Book Review: Schilder: Preserver of the Faith

Schilder: Preserver of the Faith by Henry Vander Kam. Vantage Press: New York, New York, 10001, 106 pp., $15.00. Reviewed by Thomas Vanden Heuvel.

The late Rev. Henry Vander Kam had a deep and lasting admiration and respect for Professor Dr. Klaas Schilder. He had all the issues of De Refonnaties edited by Schilder. He kept up with all of the happenings in The Netherlands regarding Schilder and his efforts for the orthodoxy and unity of the church.

Vander Kam’s book goes back to the roots of the Reformed churches in The Netherlands and gives a very interesting summary of the history of the Afscheiding (1834) and the Doleantie (1886).

The most compelling part of Vander Kam’s book is the story of the Liberation of the church in 1944 and the events in the synods of the Geformeerde Kerken van Nederland (GKN) which led to it. This is a story which must be told. Even though more than fifty years have passed, the effects of these decisions are still seen in the GKN. The decision to depose Dr. Schilder was made in 1944 while The Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis, and Professor Schilder himself was in hiding. It was one of the most ungodly miscarriages of justice in modem church history. The GKN synod had not assessed the tremendous following that Schilder possessed. When the dust settled, more than 100,000 members left the GKN along with some of the most confessional ministers. The GKN never recovered from this terrible decision. History shows that when discipline is misapplied and the tragic results are seen, the key of discipline is seldom used again. The GKN has allowed departures from the Scripture and confessions to go on with impunity ever since.

The church which was formed by those who left the GKN has grown. In The Netherlands it is called the GKN Vrij-gemaked (Liberated). In Canada it is called the Canadian Reformed churches and in the USA, it is called the American Reformed churches. The seminary in The Netherlands is on Broedeweg in Kampen, and theseminary of the Canadian Reformed churches is in Hamilton, Ontario. Rev. Vander Kam asks the question: Was the situation of 1944 worth a split in the church? In his analysis of the situation in the GKN since that time, its failure to discipline those who departed from orthodoxy and its subsequent weakness in maintaining Reformed faith and life, the split was worth it, says Vander Kam, because the liberated churches are strong. They really are the continuation of the historic Reformed churches. This is a book which deals with a piece of modem Reformed church history that impacts the Reformed churches today wherever they are. We are indebted to Rev. Vander Kam for his desire that the story of his beloved Klaas Schilder be told.

Rev. Vander Kam went to be with the Lord shortly before this book was published, but his legacy lives on.