Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Church Says Amen

by J. Van Bruggen
Inheritance Publications, 2003, 230 pages

reviewed by Adolph Dykstra

This book was a joy read! Not that it was always easy to read – it is primarily a study book. The author originally wrote this as a textbook for reformed colleges. Subsequently it was published for a larger audience because this guide to the Belgic Confession filled a need. Study groups and many individuals found this commentary comprehensive and sound, yet not too lengthy or too elaborate for their purposes.

Reading this book was an adventure. Rev. van Bruggen’s comments and insights into the wording of this confession always lead to what the Scriptures say. On this journey we rediscover the wealth of wisdom that has been preserved for us – that we have inherited – in this confession.

But do we really need such a formalized summary of our beliefs? “Throughout the English-speaking western world, today’s generation is taught to give more credence to one’s personal experiences and thoughts than to the wisdom our fathers accumulated over their years of being busy with God’s revelation. That can only mean an impoverishment for the future, simply because the human heart is depraved and therefore by nature not tuned in to God’s revelation. To act as if we are the first to read God’s word is folly to the extreme. We need to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, to learn how they applied God’s promises in the grit and grime of life’s struggles, and repeat for ourselves (be it with words learned from them) what God has promised also to us – for His promises do not change.” So says C. Bouwman, convincingly and eloquently, in the preface he wrote for this commentary.

The original publication in Dutch has already stood the test of time. And to that I can add that the translation is worthy of the original. The prose flows smoothly. That is quite an unusual accomplishment. Too many translations are mere word substitution efforts. But this one was done by someone with a feeling for the English language. The translation is faithful to the original, yet shows translator’s courage in grappling imaginatively with unique Dutch phrases or grammar. I found very few Dutchisms.

The Church Says Amen is unhesitatingly recommended. Just one word of advice: if you find the first two chapters a little choppy, please persevere – they’re only ten pages, and they form a very terse overview, history and introduction to the confessions in general and the Belgic Confession in particular. Difficult reading yes, but read them anyway. They’re worth the effort!

C. Bouwman ends the Preface with these fitting words: “May the Lord grant that this work be received as readily as it was in the Dutch-speaking world where it first appeared, and so be of service in equipping today’s generation of modern Christians to echo whole-heartedly the glorious promises God has given in Jesus Christ.”

It can be found at Inheritance Publications or here at Amazon.com

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