THE MISSING A BRAKEL SECTION HOPEFULLY TO BE REMEDIED by J. Parnell McCarter
We can be thankful that an English translation of Rev. Wilhelmus ŕ Brakel's magnum opus A Christian’s Reasonable Service has been made available, and that even for free, at http://www.abrakel.com/ . The Dutch version of this work, from which the English was translated, is available for free at http://www.theologienet.nl/theologieindex.html#BRAKELW . But we should be sad that the English translation has a notable omission, as explained at http://inthylight.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/free-book-friday-no-3-the-christians-reasonable-service-by-wilhelmus-a-brakel/ :
“The English translation omits the final sections of De Redelijke Godsdienst, deel 3, including:
Why the omission? In his article at http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CDUQFjAD&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffrcna.org%2Fresources%2Fstudent-society-speeches%3Fdownload%3D46%26start%3D20&ei=fYRXVO3nDoqlyQT4mIH4CA&usg=AFQjCNGwkq_xT5w00WdP-xzpWrC5qUwPzA&sig2=AAhW5gV4m0CuZYNB6NsnDA&bvm=bv.78677474,d.aWw , Rev. Bartel Elshout explains why it was omitted. He asserts:
“…ŕ Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John has not been included in the English edition. This exposition is by far the weakest and most controversial element of his work –ŕ Brakel was a historical millenialist with postmillenial tendencies– and has therefore never received the abiding recognition and approbation which have been awarded to De Redelijke Godsdienst itself. The Dutch church historian Ypeij states concerning this exposition: “This volume is the least significant and needs to be used by the common man with prudence and with not too much confidence in the exegesis of the writer.” Los concludes: “The public at large has unconsiously placed its stamp of approval on this unfavorable evaluation concerning Brakel’s exposition of the Revelation of John. For, as renowned as the Redelijke Godsdienst is, in like manner the exposition which concludes the work has been relegated to oblivion.” This unfavorable evaluation of his exposition of Revelation led to the decision to postpone its translation to a future date...”
Rev. Elshout expands further on this in his communications recorded at http://faithbasedworks.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/exposition-on-revelation-by-wilhelmus-a-brakel/ . He seems to indicate there that it is likely he will never seek its English translation in these words: “At this point, I am quite doubtful that it will ever be translated.”
Rev. a Brakel was a postmillennial historicist, which is the position that the Historicism Research Foundation (www.historicism.net) advocates. To the extent that the final section of A Christian’s Reasonable Service was omitted because postmillennial historicism is out of favor, it may be a sadder commentary on our generation than the author’s eschatology. Therefore, the current project of Historicism Research Foundation is to spearhead its translation into English. The reality is that postmillennial historicism is effectively taught in the Westminster Standards. In addition, it is taught in the Dutch States Bible and significantly implied in the Three Forms of Unity, such as the Belgic Confession article 36 (see http://historicism.net/readingmaterials/sixthpoint.pdf ) .
Historicist eschatology was a universal aspect of Protestant Reformation theology. Rev. a Brakel himself testifies to this in the following words:
“Among the enemies which the church has here upon earth,the antichrist is the most significant and primary cause of all the persecutions of the church. The word “antichrist” consists of two words: [Greek word--CD] (anti), which, depending on the context, can mean either against or for, and [Greek word--CD] (Christos). Thus the word “antichrist” pertains to someone who is against Christ but who nevertheless creates the impression as if he were for Christ. Sometimes this word is used as pertaining to every heretic, who opposes the Person and the doctrine of Christ. “As ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). Generally, however, it pertains to the great antichrist, the head of the multitude who oppose the doctrine and professors of Christ. That such a person will come is confirmed by many texts in the Holy Scriptures and is a fact which is not denied by anyone. Question: Who is the antichrist? Answer: With all Protestants we reply: The pope of Rome. The papists deny this strongly” (Wilhelmus a’Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service).
It would be fair to say that in order to understand Rev. a Brakel’s theology, as well as that of the other Protestant Reformers, one has to understand historicism.
One practical consequence of rejection of postmillennial historicism is that it allows modern professing Protestants to cozy up to Rome in their politics, ecclesiology and theology, especially starting with their politics. Dr. Abraham Kuyper correctly knew that he had to amend the historicism as well as the Establishment Principle out of Belgic Confession article 36 in order to form political alliances with Roman Catholics and Roman Catholic political parties. After all, how can Romanism be extirpated, as demanded by Belgic Confession article 36, if Protestants are entering into political alliances with Rome? The article’s amendment represented a rejection of the sort of explicitly reformed Christian politics advocated by the SGP of the Netherlands and the Reformation Party. It dampens explicitly reformed Christian politics because it suggests explicitly reformed Christian politics has no real future before Christ’s return, as well as no persuasive Biblical basis. The same has been done by most American-based professedly reformed churches in their amendments to the confessional standards, resulting in the same political consequences.
We should not be deceived, however. Cuddling up to Rome politically has implications on cuddling up to Rome ecclesiologically and eventually even theologically. This comes at a sensitive time, because much of professing Protestantism has seriously compromised its Biblical Protestant foundations. Protestants should instead be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and His word. We should be seeking the extirpation of Romanism and Islam through the proclamation of God’s word, leading men by God’s Spirit to convert to the only reasonable religion of Biblical Christianity.
So in order to seek to remedy the notable vacancy, the Historicism Research Foundation has taken up the task of working on an English translation of Rev. a Brakel’s commentary on the book of Revelation. Rev. a Brakel’s commentary cogently explains the rationale for a postmillennial historicist interpretation of Revelation. We are hoping that it would be a blessing to the church in the English-speaking world.