Kloosterman: No Official Version

Nelson Kloosterman

Since no English version of these confessions has been officially adopted, we are using those found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.

—Rev. Dr. Nelson Kloosterman, “On The Level Of Doctrinal Commitment” [In the URCNA] Position 1, (Acts of Synod, London, ON 2010, p. 693)

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Yes, big oops. As I was reading this, it dawned on me, so in his own report on the level of doctrinal commitment, he uses and suggests in his report to our URCNA churches the version of the confessions as found in the 1959 edition. If the 76 was binding, you would think this would be essential for new members to have knowledge of. Yep, direct evidence shows that even Kloosterman didn’t think the Belgic Confession footnote was confessionally binding upon new members. Further reading of the report makes allowances on other doctrinal matters anyways. But, ready for the wordsmithing? This should end this silly discussion.

    Kloosterman writes, “This identification of the officially functioning English version of BC 36 (1976 Psalter Hymnal version) relies on published assembly decisions and reports.”


    Kloosterman writes, “Since no English version of these confessions has been officially adopted, we are using those found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.”

    Note the word “official” used in each statement. A Kloosterman divided against himself cannot stand.

  2. A little context, por favor?

    It’s been 22 years since we’ve been in the CRCNA. I guess I’m not following what’s happening here.

    • Chuck,

      There has been a dialogue for some years about how Christians should relate to the culture and to civil life generally. A few years back I did a blog series and a Heidelcast on the revisions that were made to the Belgic Confession beginning in the late 19th century through the 1950s. The Dutch Reformed Churches in both the Netherlands and in the US have been discussing this for a long time. There have been various parties, one of which is Constantinian and the others we might call Americans (e.g., see Hart’s A Secular Faith, i.e., those who favor religious pluralism with respect to the State.

      It seems to me that the Constantinians assume the unrevised version of Belgic 36. Since those posts and the Heidelcast, however, the claim has been made that the URCs are bound to a particular edition and interpretation of the Belgic as a matter of confessional integrity. Chris Gordon, in his comment, gives further context.

  3. This is one of the reasons I think we need to step back from a firm adherence to the confessions. They are extraordinary, and extraordinarily wise documents, but the concept of quia subscription in this case is asking a bit too much.

      • I have. I was *not quite* convinced. P. 160: “To be sure, the community’s understanding of Scripture may change, and when it does, if there is consensus regarding that change, the confession may and should be changed to reflect that consensus.” And so, the problem is, portions of “the community” want to change, other portions don’t, and then you run into situations like this. I’m all for staying very close to this concept, but using the documents as what they are: statements of doctrine at a particular time and place, while admitting that our understanding has changed.

        I can understand the need to require ministerial candidates to subscribe, while permitting some exceptions. However, “quia” just plain seems unworkable. I am with you on page 180, “what is needed is a document that can be subscribed by all Reformed people in the same way”. But that seems so problematic, for just the reasons given here, that “close” seems to count for a whole lot more.

        • I don’t see what the issue is.

          The church must confess. Are unavoidable, whether they are written or not. In that case the only real question is what relation one will have to them.

          I demonstrated in the book the problems of quatenus (in so far as) subscription: potentially as many confessions as there are subscribers or as many confessions as there are presbyteries etc. In short, subjectivism. On p. 160 I was only trying to say that if the confession is the problem, then write a new one but the church should confess what she believes and she should honestly and plainly subscribe what she confesses.

          The church can agree. Will it happen over night? No. That’s why we need to work toward recovering the Reformed confession—not toward abandoning it.

          The URCs confess the three forms. What is uncertain is the status of some revisions to the Belgic. Those revisions do not change the substance of what we confess. That uncertainty over a matter of textual criticism and synodical history (there’s no evidence in the 1996 minutes that we adopted any version of the Three Forms) is no grounds for abandoning the historic Reformed relation to the confessions.

