Those of us who are Reformed Christians in the United States tend toward a very myopic view of our religion. We see the divisions between the Northern and Southern Presbyterians, the influence of the Pietists on the descendants of the New England Puritans, the Great Awakening, the Princeton theologians, and the work of J. Gresham Machen as the high points not just of American Reformed history but of church history in general.
Certainly we remember the Reformation itself, and the early church, but how often do we look at the development of the Reformed churches in Europe over the last hundred years? These developments often seem unimportant to our own struggles and problems, too remote to have any bearing. But we forget in so thinking that it is the churches of Europe to which we owe our greatest immediate debt, and that the Church universal is not unaffected by the struggles of its constituent parts.
Rudolf van Reest's Schilder's Struggle for the Unity of the Church will help cure our myopia. Klaas Schilder was a leader in the Dutch Reformed churches in the years leading up to World War II, who opposed the Nazis, Barthianism, and liberalism, and who helped form the liberated Reformed Churches committed to the centrality of the Bible to our faith. Van Reest knew Schilder, and was involved in some of the same work; this volume is part history, part theology, part biography, and part memoir.
Translator Theodore Plantinga points out in the introduction that van Reest's portrait often borders on hero-worship. We see a man with many virtues and no vices, and this affects also our view of his opponents, as it's easier to sympathize with a man we like than with one we don't. However, there's enough theology and history here that we are able to form our own opinion, and to see through van Reest's biased portrayal of a man who surely had plenty of faults.
For a book translated from Dutch, this one is remarkably easy to read (though the type leaves something to be desired). Much of the narrative reads like a thriller, as the looming terror of the Nazis and the internal battles of the Reformed Churches are described in detail. Reformed Christians of the 21st century owe a very deep debt to many Dutch church leaders, and this book casts a new light on them and their activities, which in turn illuminate many of the difficulties we currently face.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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