For the Cause of the Son of God-3
The Missionary Significance of the
by Dr. Wesley L. Bredenhof
ISBN 9 780977 344253
Now available in print & PDF Ebook versions
Scroll Down for Endorsements & Author
Click here to buy the book
Table of Contents
Biography on Wesley Lloyd
to this book.
Introduction to Reformed Mission History
Retail Promotional Flyer
This book was originally written as a Th.D. dissertation for Reformation
International Theological Seminary.
The project was conceived when I was serving as a missionary in the
north-central region of the Canadian province of British Columbia.
During and after my seminary studies, I had a special interest in three
areas of research: the Belgic
Confession, church history, and missiology.
I was interested in writing a thesis that would bring these three areas
Right from the beginning, I was convinced that it had to focus on the
significance of the Belgic Confession for the study and practice of mission.
There were three phenomena that I observed that led me in that direction.
First, in my church federation (the Canadian Reformed Churches) there was
and is a growing emphasis on the importance of missionary outreach/evangelism.
Of course, this is a development to be welcomed and encouraged!
Second, there are a number of people in my federation who view the
confessions of the church as a liability.
They are a minority, but they also tend to be the ones who place a lot of
stock in mission. Third, there is a
notion among some Reformed folk (including among some in my own federation) that
being missionary-minded and being confessional are to some degree antithetical.
It almost seems to be a given that you cannot be a missionary and love
the Reformed confessions – and a Reformed missionary is certainly not going to
use the Reformed confessions in any kind of conspicuous way.
Given these three phenomena, I concluded that it would not be long before
someone comes along and lays our past lukewarmness about mission at the feet of
the Belgic Confession. Why the
Belgic Confession in particular?
Because it is the preeminent defining confession in the Three Forms of Unity.
The Heidelberg Catechism is primarily a teaching confession, focussed on
teaching some key points of Christian doctrine.
The Canons of Dort are a primarily a polemical confession, focussed on
refuting the Remonstrants and explaining further the doctrines of grace found in
the other two confessions. Even if
individuals are not familiar with these categories, if there is a problem to be
found with the confessions and mission, the blame will intuitively be laid at
the feet of our defining symbol, the Belgic Confession.
This book is therefore a pre-emptive effort to address those who might be
tempted to see the Belgic Confession as a hindrance for the mission of the
church to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let me also say something here to my Presbyterian brothers and sisters.
You are more familiar with the Westminster Standards than the Three Forms
of Unity. That is to be expected –
of course, the situation is reversed for me.
However, I am familiar enough with the Westminster Standards to be able
to say that I think this study may have interest and relevance for you as well.
It is true that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms emerged from a
completely different context than the Belgic Confession.
Peace and stability allowed a group of theologians to work on these
confessional standards for several years in the 1640s.
The Belgic Confession, as will be elaborated upon in chapter 3, comes out
of the fires of persecution and an unsettled ecclesiastical world.
Nevertheless, it may be said that the faith expressed in the Westminster
Standards is largely that found in the Belgic Confession.
Of course, the Westminster Standards are much later and so one can expect
to see further theological developments, but at the roots, both share a common
confessional heritage. So, for
instance, some of what is said about article 36 of the Belgic Confession in
chapter 5 can be applied also to what the Westminster Confession affirms in
chapter 23.3 (particularly in the original unaltered text).
Unfortunately, very little has been written on the missiological significance of
the Westminster Standards. In his
brief missiological study of WCF 14, Valdeci Santos did not identify any other
works, other than to mention some comments of B. B. Warfield on the 1903
American revision of the WCF.
Warfield affirmed that “the Confession, as it was originally written, disclosed
a missiological concern.”
 However, it does not appear that much has been done to systematically outline
that concern in any comprehensive way.
Perhaps this is the appropriate place then to encourage one or more of our
Presbyterian brethren to undertake such a study.
It could surely be of mutual benefit and serve the advancement of the
gospel in our countries and overseas.
That brings us back to the Belgic Confession and its missiological relevance.
The question is not a new one.
In fact, this might be considered a question that has already received a
decisive judgment. In 1972,
Christian Reformed missiologist Robert Recker concluded that “the Belgic
Confession projects an image, in the main, of a church talking with itself
rather than a church before the world.”
He went on to write:
"If I were to construct a missiology today, or if I would hope to be inspired
with missionary passion, I would reach for the Bible and not for the Belgic
Confession. Reading this Confession
with analytical care impressed me with the fact that it is partial.
And when I read it to discern the missionary focus of the whole Word of
God, then I can only say it is inadequate."
Recker’s opinion is by no means idiosyncratic or unexpected.