          • Scott, I am all for publicizing the confessions, I’m even all for the attempt to “recover” them. But I think if you could persuade some evangelical or Pentecostal groups, for example, to “come close” to assenting to large portions of the confessions, the effects would be far greater than if you got a handful of small Presbyterian groups to adopt even a confession re-written perfectly for our times.

            • John,

              To what will we invite the Evangelicals and Pentecostals?

              Whatever we invite them to we must confess, right? So, once again, confessions are unavoidable. I think we are agreed on this. So, the next question is how will we relate to those confessions?

              Let’s say we’re talking to a neo-Pentecostalist. The Pentecostalist says, “I am tired of being an Anabaptist subjectivist. I am tired of being tossed about by every wind of subjective religious experience.”

              Reformed: “Great! I have an alternative. It is the teaching of Scripture as understood and confessed by the Reformed churches. It encompasses the holy catholic faith as summarized by the Apostles’ Creed and those great Reformation truths.”

              Pentecostal: “well, that sounds very interesting. I am looking for something different. I would like to connect with the history of the church. Where do I find what you believe?”

              Reformed: “our theology piety and practice summarized in the grades reformed confessions and catechisms.”

              Pentecostal: “is that all you believe?”

              Reformed: “yes. Absolutely. Those are the doctrines, practices, and our manner of worship that the churches have agreed on.”

              Penecostal: “do you mean what you say?”

              Reformed: “yes. What we confess is what we believe. This is our invitation to you to reconnect with the teaching of Scripture has understood by the church through most of its history.”

              Why doesn’t that work as an invitation? Why would we offer a subjectivist more subjectivism? He can get that where he is he doesn’t need it from us.

              • I almost agree with everything you say here. First, I want to be clear, I think it’s good and right to persuade Reformed churches to adhere to the confessions.

                However, some may get wiggy about the phrase “the teaching of Scripture as understood and confessed by the Reformed churches”. Here you are already into the issue described here (in some small respects) or the American version of the WCF or even the earlier LBCF.

                Too, “the holy catholic faith as summarized by the Apostles’ Creed and those great Reformation truths” this might be controversial for some.

                “Connecting with history” is going to be a “subjectivist” kind of comment anyway. The “subjectivist” doesn’t necessarily know he’s being subjective. “Scripture alone” has some meaning. And yes, while a Pentecostal may agree with WCF 1 in its totality, he may have some reservation about WCF26-30 saying, “that’s not quite Scripture”.

                My inclination is to say I’m ok with that. I am just simply delighted that the Pentecostal has the mere knowledge that the WCF and other confessions exist in some historical context. Perhaps they will want more, perhaps not. But I think that in itself is a huge advancement in the Kingdom.

                While I like “something close to Biblicism”, I also like “something close to confessionalism”. I think, within that area, is a very good place. Not very “subjective” at all.

  4. John, come again? How is an admixture of Biblicism and confessionalism not very subjectivist at all? That actually seems like a pretty good example of subjectivism. Maybe you’re one of those who also thinks there is a difference between revival and revivalism instead of one who thinks they are variations on a theme that both stand over against Reformation theology, piety, and practice.

    That would be too bad, because usually that also means one has come to the conclusion that the Reformation is only a battle on one front anymore (Rome-ward) and that the other front (Munster-ward) is mostly over. Of course, as you point out, the subjectivist is usually unaware of his subjectivism. In the same way, those who who have made relative peace with the Radical Reformation usually don’t admit it either. But your comment betrays you.

    • Zrim, I didn’t say “admixture” since I don’t think that can happen. You are not talking about elements that can dissolve into one another.

      “Something close to Biblicism” gets you into F.F. Bruce and Steve Hays territory — both of whom arrived at a largely (if not totally) Reformed kind of theology. And “something close to confessionalism” is also “very close to Biblical”. I don’t see much air between the two. Some, but not much.

      And again, we are talking to a Pentecostal. If a Pentecostal has the sense of history to know and understand the Reformed confessions, and still wants to be Pentecostal, then, I don’t consider it a cause for a battle.

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