Archive for the ‘Heidelberg Catechism (1563)’ Tag

“That We Might Be Accepted of God, and Never Forsaken of Him”: Early American Dutch Reformed Liturgies, 1628-1814   4 comments

RCA Crest

Above:  The Crest of the Reformed Church in America

A Scan from the Cover of Our Reformed Church, by Howard G. Hageman and Revised by Gregg A. Mast (New York, NY:  Reformed Church Press, 1995)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART II

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That we might be accepted of God, and never forsaken of him:  and finally confirmed with his death and shedding of his blood, the new and eternal testament, that covenant of grace and reconciliation, when he said, it is finished.

–The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, 1789 and 1814

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

In the previous post I set the stage and wrote of U.S. Dutch Reformed history through the Secession of 1857, which resulted in the formation of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC).  That approach was necessary and proper.  Now, however, to zoom in and explore more details is also necessary and proper.

My purpose in this post is to examine U.S. Dutch Reformed liturgies and their antecedents through 1814, the year that the Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825), the Father of the Reformed Church in America, edited The Psalms and Hymns, successor to The Psalms of David (1789), which he had also edited.  Livingston, as a liturgist, stood firmly in his tradition while departing from it in some ways.

II.  EUROPEAN ROOTS

Dutch Reformed liturgies stood in the lineage of Lutheran and Reformed rites of the 1500s.  Of particular relevance was the Palatinate service book, the Kirchenordnung, or Church Order (1563), a companion to the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).  Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus wrote them at the behest of Elector Frederick III “the Pious.”  The Palatinate form for Holy Communion borrowed from various Calvinistic forms and drew from the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Palatinate liturgies, being companions to the Heidelberg Catechism, not only contained echoes of it but came with a rubric requiring the minister to identify the questions from that Catechism germane to his Sunday sermon.

The Reverend Peter Datheen (1531-1588), a former Carmelite friar who had converted to Protestantism in 1550, relocated with his congregation from London, England, to Frankental (near Worms), in Germany, in 1562, under the protection of Elector Frederick III.  There Datheen, whose Latinized name was Petrus Dathenus, encountered the Palatinate Communion ritual.  In that setting the sacrament took place once a month in cities, once every other month in villages, and on Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas.  There was a service of preparation on the Saturday before each Communion Sunday.  Only those who had attended the preparation service could partake of the sacrament.

Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Church Order of 1563 influenced Datheen greatly.  He combined much of the latter with Lutheran and other Reformed forms as well as his Dutch translation of the Psalter to forge a new service book, which he published in 1566.  The volume also contained the Heidelberg Catechism and rituals and prayers.  There one found rituals for Baptism, the Lord’s Supper,funerals,  and marriage, as well as prayers for morning, evening, the sick, and opening and closing church council meetings.  This service book has proven influential in Dutch Reformed circles to this day.

Datheen’s Eucharistic rite incorporated parts of 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.  The ritual featured a prayer, a creed, and an exhortation to lift up hearts to Christ, not to pay attention to earthly bread and wine.  Reformed Eucharistic theology was prominent.

Datheen presided at three influential Synods–Wesel in 1568 and Dordrect (Dort) in 1574 and 1578.  The 1568 Synod recommended the use of Datheen’s Psalter in The Netherlands.  The Synods of 1574 and 1578 required the use of that Psalter and permitted the singing of hymns.  The Synod of Dort (1574) established a pattern for the Sunday service:

  • A scripture reading and the singing of a psalm,
  • The Votum (Psalm 24:8),
  • Prayer;
  • Singing,
  • The sermon,
  • Prayer again,
  • The Creed,
  • Singing again, and
  • The Blessing.

The frequency of the Lord’s Supper was once a month.

The Synod of Dort (1578) established other rules:

  • The Gospel reading would come from a lectio continua (continual reading plan), not a complementary lectionary.
  • Sunday worship would be central.  Thus there would be no weekday evening prayer.
  • There would be only preaching, not singing, at a funeral, so to honor only God.
  • Baptism and Confirmation would occur only in community settings.
  • Congregational leaders would investigate a parishioner’s behavior prior to the monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Only those who passed the test could partake of the sacrament.

The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) was more famous than the preceding Synods held in that city.  The 1618-1619 Synod reversed the earlier, permissive attitude toward hymns, permitting instead only the singing of Psalms.  That gathering also prohibited the use of organs in churches.  This fact explained the great scandal which a Dutch Reformed congregation in New York City caused in 1727 by installing a pipe organ.

The Synod of The Hague (1586) expanded Datheen’s influence.  It required strict adherence to his order of the Lord’s Supper, one which heightened the emphasis on sin, a fixation which was already a major point in the Palatinate liturgy.  Indeed, one could not use Datheen’s rituals without hearing about how one had been born into sin and was therefore incapable of doing anything good.

