fellow countrymen and fellow believers. That spelled his destruction. He was captured after a last meal with his followers and was sentenced to death by the Jewish court with approval of the Roman occupying force. The execution took place by a cross. At last he was buried. These are the facts” (p. 46, 47).

Baarda writes on page 51:

“The message of Easter cannot be verified historically speaking. The congregation has never been able to produce witnesses for the resurrection. They cannot tell us what happened. Only later on, the (aprocryphal) stories start to grow.”

On page 52 of Baarda’s book we read:

“He who reads the Gospels meets Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah, as Son of God, as Lord. In the Gospels He has the halo of the titles that he did not possess during his life, in reality.”

Page 61 says: “to remain trustworthy, sometimes one has to become untrustworthy.”

Page 64: “This can mean that after Easter the congregation puts words unto the mouth of Jesus, which Rabbi Jesus never spoke himself.”


At the ministers’ meeting held at the Mount Hamilton Church Dr. Daarda dealt with the so-called “contradictory” passages in the Gospels. (The early Christian Church called them evantiophane-seeming contradictions), for instance:

In Mark 10:17 we read, that Jesus answers the Young Ruler: “WHY DO YOU CALL ME GOOD? NO ONE IS GOOD EXCEPT GOD ALONE.” However, Matthew records: “WHY DO YOU ASK ME ABOUT THE GOOD? ONE ALONE IS GOOD.” Dr. Baarda staled that Mark’s Gospel was written first Gild therefore is closer to Jesus’ words, while Matthew had added or changed Jesus’ words, to make them more acceptable. Matthew feels it is offensive for the believers to write that Jesus said “Why do you call me good?” So, he changes Jesus’ words into the impersonal remark: ‘Why do you ask me about the good? Similarly, “No one is good except God alone,” becomes “One alone is good.”

Other “contradictory” Gospel passages were “examined” by the professor. Baarda’s views became evident especially during the discussion.

His views do not deal merely with a few isolated “contradictions” in Scripture, but they affect his whole view of inspiration. This became evident in remarks such as: “I do not agree with the exegesis Jesus gives in this case.”

Or (about Galatians): “Paul uses a Rabbinical method and I cannot agree with it.”

Or this statement: “Jesus had other hermeneutics than we have.”

Asked whether Matthew was practicing “pious deceipt,” Baarda answered that Matthew just interpreted the meaning of the words of Jesus for his readers, just as a minister does in a sermon.

So, during our minister’s meeting, the Bible toppled as the infallibly inspired Word of God. Said Baarda: “I do not believe in a divine word from heaven; it is very human, because it has to come close to me.”


It is highly interesting to read up on what Reformed theologians of a bygone day said about this Bible criticism. They had studied all the arguments, but rejected the conclusion of liberal theologians.

For instance, about Mark supposedly being the first Gospel, the late Professor Dr. S. Greydanus of Kampen Theological Seminary, wrote (Christefijke Encyclopaedie, Vol. V, pp. 353, 354 ) that authors of the early Christian church unanimously regarded the gospel of Matthew to have been written first, namely for those in Palestine and Syria; later on Mark was written for the believers, and thereafter Luke.

But, you may say, why then is Mark regarded to be the first by some liberal theologians. The answer is: not because they have found evidence in antiquity, but simply by a subjectivistic attitude of criticism over against the Bible.

You see, all along in church history people have known about these “contradictory” passages. But they accepted it as God’s Word, just as it came to them. They said Jesus may have spoken these words at different occasions in different ways. Anyway, as they are recorded, so Jesus spoke.

Already from the fourth century after Christ, unbelievers capitalized on these “contradictions.” For believers they were not really a bother. To them it sounded like the question: “Where did Cain get his wife?” However in the eighteenth century we get the phenomenon that “Bible scholars” became uneasy about it. This was caused by the influx of rationalism. Miracles were not considered possible. Jesus’ virgin birth and His being the Son of God could not have happened. Even though Paul lists at least 512 eyewitnesses (I Cor. 15), yet the rationalists came to the conclusion that the resurrection cannot have taken place. And if it did not happen, no one could have been an eyewitness of such things, either. Divine inspiration of the books of the Bible was not a rational concept: In 1778 G. E. Lesing wrote a book entitled: New Hypothesis about the Gospel Writers as Purely Human Writers of History. (Neue Hypothese ueber die Evangelisten als bloss Menschliche Geschichtschreiber.)


Ever since the rise of rationalism, one theory about the origin of the gospels has followed the other and it has become a labyrinth of guesses. Just compare the suggested order of origin of the Gospels: Some say it is Matthew, Mark. Luke (Hug. Th. Zahn); others emphatically declare it is Matthew, Luke, Mark (Griessbach, Grimm). But other scholars disagree; they propose Mark, Matthew, Luke (Storr, Lachman, Baarda). However, again others insist it is Mark, Luke, Matthew (Wilke, Weisse).

That is why the late Dr. F. W. Grosheide of the free University wrote: all questions of the form critical school about where the material came from, is no longer hermeneutics. (Hermeneutiek, ten dienste van de bestudeering van het Nieuwe Testament, 1929, pp. 14, 229, 230, 104, 105).

Hermeneutics must explain the text as it has been given by God. The Holy Spirit docs not tell us how He did it: Therefore, the “new hermeneutics” is not hermcneutics at all. Add to this the fact that all church fathers and heretics of the early Christian church never talked about whether Matthew or Mark or other writers would have changed Jesus’ words. They all regarded this to be true, historical reporting. Then, where do the liberal scholars get the audacity to change the Bible message with their unproven theories? Woe unto him who tampers with the Book of books: “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city. . .” (Rev. 22;19).

Those “contradictions” are often not so hard to explain if one gives himself to the text with love, instead of putting himself on a pedestal above the text, hy asking; What would I have written? Even our Lord did not change the Bible text but spoke, “It is written. . . .”


What shall we do? Should we choose between Paul’s method, Jesus’ method or Baarda’s method? To ask the question, is sacrilege. Woe to those who vivisect the Holy Word of God. Those who have done so, have killed the faith and certainty of their parishioners and have emptied their churches. The Bible’s claim is: “Thus saith the Lord!” The Bible believing Christian boldly answers all Bible critics (Dr. S. Greydanus: Schriftbeginselen te Schriftiverklaring, 1946, p. 64): “In our Bible study we will not distinguish between history and legend, truth and phantasy, reality and tradition. We take these Bible books for what they claim to be: as God’s holy, infallible, dependable words.”

“just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses . . .” Luke 1:2