Many contemporary missiologists and church historians see the Reformation
in general as a movement lacking in missionary zeal and character.
This view has a lengthy pedigree, going back at least to Gustav Warneck.
If this view is true, we would also reasonably expect the
confessional documents of the Reformation to reflect a lack of missionary zeal
This book will argue that past judgments on the missiological relevance of the
Belgic Confession have not done it justice.
In the past, missiologists and church historians have simply worked with
the received dogma that the Reformation was not in any sense a missionary
movement. This in turn has affected
how they regarded the Belgic Confession.
In more recent times, new scholarship is bringing a fresh and more
accurate contextual understanding of the Reformation, particularly of how the
Reformers viewed themselves.
This new scholarship impacts our assessment of the Reformation and mission and
consequently also our assessment of the confessional documents of the
I will examine the relevance of the Belgic Confession for contemporary Reformed
missiology. The history and
background of the Confession will be investigated to determine its original
missionary intent and nature. I will
explore how and why it was organized in relation to its intent and nature.
The missiological strengths and weaknesses of the Confession will be
outlined. I will also consider its
relationship to the study and practice of mission in the Dutch Reformed churches
of the seventeenth century. Finally,
this study will interact with those who have already rendered their judgments on
whether the Belgic Confession has missiological relevance for today.
As I noted above, this
study is intended to be church historical, symbolic, and especially
missiological in nature. From a
church historical perspective, I am interested in describing the milieu from
which the Belgic Confession emerged and in which it later functioned,
particularly in the seventeenth century and last half of the twentieth century.
From a symbolic perspective, I want to
study and identify the content, form and structure originally given to the
Belgic Confession and evaluate how that might relate to mission.
The perennial issue of status confessionis (being in a state of having to make a
confession) also requires description and evaluation, and again specifically
relating that issue to the study and practice of mission.
From a missiological perspective, I am interested in developing a
formulation of the missionary mandate from Scripture and describing and
evaluating the understanding of that mandate in the Belgic Confession and its
historical context. I am also
concerned with exploring questions regarding contextualization and communication
pertaining to the Confession in its original context, in some historical uses,
and today. Given the diversity of
fields involved, various methods have been employed, some of which have just
been mentioned. Others will be noted
at the appropriate places in the body of the study.
With those methods and broad purposes in mind, chapter 1 will provide a brief
history of the Confession, noting the salient points for the purposes of this
book. In a parallel (though
obviously much briefer) discussion on John Calvin’s missiological relevance,
James DeJong has pointed out that the definition of mission is crucial.
Therefore, chapter 2 will develop the definition of mission.
Chapter 3 will consider the original missionary nature and intent of the
Belgic Confession. Chapter 4 will
analyze the structure of the Confession with an eye to its missionary intent and
nature. In chapter 5, we discuss the
missiological strengths and weaknesses of the Confession.
Historical missiological/missionary uses of the Confession in the
seventeenth century receive attention in chapter 6.
In the next chapter, more recent judgments on the missionary significance
of the Confession are described and evaluated.
Finally, chapter 8 offers concluding thoughts and considers the issue of
status confessionis and the
relationship between confessions (in general) and the study and practice of
As far as literature is concerned, this study will utilize primary sources in
their original language where necessary and possible.
With regard to secondary sources, the focus will be primarily on those
available in English. However, in a
number of places, resources available in Dutch, German, and French have also
Does the Belgic Confession have anything to say to the mission of the Church of
Jesus Christ today? Twenty-first century
Christians appear to consider mission as the “Cause of the Son of God”
The question before us is whether this Reformation confession has a
similar orientation. Please join me now
as we begin investigating that question…
Valdeci S. Santos, “A Missiological Analysis of
the Westminster Confession of Faith – Chapte r 14,”
in The Westminster
Confession into the 21st Century (Vol. 3), ed. J. Ligon
Duncan (Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2009), 329.
R. Recker, “An Analysis of the Belgic Confession As To Its Mission
Focus,” Calvin Theological Journal 7.2 (November 1972): 179.
Recker, “An Analysis,”
For a recent example, see A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B.
McGee, Introducing World
Missions: A Biblical,
Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004),
Gustav Warneck, Outline of a History of Protestant Missions from the
Reformation to the Present Time (New York: Fleming H. Revel Company,
See Scott H. Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard:
The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox, 2004); Hans-Werner Gensichen, “Were the Reformers
indifferent to missions?,” Verbum SVD 25.1 (1984): 3-10.
James DeJong, “John Calvin in Mission Literature,” Pro Rege 4.1
(September 1975): 10.