WHICH DIRECTION IS THE HERITAGE REFORMED CHURCHES (HRC) HEADING IN? By J. Parnell McCarter
The HRC affirms sound doctrinal standards: the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards (see http://heritagereformed.com/about/about-page-2), as does its seminary Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (https://puritanseminary.org/). However, there is reason for concern as one investigates further:
1. The HRC has joined the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC). Its website is http://www.naparc.org/. It is “a fellowship that enables the constituent churches to advise, council, and cooperate in various matters with one another and hold out before each other the desirability and need for organic union of churches that are of like faith and practice.” It consists of such denominations as the PCA, OPC, URC, and Canadian Reformed Churches. While NAPARC says its basis in fellowship includes adhering to the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards, the reality is that officers in a number of these denominations only loosely subscribe to confessional standards, and that not even to the same standards, as a number of the denominations have made amendments from the originals while others have not. Not only so, some of these denominations have allowed church officers to remain officers even though they hold to such heresies as the Federal Vision heresy, which denies justification through faith alone. The Canadian Reformed Churches’ view of the Covenant of Grace is contrary to the view of the Covenant of Grace taught in the Westminster Standards. And it would be fair to say a significant number of church officers in some of these denominations reject the Christian Sabbath and six day creation. Furthermore, most of the congregations in the member denominations use critical text Bible versions, because they have rejected the received text and regard the Authorized Version Bible as antiquated. Where are NAPARC and its member churches headed?
2. Consistent with joining NAPARC, HRC oversees a seminary with professors from an array of NAPARC denominations, and it has been training men to serve as ministers in these various denominations. It is called Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (https://puritanseminary.org/). One problem is that it is not at all clear which confessional standards these professors are subscribed to. The professors are in denominations with contradicting confessional standards, having amended the Westminster Standards or Three Forms of Unity, along with differing forms of subscriptions to their confessional standards. One adjunct professor there (Dr. Robert Godfrey) has explicitly rejected the 6-day creation view, while others agree with it. Does this not result in confessional confusion of a major sort, and where does it lead?
3. Dr. Joel Beeke of Puritan Seminary is getting involved in diverse groups, and recently issued an apology for being mildly critical of “Christian rap” music. This statement at the website http://5ptsalt.com/2013/12/10/a-contrite-apology-from-dr-joel-beeke-to-christian-rappers/ bears consideration:
First, here is Dr. Joel Beeke’s apology:
Recently I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at a Reformed Worship conference. In that discussion the panelists were asked to address the subject of Christian rap music (which I took to mean rap music primarily in the context of a local church worship service). To my regret, I spoke unadvisedly on an area of music that I know little about. It would have been far wiser for me to say nothing than to speak unwisely. Please forgive me. I also wish to publicly disassociate myself from comments that judged the musicians’ character and motives.
Tim Challies is a New Calvinist pal of Dr. Joel Beeke who for his part has humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes, contritely expressing remorse for offending the “Christian” rap crowd. The last line of Dr. Beeke’s apology seems to relate also to the comments of others on the panel in question. Dr. Beeke’s claim that “Christian rap” is “an area of music that I know little about” is a strange one indeed. What minister today does not know enough about that “music” to know that it is irreverent, ungodly, gross worldliness and part of the hip-hop culture which includes immodest dress, tattoos, piercings, and summed up, a lot of downright stupid talk and behavior. By the way, some time back, Dr. Beeke knew enough about the rapper Propaganda to compliment him thusly: “To his credit, Propaganda promotes the gospel of Christ in other raps, and says that he has learned a lot from reading the Puritans.”
But, all of this public clarification, remorse, and concern by Joel Beeke over his mildly negative comments about the wretched, ungodly noise of so-called holy hip-hop, yet Dr. Beeke has uttered not a public word of apology or warning for being deeply imbedded as a participant with, and a promoter of, the ungodly, deeply ecumenical Refo500 since its inception! By the way, the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) is far, far from being a scripturally sound ministry organization for a number of reasons, including that the NCFIC Church and Family Network includes new evangelical (Reformed and Arminian), charismatic, Pentecostal, and Apostolic churches. But of course, we are expected to accept, with all docility, the new norm whereby such camels have nowadays been redefined as mere gnats at the worst. Jer. 5:31: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?”
Is there not reason to fear that Dr. Beeke’s apology and other actions in effect give the green light for the youth to engage in the worldly entertainment of “Christian rap” music?
4. Along with entering into close relations with the NAPARC denominations, the HRC seems to be entering into relations with the Christelijke Gereformeerd Kerk (http://www.cgk.nl/filearchive/a54d76b7f2489272f74cad7d7e41466a.pdf)
“The next morning Rev. Elshout and I, on behalf of the Heritage Reformed Congregations, met at the Theologische Universiteit van Appeldoorn with three members of the Christelijke Gereformeerd Kerk’s correspondence committee (Dr. H. G. L. Peels, Rev. Lawrence DenButter, and Rev. J. Wim Wullschleger) to speak about the possibility of our respective denominations entering into some level of formal church fellowship. This is the first meeting we have ever had with them, and it went well. We shared each other’s history briefly, and then asked questions of each other. The result is that we hope to dialogue more over e-mail, and then present a recommendation for the first level of fellowship to our respective committees, which, if approved, will then go to our respective synods…That afternoon Dr. Herman Selderhuis gave us a tour of Apeldoorn’s theological seminary in his own inimitable style.”
The Dr. Herman Selderhuis Dr. Beeke refers to above is also associated with the
http://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-22-number-1/reformation-rediscovery-interview-herman-j-selderh : “Young churches are emerging. You see church planting movements. We see missionaries from foreign countries, those countries European churches used to send missionaries to and now they are coming back. They say that you brought us the Gospel, now we will take it back to you so you can learn from it again. So on the one hand, the institutional churches have a hard time nowadays, but Christianity as a way of life and a way of faith has a future and there are developments among young people. A perfect example is the young Catholic convention in Spain and the Pope attended the event there and hundreds of thousands of young people attended that Mass, and they were enthusiastic about it…What I do see is that young people need a clear message. They want that. They want to hear what is right and what is wrong. There is chaos—there is ethical chaos, there is political chaos—now who will give us straight talk? Who tells us what way to go? There is a need for that and the Pope is preaching a clear message and young people are attracted to that.”
Could this be heading the professedly Protestant churches, including the HRC, back into the arms of Rome, even if unintentionally?
5. The webpages http://www.pccmonroe.org/2013/01.03.htm and http://www.pccmonroe.org/2013/07.08.htm document Dr. Joel Beeke’s involvement in various organizations. Here are some quotes from these webpages:
“this new article will contain documentation of Dr. Beeke’s continuing deep involvement in Refo500 and also his involvement with two grossly ecumenical organizations we were not aware of at the time of those HOM programs and that article just mentioned. One of those organizations is the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which, practically speaking, is a mishmash of Protestants, Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventists, and, I suppose one could almost say, who knows what? The World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) is the other organization this article will profile since Dr. Beeke is a member of it.”
“And then there
is the second of the opportunities Dr. Beeke promoted
on just that one particular blog post: “This summer, on July 11-19, 2013, Dr.
Van Vliet and I will lead The Legacy of the Reformation Tour through
(Since the above information has become public, and in the last week Dr. Beeke has said he is severing his relationship with Refo500 because he claims he just found out that it is engaged in ecumenical discussions with the Roman Catholic Church. We are seeking to find out more concrete information about this.)
Where does this lead doctrinally and ecclesiastically?
The Questions Raised
This article has raised very serious questions that it is felt should be very seriously considered.