III.  IN THE NEW WORLD

Colonial Worship Patterns

Datheen’s liturgy, being official, normative, and mandatory in the Dutch Reformed Church in The Netherlands and her colonies, set the pattern for Dutch Reformed worship in the New World for nearly two centuries.  The services were in the Dutch language in the territory of the future United States for a long time, for the first English-language services (using a translation of the Datheen rites) occurred in the 1700s.  There were two Sunday services in the time of New Netherland.  The morning and afternoon services followed the same order or worship.  The afternoon sermon related to the Heidelberg Catechism.

Enter John H. Livingston

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825) worked from Datheen’s blueprint when editing two service books-hymnals, The Psalms of David (1789) and The Psalms and Hymns (1814), links to which I have provided already in this post.  (I also covered them partially in the first post in this series.   Thus the following content stands beside that section of that post.)  The two Livingston-edited service books-hymnals deviated from Datheen’s model in certain crucial ways and differed from each other.  They were, however, more alike than not.  The two volumes reflected the influence of preceding rites and service books, such as those I have explained in this post.  The past was prologue.

Preparation for the Lord’s Supper

Both the 1789 and 1814 books contained A Compendium of the Christian Religion for Those Who Intend to Approach the Holy Supper of the Lord, a catechism for use in the Saturday preparatory services.

The Liturgy:  Public Prayer

The Liturgy came in six parts.  The first section was Public Prayer, which consisted of the following:

  • The pre-sermon and post-sermon prayers,
  • The prayers for before and after explaining the catechism,
  • A Morning Prayer and an Evening Prayer,
  • Prayers for opening and closing church meetings,
  • Graces before and after meat, and
  • Prayer for Sick and Tempted Persons.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of the Holy Sacraments

The second section of the Liturgy was the Administration of the Holy Sacraments–Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  There were rites for baptizing infants and adults.  The rituals emphasized that all people were

conceived and born in sin

and were therefore children

of wrath by nature, incapable of doing any good, and prone to all evil.

Yet, the language said, there was grace.  The rites challenged the baptized to make

firm resolution always to lead a Christian life.

Livingston, while editing the 1789 and 1814 books, omitted a crucial prayer from the Palatinate and Datheen liturgies.  That prayer had deep roots, for Martin Luther had written the original version, Ulrich Zwingli had revised it, and Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus had modified if further at Heidelberg in 1563.  The English translation of that prayer read:

O almighty and eternal God,

who in thy severe judgment didst punish the unbelieving and impenitent world with the Flood,

and didst of thy great mercy save and preserve eight souls to faithful Noah,

who didst didst drown the hard-hearted Pharoah with all his host in the Red Sea,

and didst lead thy people Israel through the same with dry feet,

by which baptism was signified,

we beseech thee, that thou wilt be pleased of thine infinite mercy graciously to look upon these children,

and incorporate them by thy Holy Spirit into thy Son Jesus Christ,

that they may be buried with him into his death,

and be raised with him in newness of life;

that they may daily follow him, joyfully bearing their cross,

and cleave unto him in true faith, firm hope, and ardent love;

that they may with a comfortable sense of thy favor,

leave this life, which is nothing but a continual death,

and at the last day, may appear without terror before the judgment seat of Christ thy Son,

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost,

one only God, lives and reigns forever.  Amen.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The “flood prayer,” which pointed to Baptism as a corporate sign–one sealed one person at a time–was absent from the 1789 and 1814 books.  This absence indicated that the Reformed Church in America was moving into American Evangelicalism, with its excessive individualism, and away from European Calvinistic roots, which took the community more into account.

(P.S.–In 1994 the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America sent to the Classes (the plural form of Classis) a baptismal rite, which they approved the following year.  That ritual contains an abbreviated form of the “flood prayer.”  One can access that rite here.  As I write this sentence there are Provisional Orders on Baptism and Profession and Reaffirmation of Faith which also use a form of that prayer.)

The Eucharistic rites of the 1789 and 1814 remained close to the Datheen model.  The service opened with 1 Corinthians 11:23-30 then continued with an exhortation for those present to examine their consciences.  Next came a congregational prayer for grace, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’s Creed.  Then came this very Reformed prayer:

That we may now be fed with the true heavenly bread, Christ Jesus,

let us not cleave with our hearts unto the external bread and wine,

but lift them up on high in heaven, where Christ is our advocate, at the right hand of the heavenly Father,

whither all the articles of our faith lead us;

not doubting, but we shall as certainly be fed and refreshed in our souls through the working of the Holy Ghost,

with his body and blood, as we receive the holy bread and wine in remembrance of him.

(I changed the formatting to make the text more easily readable.)

The distribution of the elements followed.  Then prayers of thanksgiving concluded the rite.

