For many of us “Young Calvinists” who live in the West Michigan area, we had the pleasure of attending Mr. Terpstra’s recent speech about what it means to be a “Reformed reader.” In this speech we were exhorted to work hard at becoming better readers of books in general, but especially of good, solid and Reformed books. Well, fortunately for us all, the RFPA has recently published a book which makes our task that much easier, a book which easily takes its place in the upper echelons the “good Reformed material” category. That book is Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant by Professor Engelsma.
As indicated by the book’s subtitle, the Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant is primarily about the Declaration of Principles, the document which was adopted by the Synod of 1951. On the surface one might think that a book about a document entitled the “Declaration of Principles” would be abstract and overly cerebral. However this is not the case. The Declaration of Principles is a document that articulates and clarifies the doctrine of the covenant that we know and love. In this regard this book is just as much about the defense and development of the doctrine of the unconditional covenant of grace, the very beating heart of our theology. And what topic could be of more interest to us than this personal, warm, and beloved doctrine? What topic could be more relevant to us as Protestant Reformed young people than the history of that doctrine which more than any other defines us within the ecclesiastical world? Moreover the Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant has been written with us as part of its intended audience. It is not a tome of theology written for ministers and professors, but a book designed for all the members of our Churches in all different stages of life. As the author makes clear: “I write this book for a popular, as distinguished from a scholarly, theological audience, for young people as well as their parents and grandparents” (11-12).
The Declaration of Principles and the history surrounding it are matters with which we ought to acquaint or reacquaint ourselves. Either way we stand to profit. To this end we will spend the next couple of weeks reviewing and considering some of the significant points made in this book, particularly how they are relevant for us as Protestant Reformed young people and young adults today; for they are indeed eminently relevant. As the author writes in the preface: “no minister survives who took part in the controversy. Members who lived through those agonizing years and can therefore speak to the younger generations from experience become few” (9). We are yet one more generation removed from these events, and so it becomes all the more important that we seek out this knowledge and learn it well. This is our duty to our elders, and to our God. I know many who have already read this title and others who are in the process of reading it. I encourage anyone who has yet to pick up this book to join them. The goal of these upcoming blog posts is to stimulate the reading of and reflection upon subjects treated in this book concerning a turbulent period in the history of our Churches. Whether the material in this book is familiar or unfamiliar to you, investing the time to read it will be time well spent. In so doing we all may learn from history’s light, indeed the light of our own history no less, and thereby come to cherish all the more that heritage for which our fathers and mothers contended and have delivered down to us.
Next week we will look at a chapter or two from the book itself. If you can find the time or can make the time, get some reading done!