Monday, April 10, 2017

Tetragrammaton

Someone asked me: "Would you swap out "The LORD" for "Yahweh"?"

I answered:

I would not swap out "The LORD" for "Yahweh" for these reasons. The Greek OT (the Septuagint, often abbreviated "LXX") consistently renders the Greek Kyrios for the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). Kyrios, as you probably know, is the Greek word for "Lord." 

The LXX was the Bible for the earliest Christians. When the apostles quoted the OT almost invariably they used the LXX. It had authority. So if the LXX uses "Kyrios" for YHWH it makes sense for us to translate LORD when we want to render YHWH in English. We are doing in English what the translators of the LXX did in Greek.

Furthermore, the New Testament laid a close connection, even an identity, between Christ and YHWH by calling him Kyrios. The LXX is an important link for us between the OT and the NT. Christ assumed unto himself the names of YHWH, and that assumption very much hinges on the name "Kyrios." In English this link between the Lord Jesus Christ of the NT and the LORD of the OT is made clear in the name Lord/LORD, and the LXX is the link. If we did the swap-out, we'd lose that which the LXX made clear to us.

Of course I realize that I am justifying the LXX. Perhaps the case can be made that the LXX translators started us down a wrong path by rendering YHWH as Kyrios, but they did what they did, and I think the link of the name Kyrios for YHWH in the OT and Jesus in the NT is a wonderful gift that exalts Jesus as the Son of God, as God himself.


Thursday, April 06, 2017

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Merciful God and Father of our Lord

Prayer before communion


(To the tune of "Abide me")

1. Merciful God and Father of our Lord,
we thank you for the bread and wine outpoured.
In this Lord's Supper we recall the death
of your dear Son who breathed his final breath.

2. O may your Spirit work within our hearts
that we may have the faith which he imparts.
Grant that our contrite hearts may now be fed
with Jesus' flesh and blood, the heav'nly bread.

3. Forgive our sins and turn to us your face.
Include us in your covenant of grace.
Let us not doubt your love for us, your heirs.
Free us, we pray, from all our worldly cares.

4. Grant us your grace that we may bear our cross,
deny ourselves and count this world as loss.
In tribulation we await the One
who will perfect us—yes, your risen Son.

5. All this we ask of you, our God and King,
of you, our Father, who rules everything
throughout the ages and eternally.
We trust in you, Amen, so shall it be.

(Based on the prayer before communion, Book of Praise, p. 606)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Flood Prayer

The Flood Prayer

Tune: Genevan 103


1. Almighty God, eternal heav'nly Father,
in righteous judgment you destroyed with water
the unbelieving and rebellious world
but saved believer Noah and his fam'ly,
protected them and showed to them your mercy.
To them your gracious love you did unfurl.

2. You drowned the stubborn Pharaoh and his army
but led your people through the raging Red Sea.
They walked on dry ground as you led the way.
In ages past you signified our washing,
how you delivered us from all that's threat'ning.
To us your cov'nant love you do display.

3. We therefore pray that, in your boundless mercy,
you will, through grace, include this child, most kindly,
and through your Spirit make him one with Christ
who died and rose again for his salvation,
who paid his debts and earned him full remission.
Now may he walk with Christ the sacrificed.

4. We pray that he may follow Christ his Saviour
and bear his cross in faith and hope with fervour.
We pray, console him right until the end.
May he appear before the throne of judgment
with confidence in Jesus Christ's atonement
for in your love this child you did befriend.

5. All this we ask through Christ our Lord and Saviour,
your only Son who is our one Redeemer
whose love for us is boundless, without end.
He and the Holy Spirit are together
with you one God, who lives and reigns forever.
We pray to you our God, Amen, Amen.

(Here it is set to SATB)

Comments:

The prayer we pray before someone is baptized, whether child or adult, is well known and is called “The Flood Prayer” because of the references to the Great Flood and to the crossing of the Red Sea. The words are familiar:
Almighty, eternal God, in your righteous judgment you punished the unbelieving and unrepentant world with the flood, but in your great mercy saved and protected the believer Noah and his family. You drowned the obstinate Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, but led your people Israel through the midst of the sea on dry ground—by which baptism was signified....
This prayer goes back to the Medieval, pre-Reformation, church and is the oldest part of our liturgical forms as found in Book of Praise. The Reformation did not do away with the good elements found in Medieval liturgy. This prayer was maintained by Martin Luther in Germany, Leo Jud and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, Olevianus in the Palatinate, and Peter Datheen in The Netherlands.(1) Today this prayer is also found, with various modifications, in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies. It is a truly catholic prayer.

The references to the Flood and the Red Sea are typological, i.e., whereas they are first understood to refer to events in sacred history they are also taken as pointing to something else in the future—in this case, to baptism. The Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 3:19-21)(2) interpreted the story of the Flood in a typological way and the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 10:1,2)(3) understood the story of Israel crossing the Red Sea in a similar way. Both Peter and Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said God was signifying baptism by way of the Flood and the Red Sea.

I set the hymn to the Genevan tune for Psalm 103 since that Psalm speaks so beautifully of God's covenant faithfulness to parents and their children. As the metrical version has it:
God’s mercy, everlasting and unfailing,
his righteousness, for evermore prevailing,
will rest on those who worship him with awe.
God will be faithful through the generations
to children’s children who with dedication
uphold his cov'nant and obey his laws.

Notes:

1. G. Van Rongen, Our Reformed Church Service Book (Neerlandia: Inheritance Publications, 1995), p. 184.

2."... they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea....”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Relevant & Rich: 1517-2017 Seventh Annual CRTS Conference

(This article appeared in Clarion, vol. 6, no. 5, March 10, 2017.)