The Liturgy:  The Administration of Church Discipline

The Administration of Church Discipline was the third part of the Liturgy.  This part consisted of Excommunication and Readmitting Excommunicated Persons Into the Church of Christ.

The Liturgy:  The Ordination of Church Officers

The fourth section of the Liturgy, the Ordination of Church Officers, contained rites for ordaining ministers, elders, and deacons.

The Liturgy:  Marriage

Section number five of the Liturgy was the Confirmation of a Marriage Before the Church.

The Liturgy:  The Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers

The final section of the Liturgy consisted of verses of scripture For the Consolation of Sick and Dying Believers, arranged topically.  The 1789 book contained the texts, but the 1814 volume just listed the citations.

The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds

Both books ended with the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

The Psalter

The Psalter was prominent in the 1789 and 1814 books.  The Psalms of David (1789) did not Christianize the Psalms to the extent The Psalms and Hymns (1814) did.  In 1814 Psalm 21, the Third Part, verse 1, read:

David rejoic’d in God, his strength,

Rais’d to the throne by special grace;

But Christ, the Son appears at length,

Fulfills the triumph and the praise.

The punctuation was slightly different in 1789, as was the use of “f” for “s.”

Then there was the case of Psalm 22.  The 1789 Psalms of David rendered the text mostly in a straight-forward way, without much Christianization.  The 1814 Psalms and Hymns, however, Christianized the text extensively.  Verse 1 of the Second Part read:

Writhing in pain, our Saviour pray’d

With mighty cries and tears:

In that dread hour, his Father heard,

And chas’d away his fears.

The 1814 book, unlike its 1789 predecessor, pegged the Psalms to the Heidelberg Catechism.

The Hymns

The Psalms of David (1789) included 100 hymns, but The Psalms and Hymns (1814) had 270.  The latter volume, however, removed 161 hymn and Psalm texts from the repertoire of the Reformed Church in America.  Both books, however, pegged the hymns to the Heidelberg Catechism.  Some of the new hymns expanded the range of funerary hymns, consistent with Livingston’s 1812 funeral liturgy, which replaced the sermon with the singing of hymns, in a break with Dutch Reformed tradition.

Looking Ahead

The 1789-1814 Liturgy fell into widespread disuse during the first half of the nineteenth century, as the denomination moved away from its roots and toward American Evangelicalism.  This fact concerned certain prominent people in the Reformed Church in America.  Their efforts led to the next period of liturgical revision, 1853-18

That is a story for a subsequent post.

IV.  CONCLUSION

As the Reformed Church in America (RCA) adjusted to changing circumstances it moved away from its European Calvinistic roots and in the direction of informal and more individualistic American Evangelicalism.  The denomination bore the stamp of personal Pietism.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Wainwright, Geoffrey, and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, eds.  The Oxford History of Christian Worship.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 2006.

Worship the Lord:  The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America.  Reformed Church Press, 2005.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE REUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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“United as Members of One Body in True Brotherly Love”: The Reformed Church in America, 1628-1857   10 comments

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Above:  Marble Collegiate Church, New York, New York, 1901

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994005022/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a08186

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART I

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Besides, that we by the same spirit may also be united as members of one body in true brotherly love….

–The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, 1789

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I.  PREFACE

There is a long-running conflict between the quest for doctrinal purity (according to whatever standard one measures that) and the desire for ecclesiastical unity.  The former flows from an exclusive spirit, but the latter indicates an inclusive impulse.  The names, dates, places, and issues change, but people repeat the old pattern.  I have studied these matters closely and long enough to recognize without surprise that breakaway groups frequently suffer from schism.  Apparently many of the self-identified pure are impure according others among the self-identified pure.  What else is one supposed to expect when setting out on the schismatic enterprise?  The quest for doctrinal purity is the road to a series of schisms, for each of us is somebody’s heretic.

I write as one outside the Reformed camp.  My initial theological formation occurred inside The United Methodist Church.  At age eighteen I became an Episcopalian.  Since then I have never looked back.  The mix of my Anglicanism has become more Lutheran in recent years, but I have collection of Madonnas and crucifixes.  I am, in order, an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic.  Thus I approach this material as an outsider–an intellectually curious one committed to the idea that, despite the plethora of small theological differences among we Christians, more unites us than divides us.  We ought, therefore, to focus on the latter, not the former.

II.  INTRODUCTION

The saga of Dutch Reformed Christians in the United States of America is a fascinating one.  This series of blog posts, focused on liturgical matters, requires a certain amount of historical background for comprehension.  So this post will provide much of it.  I will not attempt to recreate books I have consulted while preparing this post or will consult while preparing subsequent ones.  Therefore I refer anyone who seeks more details to the books in my bibliography and to the links I have embedded and will embed in the text.

