What They are Thinking

The Reformed Review

During the past eight years the faculty of Western Seminary at Holland, Michigan, has issued a small quarterly bulletin. With the opening of a fine new seminary building, the faculty decided “to signalize this happy event” by improving their periodical. Since last October The Western Seminary Bulletin has appeared in a new format under the new name The Reformed Review, with the subtitle Quarterly Journal of the Western Theological Seminary. The major part of the journal contains scholarly addresses and articles. There is also a section for the review of recent books while a few pages are devoted to campus events and alumni news.

The faculty is to be congratulated on this new venture which is a public demonstration of the fact that a new building is but a means to an end. Everyone desiring to know “what they are thinking” within the Reformed Church in America will do well to read this journal regularly. In an opening editorial Lester J. Kuyper, professor of Old Testament at the seminary, writes:

We have fittingly placed “Reformed” in our name, for we are pleased to be a part of the great Reformed Church of Christendom. And we want to join with many others in building on the fundamental principles undergirding the Reformed faith. We believe, however, that the Reformed faith is not static. This is evident in the revival of Reformed theology during the past decades. New issues are being raised by earnest scholars, new conditions are confronting the Christian world, and a growing ecumenism is found among both the Reformed churches and the churches at large. Honest and forthright students clearly see that no one statement can claim to be the only legitimate declaration of the Reformed faith…To be sure, the cardinal principles which we all embrace such as the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures and the deity of Jesus Christ are still basic. However, exegetical studies of the Scriptures together with a vital criticism of thought patterns have brought about a dear and biblical understanding of our Reformed faith. We need to participate in and be benefited by these new yet old insights of the faith.

Bird’s Eye View

The June issue of The Reformed Review (see above) completes the first year of the new journal’s existence. A survey of some of the main articles gives one an idea of “what they are thinking.” Not every article merits the name “Reformed.” Some articles have been contributed by guest lecturers present during the dedicatory year. Others are the special lectures delivered by the faculty members as part of the celebrations. There are also articles contributed by ministers of the denomination as well as students.

The October 1955 issue contains an article on “The Way and the Task of Reformed Churches” by the late H. Obendiek of Germany. A student contributes a worthy paper comparing the Heidelberg Catechism with the Westminster Confession. The January 1956 issue contains an article by G. Ernest Wright, a guest lecturer, on “The Knowledge of God.” John Hesselink writes of his encounter in Japan with Emil Brunner. A few brief remarks of Brunner himself are appended to the article. Eugene Heidema writes on “The Confession of the Fathers.” Bruce M. Metzger begins the April number with his lecture on “The Miracles of Jesus Christ as a Mode of Teaching.” The major part of the April issue is devoted to a symposium on education which is commented on below. The June issue which coincides with the close of the seminary’s dedicatory year contains a brief history of the seminary together with the six faculty lectures delivered during the course of the year.

This survey of the contents for the year indicates the variety of subject matter as well as emphasis. The book review section is also comprehensive in its scope and well worth study.



Education—Public or Christian?

The conviction of the necessity of Christian schools has never been strong in the Reformed Church of America. But it is receiving renewed discussion today. The April issue (1956) of The Reformed Review contains a symposium on this question which the editors can “a perplexing issue to a number of Reformed folk.” Four ministers of the denomination present a cross section of what the Reformed Church of America is thinking on this subject.

The editors introduce the discussion by saying, “In keeping with the policy of our quarterly this discussion is carried on within the framework of Reformed Theology with the Scripture as final authority.” It must be noted, however, that Rev. J. Baar and Rev. A. De Young have done this most consistently in their strong pleas for the Christian school.

Rev. Isaac C. Rottenberg of High Bridge, New Jersey has a somewhat neo-orthodox approach. Rejecting the claim that education is exclusively a parental responsibility and rejecting also the Significance of the antithesis or of baptismal vows for this subject, he pleads for what he cans “a more prophetic approach to the problem of education.” To this minister “the terms ‘christian,’ ‘public’ and ‘school’ indicate such various spheres as the Church, the State, and education; they point to the realms of revelation, the nation, and culture.” This approach makes a discussion of the real issues impossible. The terms ‘christian’ ‘Church’, and ‘revelation’ are related to one realm and the only problem becomes one of the interrelation with other realms. But the Reformed view has always been one in which the Word of God is considered normative for the whole of life and is not relegated simply to one sphere. Although the author shows a serious concern for the spiritual issues of the nation and its culture, his so-called “prophetic approach” is no solution. To him the Christian school is an isolationistic retreat into a “ghetto culture,” i.e. the Christian’s withdrawing of himself from the cultural life of the nation. The author does allow that under certain circumstances it may be necessary to have a Christian school, but then not because of the principle of the antithesis but because of the prophetic task of the Church.

Rev. Henry J. Ten Clay of Grandville, Michigan, also supports the c1aim that a Christian should be educated in the public school. Ten Clay’s main argument is that the Christian should be educated in the public school in order that he, the Christian pupil, may witness there. “Where such godlessness prevails, and where it is so hopeless of letting any Christian influence be felt” he admits that a private or parochial school may be necessary.

Ten Clay conceives of three elements in education—intellectual development, psychological development, and the development of spiritual qualities. To him, the intellectual development will be the same regardless of the type of school. He feels that the best psychological development however, will come in the public school because there the child will learn at first hand that there are radical, national and religious differences. He will see these, not as problems, but as “one of We’s common issues” and hence will learn the “great virtue of tolerance.” The third clement, development of spiritual qualities, is actually one which the pupil must himself contribute to his education. “We must realize that inasmuch as religion is a spiritual thing, a matter of the heart, primarily, it can be as real for the individual child in the public school as in the Christian school…” “Christ is in his heart, the Holy Spirit is his guide, and he learns to live and express his Christian faith and life in the natural world order, from which not one of us can escape.”

The Christian influence in the public school, according to Rev. Ten Clay, must be introduced by the pupil who becomes a “little missionary.” “The child that is taught, often and early that he belongs to the Savior, and is to live for the Savior, will live and express that type of life in a public as well as in a Christian school.” The author goes on to show what Christians ought to do for the sake of the improvement of the public schools, but this hardly touches the real issue.

Rev. James Baar of Denver and Rev. Adrian De Young of Paterson then take up the case for the Christian school in the next two articles of the symposium. Their arguments are scripturally grounded. They refer to the covenant and the parental duty. They also set forth objections to the type of argument used in the first two articles of the symposium. I shall not review the details of their case here for it is well known in Reformed circles. It is interesting to note, however, that where Christian schools are considered to be a Scriptural requirement, one does still hear arguments similar to those of Ten Clay and Rottenberg when it concerns the questions of labor or politics.