On January 12th-14th our seminary (CRTS) hosted its seventh annual conference. Fittingly, the topic for this quincentenary (500th) anniversary was the Great Reformation. On October 31st of this year we will commemorate how the Lord, 500 years ago, began to bring his church out of a long Babylonian captivity. The conference did not disappoint.

In this little article I will not give a summary of the speeches since the interested person can watch video recordings of them on the seminary web page at www.canadianreformedseminary.ca. Rather, I will give some broad and general information about the conference, my impressions as a participant, and some further reflections.

The two-day conference had a modest international flavour. Not only did some of the 150 participants come from five Canadian provinces—BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario—but there was also representation from a smattering of other countries—Australia, Brazil, and New York state. Catching up with old friends and making new ones is always a great side benefit of such a conference. It was well run: the online registration and payment were easy to navigate and the time allowances for the speeches and workshops were well managed—perhaps to the chagrin of some presenters. Almost everything was right on time. The catering was top notch and the singing, led by gifted organists and pianist, was transcendent.

The speeches themselves were interesting and informative. The conference did not focus only on Martin Luther and John Calvin but, in addition to these better known men, we also got to hear about Ulrich Zwingli and Guillaume Farel.

Two of the speeches were open to the public and at both times the large Ebenezer Church auditorium was comfortably filled. Ebenezer Church seems to have become the “home”of the annual CRTS conference, and we appreciate its comfort and roominess. In addition to the more important things we learned in the first speech was a new “why did the chicken cross the road?” joke, but to hear it you will need to listen to Dr. Van Raalte's speech.

All the speeches and workshops in one way or another addressed the theme of how the Great Reformation is still relevant for us and of how we are the richer because of it.

We have been made the richer by it because it turned us back to the five solas (“alones”) of our salvation: By scripture alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, by Christ alone, and all glory to God alone. These are five foundational biblical principles central to the doctrine of salvation. Each sola represents a fundamental teaching of the Bible undermined by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). The RCC, and especially its head, the Pope, had usurped the throne of Christ in both the church and the world. The Pope plagued the church and society with corruption and abuse. The Pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy had led the church away from the essential and original teaching of Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, especially with regards to how people can be forgiven of their sins by the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of how they can receive eternal life with God. The Reformation re-oriented Christianity back on the original message of the Old and New Testaments.

We are rich because of the Reformation, and the conference stopped and explored each of the five solas.

The Reformation is relevant to us, for several reasons.

First, we always need to be reminded that salvation is by Christ alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, through scripture alone, and that we, as forgiven people, need to live to the glory of God alone. Thanks be to God and all praise to him alone that there are yet countless churches and pulpits where the true gospel is still proclaimed. At the same time we know that there are many places in the world, and even in our own countries, where the preaching is being overshadowed by false doctrines and the candlestick is, in my judgment, being removed. We need to remember the five solas.

Second, the cults are as active as they have always been. The cults teach a false view of our Lord Jesus Christ, usually denying his deity. They teach that salvation is by faith plus human effort, and so deny the biblical preaching of faith alone and grace alone. The cults add their own human documents to scripture. The cults deny God the glory that only he merits. The cults deny each of the five solas, and so the Reformation and the true preaching it revived is as relevant as ever.

Third, the Reformation is relevant because there are those who leave the Reformed faith and embrace the Roman Catholic. There are websites where one can read the writings of former Reformed pastors, seminarians, elders, and church members, who turned away from the Reformed faith and embraced Catholicism. For this reason, too, the Reformation and knowledge of its message are relevant.

Also during the first evening “Celebrate 1517 in 2017” was unveiled. This is a joint initiative of CRTS and the Teachers College (CCRTC), a project meant to help us celebrate throughout the year the faithfulness of God in granting reformation. This initiative has made its own splash in this magazine, so nothing more needs to be said about it here.

We thank everyone who contributed to the CRTS conference. We look forward to celebrating throughout the year of our Lord 2017 the great thing that God did 500 years ago. We are the beneficiaries of the labours and faithfulness of countless who went before us. Let us with them, and together with the church of all ages, say, Soli Deo Gloria!

******************

The evening public lectures:
  • Dr. Ted Van Raalte, professor of Ecclesiology at CRTS, “By Grace Alone: How and Why the Reformation Occurred.”
  • Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn, OPC minister and professor of Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Washington, DC, “Luther on Solo Christo: The absolute sufficiency of the Saviour for sinners.”
Day time speeches:
  • Rev. Bill Boekestein, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church (URCNA), Kalamazoo, Mich, “Zwingli on Sola Scriptura: The clarity and certainty of Scripture.”
  • Dr. Jason Van Vliet, professor of Dogmatics at CRTS, “Calvin on Sola Fide: Justified only by an assured faith?”
  • Dr. Jason Zuidema, elder in the ERQ in Repentigny, PQ, and executive director of the North American Maritime Ministry Association, “Stealing God's Glory: Farel, Calvin, and the Importance of Scriptural Perspective.”
Panel discussion:
  • Brs. Boekestein, Van Dixhoorn, Zuidema, and Van Vliet addressed the question: “Navigating Change in the Church in a Bold but Balanced Way: What Can the Reformers Teach us?”
Breakout sessions:
Speakers:
  • Mr. Martin Jongsma, music teacher and member of the Royal Canadian College of Organists.
  • Rev. Bram de Graaf, missionary working in Maceio, Brazil sent out by Cornerstone Church in Hamilton.
  • Dr. Ted Van Raalte.
  • Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn.
Topics:
  • How the Reformation Helps us in Worship and Psalm Singing.
  • How the Reformation Helps us in Prayer and Spiritual Life.
  • How the Reformation Helps us in Church Planting and Mission.
  • How the Reformation Helps us in Politics, Church, and State