The Reformed Church in America (RCA), one of the oldest denominations in the United States, is among the smaller of the mainline Protestant bodies.  It is a denomination with a mixed identity, for its shrinking Eastern branch is more progressive than its growing Western arm.  The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), the RCA’s more conservative offshoot, is moving to the left while the RCA is moving to the right.  The two denominations are converging, even sharing a hymnal, Lift Up Your Hearts, since 2013.  Nevertheless, substantial differences remain.  The continuing saga of the evolving relationship between these two bodies will remain a story worth monitoring for some time to come.

One storytelling technique is to start at the end then move to the beginning and move forward.  I have given you, O reader, a glimpse of the end of the story.  Now I take you to the beginning and move forward.

III.  THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA DURING THE COLONIAL AND REVOLUTIONARY ERAS, 1628-1783

Our story begins in New Amsterdam, the capital city of the colony of New Netherland (New Jersey, much of New York, and parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland).  In 1628 the congregation known today as Marble Collegiate Church came into being.  From that event the present Reformed Church in America (RCA) dates its beginning.  For a few decades the Dutch Reformed Church was the religious establishment in New Netherland, enjoying all the benefits which come with that status.  Then, 1664, forces of the British Empire seized the colony.  New Amsterdam became the City of New York and the slow process of the Americanization of the Dutch Reformed Church in the territory which would become the United States of America began.

This was an emotionally and theologically difficult transformation, for the question of identity was at stake.  Dutch Reformed adherents settled on ethnic loyalty to their church, keeping it distinct from other Calvinist groups, such as the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians.  “Dutch” mattered more than “Reformed.”  That was how the former establishment adjusted to its demoted status.  Few liturgical issues have proven thornier down the corridors of time than the language of worship.  That language remained Dutch among the Dutch Reformed for a long time.  The Marble Collegiate Church installed its first English-speaking pastor, Archibald Laidlie, in 1764.  Many congregations used a variety of English-language psalters, none of which the Dutch Reformed Church had authorized, prior to the publication of the official and English-language Psalms of David in 1789.

Those who study the immigrant experience know that the process of adjusting to and accommodating another culture is difficult.  In the case of the Dutch of the former New Netherland this process played out on home turf.  I have mentioned some changes they made.  Here are two more:

  1. A church in New York City installed a pipe organ in 1727.  This proved quite controversial.  The organist, however, did not play the instrument on Communion Sundays.
  2. The practice of separating men and women during Sunday worship became less frequent during the 1700s.

And here is a third.  The (First) Great Awakening also proved controversial in Dutch Reformed circles.  Not only did it shape the Dutch Reformed Church, but that denomination influenced it.  Two components of Dutch Reformed theology clashed.  The experiential aspect of the religion told people that ought to have a personal experience of salvation and emphasized personal piety, often at the expense of sacraments and other “externals.”  Thus Pietism and Revivalism occupied the minds of one wing of the church.

There was a very different camp of Dutch Reformed Christians, however.  They looked back to the Canons of Dort (1619), from which we receive our explanation of the five points of Calvinism:

  • Total depravity,
  • Unconditional election,
  • Limited atonement,
  • Irresistible grace, and
  • Perseverance of the saints.

Some especially strict Dutch Calvinists regarded the Canons of Dort as not only accurate but divinely inspired.  Back in the old country

The Dutch Calvinists came to consider themselves as the new Israel, a chosen people under God, country, and the house of Orange.

–Elton  J. Bruins and Robert P. Swierenga, Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), page 9

And many Dutch Calvinists in America, part of a church still part of the Dutch national church, agreed.

The Reverend Theodorus J. Frelinghuysen (1691-1748), a leading light of the pro-(First) Great Awakening wing of the church, struggled with the conundrum of affirming both Predestination and the message that people must be born again.  Many of his critics thought that emphasized the latter too much and the former too little.

From 1747 to 1771 the colonial Dutch Reformed Church had two warring factions:  Coetus (Frelinghuysen’s camp) and Confertentie (traditionalists).  Coetus partisans favored not only Pietism and Revivalism but American control of the American church.  No longer should candidates for the ministry have to study in The Netherlands, they insisted.  And, they said, the time to cut the umbilical cord had come; the American church should cease to answer to the Classis of Amsterdam.  Confertentie partisans, being traditionalists, favored a stricter reading of the Canons of the Dort as well as maintaining the status quo with regard to the church in The Netherlands.  They were, relatively speaking, the more orthodox Calvinists.

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825) became the Father of the Reformed Church in America.  In 1772 he reunited the Coetus and Confertentie factions.  For the rest of his life Livingston shaped the denomination liturgically and theologically.  That body achieved independence from the mother church in 1772, becoming the Reformed Dutch Church in North America (RDCNA).  Later it became the Reformed Dutch Church in the United States of America (RDCUSA).  In 1819 the denomination became the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in North America (RPDCNA).  Finally, in 1867, it took its current name, the Reformed Church in America (RCA).

