Review: Schilder’s Struggle for the Unity of the Church

Van Reest, Rudolf. trans. Theodore Plantinga. Schilder’s Struggle for the Unity of the Church. Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada: Inheritance Publications, 1990.

The Golden Age of Dutch Theology came in the person of Kuyper, yet within Kuyper were the seeds of its own destruction. The younger generation either went with the worst of Kuyper’s theology or with liberal Protestantism.

The Problem with Scholasticism

Schilder seems to equate “scholasticism” with Kuyper’s bizarre views on covenant, and Kuyper’s view:

(1) We baptize on the presumption that the child at the baptismal font is already regenerate.

(2) Yet some children are not saved.

Therefore, (1) must become

(1*) Their baptism was not a genuine baptism after all (Van Reest 47).

But if no one knows whether his baptism is real, then only the most morbid self-examination can follow:

(3) You must use the distinguishing marks as a checklist.

The payoff, or lack thereof, is you can’t ever go to the Lord’s Supper.

But is Scholasticism just shorthand for Kuyper? I don’t think so, though Schilder is never clear. It seems to be when a church starts with faulty presuppositions and draws conclusions from them. Over time this builds up into a system which can never be challenged by Scripture (50-51).

Woe to you, my people

Key part of the Solomonic thesis: “When people become Solomonic, their concern is not for the Truth alone, or for belief in the Scriptures and faithfulness to the confessions” (251).

Van Reest details the tragic events unfolding in the 1930s. Schilder, along with a few others, saw that National Socialism was pagan in its root. This is often forgotten. In the 30s “Nazi” did not mean Jew-killer, and this explains why H.H. Kuyper and V. Hepp could implicitly support the Nazis and formally rebuke Schilder for attacking the Nazis.

Schilder was arrested for writing Reformed articles against the Dutch Nazis. He was soon freed, yet began writing again. He barely escaped a concentration camp and had to go into hiding. His story is the stuff of heroism and suffering.

Sadly, the Synod deposed Schilder for not holding to Kuyper’s doctrine of presumptive regeneration, yet they did not attack him on doctrine, but on church order. They said he was schismatic in not obeying the order of Synod. Yet his leading accusers, HH Kuyper and V. Hepp, ignored previous synods’ warnings against Dutch Nazi youth groups.

Nor should they have deposed him without his being there. But had he been there, the Nazis would have deported him to a concentration camp.

Those events then led to the Liberation of 1944. But it does not appear that the Synodocratic forces won. Consider Van Reest’s words:

“The spirits of the men at the synod were also very low. You could see it in their faces and in the slack way they walked. They had run completely stuck with their ecclesiastical scheming, but there was no way out for them…

G.C. Berkouwer sat there in the president’s chair, a sunken heap of a man” (356).

Plantinga, the translator, then ends with how the Liberated churches fared in America.

The book reads like hagiography, which it probably is. Still, it contains valuable first-hand information about a great theologian during one of the darkest hours of the 20th century.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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1 Response to Review: Schilder’s Struggle for the Unity of the Church

  1. Pingback: Review: An Everlasting Covenant (Kamphuis) | Blog of the Wars of the Lord

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