From the President

Date Published

October 1, 2010

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Published by Calvin Seminary

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

From biblical times till the present, Christians have united the church, fought heresy, testified to outsiders, defied persecution, taught newcomers, and worshiped God—all by the use of creeds and confessions. Also by the use of catechisms, canons, and testimonies. These documents are of immense value, especially when people care deeply about them.

So it is with the Belhar Confession. Forged in the fires of racial injustice in South Africa in 1986, the Belhar Confession speaks eloquently to the need for unity, reconciliation, and justice in the church. The church should witness to these great realities, model them to the world, and become an agent for spreading them. All because of the costly work of Jesus Christ—the one through whom God was reconciling the world to himself.

In 2009, the Synod of the CRCNA, in an unprecedented move, proposed to Synod 2012 “the adoption of the Belhar Confession as a fourth confession of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.”

Response to Synod’s proposal has varied, including among the members of our faculty. In this issue we expose some of our own thinking. Professor Mariano Avila writes movingly of how the Belhar is a cry from the heart “that we will never understand unless we hear it with our hearts.” Professor Lyle Bierma writes of the purposes of confessions and applauds the Belhar as an apt instrument for these

purposes. Professor John Bolt provides a sobering review of global “blood sins” and commends the Belhar for its “powerful and necessary testimony” against such sins. But he observes that the Belhar lacks a gospel emphasis on repentance and forgiveness as the heart of reconciliation—and, really, the only real hope for it. Professor John Cooper frames his discussion of the Belhar Confession ecumenically: the CRCNA belongs to the World Communion of Reformed Churches, an organization big enough to include confessional churches, like our own, but also churches with progressive agendas and universalist tendencies. The problem with the Belhar is that it is ambiguous enough to be claimed as a friend by both kinds of churches. Professor Ronald Feenstra finds in the Belhar a compelling call to American Christians to embody the gospel message—which, like that of the prophets, does make God “in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged.”

Read and see what you think. Grace and peace,



Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.


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