Both Frelinghuysen and Livingston felt the irenic influence of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).  Elector Frederick III of the Palatinate, a German state, had commissioned the writing of the catechism, designed to be agreeable to Lutherans and Calvinists alike.  That theological generosity was evident in Livingston’s emphasis on the unity of church as it continued to adapt to changing political and social conditions.  That theological generosity marked the denomination’s leadership even as forces within the body tore it asunder in subsequent decades.

IV.  THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1784-1857

The Psalms of David (1789), The Psalms and Hymns (1814), and Additional Hymns (1831 and 1846)

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825), Father of the Reformed Church in America, presided over the denomination’s continued Americanization and edited its earliest service books-hymnals The Psalms of David (1789) and The Psalms and Hymns (1814).  He adapted the Canons of Dort for the American scene in 1792, accepting voluntary church membership, for example.  And his Psalms of David (1789) broke with the already weakened Reformed tradition of singing only Psalms and rejecting hymns, “the compositions of sinful men,” as many said of them.

I plan to avoid the trap of attempting to do too much in this post.  Therefore I will discuss the 1789 Psalms of David and 1814 Psalms and Hymns in detail in the next post in the series.  In this post I remain committed primarily to providing historical background information.  Nevertheless, I do offer a brief summary of the those books here.

The table of contents for the 1789 and 1814 books was identical:

  1. The Psalter;
  2. Hymns and spiritual songs “faithful to the Heidelberg Catechism” and pegged to it;
  3. A Compendium of the Christian Religion, a catechism;
  4. The Confession of Faith and the Canons of Dort;
  5. The Liturgy; and
  6. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

The Liturgy came in six sections:

  1. Public Prayer;
  2. The Administration of the Holy Sacraments;
  3. The Exercise of Church Discipline;
  4. The Ordination of Church Officers;
  5. The Celebration of Marriage; and
  6. Comforting the Sick.

The thoroughly Reformed liturgy fell into widespread disuse in the early 1800s.  Proponents of the liturgy lamented this fact, but their protests changed nothing.  Liturgical differences proved pivotal in preventing an attempted union of the Reformed Church in America and the German Reformed Church, for the latter U.S. denomination was undergoing a liturgical revival due to the Mercersburg Theology of the Reverends John Williamson Nevin (1803-1886) and Philip Schaff (1819-1893).  They called the Reformed Churches back to their Protestant Reformation liturgical roots and away from Revivalism and Pietism.  Along the way Nevin and Schaff faced charges of heresy–Romanism, specifically.  That was strong language in those days.  Yet Nevin and Schaff won the argument in their denomination.  The Reformed Church in America, however, was not yet ready for the Mercersburg Theology.

The Reformed Church in America, in its post-Livingston phase, embraced the Second Great Awakening, which was at its height after his 1825 death.  Two hymnals, both named Additional Hymns and bound with both separately and with The Psalms and Hymns, proved indicative of their times.  Additional Hymns (1831) abandoned the practice of pegging hymns to the Heidelberg Catechism in favor of a topical arrangement.  Most of the content of this revivalistic hymnal came from Pietists.  The largest category was “Revival,” focused on individual believers struggling with adversity.  Most of the 172 new hymns in the book were about people, not God, in true Pietistic fashion.  Additional Hymns (1846), also Pietistic, went further, adding 340 new hymns.  “Particular Duties” was among the largest categories.  The sense of social responsibility which the Heidelberg Catechism engendered and which had influenced the 1789 and 1814 collections, although present, was weaker.  The authorized texts indicated an emphasis not on God or on social improvement, but on judgment, the uncertainty associated with death, human responses to grace, and how individuals should live faithfully each day.  The first person singular was prominent, consistent with much of Evangelicalism.

I feel the need to make a point plainly:  another aspect of Evangelicalism encourages social responsibility.  At the time of the Second Great Awakening many Northern Evangelicals became deeply involved (or more so) in the movement to abolish slavery.  Many Southern Evangelicals, however, quoted the Bible more vigorously to defend slavery.  The Second Great Awakening encouraged many people to join social reform movements.  It fostered a sense of social responsibility in many people, but not in all whom it influenced.

Hopkinsian Theology and the Secession of 1822

Tensions focused on the question of how strictly Reformed to be and to remain resurfaced in the early 1800s, as the Reformed Church in America engaged in ecumenical efforts related to Sabbath observance, temperance, the abolition of slavery (some people were for it, others against it), and frontier evangelism.  The church was expanding westward.  But what was the best way to do so?

This question began to flare up in the second decade of the nineteenth century and led to a minor schism in the third.  The General Synod of 1814 questioned the practice of receiving Congregationalist clergymen without doctrinal examination.  The trigger for the dispute was the Reverend Jonathan Hopkins, a student of Jonathan Edwards.  Hopkins, however, emphasized free will more than his teacher did.  Was Hopkins too Arminian?  Was Arminianism infiltrating the Reformed Church in America?  This was a major issue.  The Synod of Dort (1618-1619), after all, had convened to refute Arminianism and produced the Canons of Dort.

Two synods were the chief ecclesiastical bodies involved in the conflict internal to the Reformed Church in America.  The Synod of New York favored relaxing Calvinist orthodoxy in the name of winning converts on the frontier, but the Synod of Albany preferred the old orthodoxy.  This dispute of 1822-1824 rehashed an ecclesiastical altercation from 1747 to 1771.  Abstract theology, however was not the major issue for the Synod of New York.  The Dutch Reformed of southern New York, having lost their establishment status in 1664, had retained numerical strength for a long time.  Yet, in the early 1800s, that was changing due to changing demographics and to intermarriage with descendants of English people.  The Synod of New York was playing catch-up.

Some of the stricter members of the Reformed Church in America broke away in 1822, forming the True Reformed Dutch Church (TRDC), also known as the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (TPDRC).  (Was the parent body false?)  The new denomination formed with twenty-six congregations and twenty-four ministers.  Some of the churches of this body joined the Christian Reformed Church in North America (founded in 1857) in 1890.  The first of the three U.S. Dutch Reformed schisms had occurred and presaged the second.

The General Synod of 1824 addressed the dispute with the theological generosity.  It reaffirmed the Canons of Dort and permitted participation in revivalism.  The True Reformed Dutch Church was not impressed.

The Secession of 1857 and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Secession of 1857, which created the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), had its roots in The Netherlands.  The National Synod of 1816 had altered the church-state relationship by making King Willem I the highest authority in the church.  Later that year he had mandated the singing of hymns–an affront to many strict Calvinists.  An ecclesiastical resistance movement ensued and culminated in the Secession of 1834.  Religious persecution–fines, imprisonment, et cetera–followed.  The persecution, although over in 1848, had convinced many of the Seceders to emigrate to the United States, with encouragement from the Reformed Church in America.

There were several factions of Seceders in The Netherlands.  All agreed that they wanted nothing to do with the Dutch national church, but they disagreed regarding what should replace it.  One camp argued for a return to the Canons of Dort in lieu of the national church.  Another favored congregational independence and an experiential Gospel in that place.  A third faction, that of the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte (1811-1876), supported defense of liberty and the separation of church and state in lieu of the national church.  Van Raalte’s mentor was the Reverend Hendrik P. Scholte (1805-1868), who emigrated to the United States and remained within the Reformed Church in America from that point to his death.

Van Raalte led an exodus to the United States.  He arrived in late 1846; many others followed.  The Reformed Church in America sponsored their journeys westward and financed the construction of houses of worship.  These new congregations formed the Classis of Holland (as in Holland, Michigan), which joined the Reformed Church in America  (RCA) in 1850.  This merger proved crucial to the Reformed Church in America, for it gave the denomination an anchor for expansion into the Midwest and the West.

Van Raalte had found his ecclesiastical home in the New World.  He began to Americanize, something which some of those who had followed him to the United States never did.  Van Raalte, ever grateful for all the Reformed Church in America had done for him and his partisans, remained within it for the rest of his life.

Some of Van Raalte’s fellow emigrants disagreed, however.  No matter how generous the Eastern establishment of the Reformed Church in America was, that amount of money proved to be less than some had expected.  Regardless of how orthodox the RCA was, it proved to be too liberal for some people.  Emigrants had broken away from a national church they considered too liberal, formed more orthodox churches, moved to the United States, and affiliated with a denomination considerably more conservative than the Dutch national church.  Yet, for some, the Reformed Church in America was still too liberal–apostate, even.

There was a litany of complaints.  The singing of hymns proved unacceptable to many.  Some RCA congregations in the East used choirs in worship and/or practiced open communion.  Freemasonry was a widely accepted secret society (albeit less so than before the late 1820s).  Many RCA congregations permitted Freemasons to join.  None had to do so, however.  And sermons based on the Heidelberg Catechism were less frequent than in former times.

Purity of doctrine was only one issue, though.  It was not even the major one.  Cultural differences took center stage.  Those who formed the Christian Reformed Church in North America (five congregations and one minister at the beginning) in 1857 were thinking as transplanted Europeans, not as Americans.  They reacted against the Dutch national church and took out their frustrations on the Reformed Church in America.  They did  not make the distinction between European Freemasonry and American Freemasonry.  And they resisted Americanization, clinging to their Dutch identity, language, and Psalters in the wilderness of the Midwest.  They, Van Raalte said, fought ecclesiastical battles from the old country.

What separated the seceding emigrants from the non-seceding ones in 1857?  As Elton J. Bruins and Robert P. Swierenga wrote:

The RCA members acted like immigrants and the CRC members acted like colonists.

Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century (1999), page 103

The deed was done.  The Christian Reformed Church, initially weak, became a major force via the third secession of the 1800s.

That, however, is a story for another post.

V.  CONCLUSION

The past, in a real sense, is present.  This is especially true in ecclesiastical groups with origin stories which many well-informed adherents have come to regret.  The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, came into existence in 1845 in defense of slaveholding missionaries.  That, like so much else which almost nobody in the Western world defends these days, seemed like a good idea at the time.  That denomination, to its credit, has apologized for the conditions of its founding.  The Christian Reformed Church came into existence for reasons which many of its leaders these days admit were dubious at best.  I have read criticisms from prominent contemporary CRC figures of the founders of that denomination.

The previous owner of my copy of Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century resisted agreeing with those leaders.  He, a member of the Christian Reformed Church, underlined much and wrote fascinating marginalia.  He suspected an anti-CRC bias in the book, to which a prominent Christian Reformed pastor wrote the Preface.

We humans form attachments to organizations, about which we prefer to hold the best possible opinions.  We tend to be loyal to these groups.  That can be laudable, but somber honesty is a higher virtue.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Benedict, Philip.  Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed:  A Social History of Calvinism.  New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2002.

Bruins, Elton J., and Robert P. Swierenga.  Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the 19th Century.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 32.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Our Faith:  Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Confessions, and Other Resources; Including the Doctrinal Standards of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided by a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WERA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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He Descended: Christ’s Descent in the Apostles’ Creed   4 comments

Harrowing of Hades

Above:  The Harrowing of Hades

A Medieval Russian Orthodox Icon

Image in the Public Domain

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U.S. LUTHERAN LITURGY, PART XVII

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Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright doing for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God.  In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit he went to preach to the spirits in prison.

–1 Peter 3:18-19, The New Jerusalem Bible

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…He descended into hell….

The Book of Common Worship (1946), page 47

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I.  INTRODUCTION

I take a break from focusing on specific U.S. Lutheran volumes to write about a related theological question instead.  When I grew up in The United Methodist Church, we said the Apostles’ Creed weekly.  Item #738 in The Methodist Hymnal (1966), renamed The Book of Hymns after the 1968 merger, is the Apostles’ Creed.  That version omits

He descended into Hell,

relegating it to a footnote.  Items #881 and 882 in The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) are the Apostle’s Creed–traditional and ecumenical versions.  Both follow the 1966 Hymnal‘s practice.  And both explain that “catholic” means universal, something which the editors of the 1966 Hymnal saw no need to do.  But that is a different matter and a rabbit I will not chase here.

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II.  POSSIBLE MEANINGS OF THE DESCENT

Philip H. Pfatteicher, the great Lutheran liturgical scholar, points out that the literal translation of the Latin text of that line from the Apostles’ Creed is:

He descended to the lower [world].

Furthermore, Pfatteicher writes, there are three main interpretations of what that means:

  • It emphasizes that Jesus was dead.
  • It indicates that Jesus went to battle Satan.
  • It indicates that Jesus freed the souls of the dead.

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (1988) version of the Apostles’s Creed renders that line:

he descended to the dead,

which applies to all three interpretations.

I prefer the traditional form:

He descended into hell.

This has been the standard U.S. Lutheran rendering, based on my secondary reading and opening of hymnals-service books in my liturgy library.  It remains the text in conservative U.S. Lutheran hymnals-service books and was likewise in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) line until Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), which uses the ecumenical version, with

He descended to the dead,

and places the traditional

He descended into hell

in a footnote.  But the descent is present.

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III.  MATTERS LUTHERAN AND REFORMED

Christ’s descent has been a hot potato for many Protestants over time.  Methodists have tended to avoid it, but at least Presbyterians have wrestled with it.  The Book of Common Worship (1906), of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., for example, placed

He descended into hell

inside brackets and provided an alternative text in a footnote:

He continued in the state of the dead, and under the power of death, until the third day.

The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932) removed the brackets but provided a different alternative text:

He continued in the state of the dead until the third day.

The Book of Common Worship (1946) said simply that Christ descended into hell, but our Lord and Savior has descended to the dead since 1970.  That is more than many Calvinists were willing to say for along time.  The Heidelberg Catechism (1562), Question 44 explains the descent into hell this way:

That in my severest tribulations I may be assured that Christ my Lord has redeemed me from hellish anxieties and torment by the unspeakable anguish, pain, and terrors which he suffered in his soul both on the cross and before.

The Book of Concord, however, affirms Christ’s descent into hell.  The Formula of Concord, Epitome IX (1577), says:

This article has also been disputed among some theologians who have subscribed to the Augsburg Confession:  When and in what manner did the Lord Christ, according to our simple Christian faith, descend to hell?  Was this done before or after His death?  Was this done before or after His death?  Did this happen only to His soul, only to the divinity, or with body and soul, spiritually or bodily?  Does this article belong to Christ’s passion or to His glorious victory and triumph?

This article, like the preceding article, cannot be grasped by the senses or by our reason.  It must be grasped through faith alone.  Therefore, it is our unanimous opinion that there should be no dispute over it.  It should be believed and taught only in the simplest way.  Teach it like Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, in his sermon at Torgau in the year 1533.  He has explained this article in a completely Christian way.  He separated all useless, unnecessary questions from it, and encouraged all godly Christians to believe with Christian simplicity.

It is enough to know that Christ descended into hell, destroyed hell for all believers, and delivered them from the power of condemnation and the jaws of hell.  We will save our questions and not curiously investigate about how this happened until the other world.  Then not only this mystery but others will be revealed that we simply believe here and cannot grasp with our blind reason.

The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration IX (1577) affirms:

Even in the Ancient Christian teachers of the Church, as well as among some of our teachers, different explanations of the article about Christ’s descent to hell are found.  Therefore, we abide in the simplicity of our Christian faith.  Dr. Luther has pointed us to this in a sermon about Christ’s descent to hell, which he delivered in the castle at Torgau in the year 1533.  In the Creed we confess, “I believe….in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who…was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.”  In this Confession Christ’s burial and descent to hell are distinguished as separate articles.  We simply believe that the entire person (God and man) descended into hell after the burial, conquered the devil, destroyed hell’s power, and took from the devil all his might.  We should not, however, trouble ourselves with high and difficult thoughts about how this happened.  With our reason and our five senses this article can be understood as little as the preceding one about how Christ is placed at the right hand of God’s almighty power and majesty.  We are simply to believe it and cling to the Word.  So we hold to the substance and consolation that neither hell nor the devil can take captive or injure us and all who believe in Christ.

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IV.  CONCLUSION

The descent of Christ is an important theological point, not one which any Christian should sweep under an ecclesiastical rug.  But it is also a theological point replete with mystery and ambiguity.  Self-identified orthodox Christians have, since the Patristic era, offered competing interpretations of it.  I prefer the Harrowing of Hell version, but it is sufficient for me that a version of the Apostles’ Creed contain Christ’s descent.  Whether it says that he descended into hell or to the dead is a minor issue.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994.

Book of Common Worship.  Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1906.

Book of Common Worship, The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, 1946.

Book of Common Worship (Revised), The.  Philadelphia, PA:  Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1932.

Book of Hymns.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1917.  Reprint, 1932.

Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal.  Milwaukee, WI:  Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.

Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, The.  Service Book and Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Lutheran Publication House, 1958.

Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church.  Philadelphia, PA:  The Board of Publication of The United Lutheran Church in America, 1917, 1918.

Concordia:  A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1917.

Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.  2d. Ed.  Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Concordia Hymnal, The:  A Hymnal for Church, School and Home.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1932.

Constitution of the Prebyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY:  Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  St. Louis, MO:  MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc., 1996.

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, The.  The Lutheran Hymnal.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

Fevold, Eugene L.  The Lutheran Free Church:  A Fellowship of American Lutheran Congregations, 1897-1963.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1969.

Hymnal and Order of Service, The.  Lectionary Edition.  Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Book Concern, 1925.

Hymnal for Church and Home.  3d. Ed.  Blair, NE:  Danish Lutheran Publishing House, 1938.

Hymnal Supplement 98.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1998.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Ministers Desk Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

__________.  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Pew Edition.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978.

Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship for Provisional Use.  Contemporary Worship 2:  Services–The Holy Communion.  Philadelphia, PA:  Board of Education, Lutheran Church in America, 1970.

Lutheran Hymnary Including the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, The.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1935.

Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee.  American Lutheran Hymnal.  Music Edition.  Columbus, OH:  The Lutheran Book Concern, 1930.

Lutheran Service Book.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 2006.

Lutheran Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1982.

Methodist Hymnal, The:  Official Hymnal of The Methodist Church.  Nashville, TN:  The Methodist Publishing House, 1966.

Pfatteicher, Philip H.  Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990.

Pfatteicher, Philip H., and Carlos R. Messerli.  Manual on the Liturgy:  Lutheran Book of Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Publishing House, 1979.

Reed, Luther D.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America.  Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1947.

__________.  The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study in the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America.  2d. Ed.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press, 1959.

United Methodist Hymnal, The:  Book of United Methodist Worship.  Nashville, TN:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989.

With One Voice:  A Lutheran Resource for Worship.  Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1995.

Worship Supplement.  St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1969.

Worshipbook, The:  Services and Hymns.  Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1972.

KRT

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