In Memoriam: Klaas Schilder († 23 March 1952)

From Rev Kloosterman’s blog

Cosmic Eye

Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Professor Dr. Klaas Schilder (19 December 1890 – 23 March 1952). During his life, he was a biblical, Reformed, Calvinist pastor, theologian, and churchman.  As a controversial polemicist, he was (and is) as maligned and misunderstood by his despisers as he was (and is) appreciated by his beneficiaries. Especially today in North America, people could profit significantly from his cultural, ecclesiastical, and theological insights.

There is enough information available online to supply a rudimentary portrait of his life and work, a reliable entrée into his heart and mind.

So today we wish instead to introduce our readers to the sagacious side, the provocative persona, of Klaas Schilder.

For that, we draw from a little paperback collection of Schilderian aphorisms that was published in the early 1980s, entitled Aforismen (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1983). In 1952 and 1954, two volumes had appeared, entitled 

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Ammo for the Psalm Chanters

Lutheran Liturgical Brotherhood.  Start downloading now. Admittedly, it’s not a pure chanting in Hebrew, but it is a more or less English equivalent that isn’t altered by metric psalmody.  Don’t get me wrong.  Metric psalmody is superior to 99% of the hymns, but it most certainly isn’t anything close to what the Holy Spirit designed.

An Army of Psalm Chanters

Taken from an old post on Jim Jordan, with some new material.

But let us consider what a Christian view of the Church would be. It would be a place of transformation, not merely of information. Marshaling the people into an army of psalm chanters would be at the top of the list. Indeed, in seminary several psalms would be chanted every day in chapel. The music in the church would be loud, fast, vigorous, instrumental, martial. There would be real feasts. People would be taught that when God splashes water on you, He’s really doing something: He’s putting you into His rainbow.

Elsewhere Jordan says

I should like to offer what I regard as a considerable caveat. I do not believe that men who sing pop choruses or plodding Trinity Hymnal songs on Sunday can get very far into Luther or Calvin, or for that matter Turretin. Men whose personal opinion is that society can be left to the devil cannot really get into the outlook of the Reformers.

I submit that it is important to have some feel for what people were singing and how they were singing it at various times in history. Is it a coincidence that “Reformed scholasticism” began to develop at the same time that the fiery dance-like chorales and psalms of the Reformation began to die down into slow, plodding, even-note mush? It is a coincidence that the “Puritans” had problems with assurance of salvation, given their destruction of enthusiastic singing? I don’t think so. People who sing the psalms as real war chants, as war dances that precedebattle, don’t have problems with assurance and don’t have time for scholasticism. Neither do people with strong, fully-sung liturgies.

EO guys used to attack me on assurance.  “Well, how can you know?”  Well, there you have it.


DKG: Opening Questions 1a

This is taken from Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. It’s a prolegomena to apologetics.

  1. There are many possible ways to refer to the world by means of language.

Languages differ from one another not only by using different words to refer to the same thing, but also in the things the language is supposed to distinguish. No language is able to capture all the nuances of a said definiens. Furthermore, language uses symbols. Different languages use different symbols. However, different languages can describe the same reality.

  1. Is it always legitimate to demand a definition?

It is not always necessary to demand a definition. There is always a necessary vagueness to language. While at the outset it may seem to give greater precision, it alwasy assumes that the more precise and technical a term is, the more clarity it gains. However, it is quite the opposite. For instance, if one were to define Augustine’s view of time, most would not understand and the definition itself would be used in a non-ordinary way. Similarly, discussing “time” without defining it does allow for communication of the term.

  1. Is Scripture ever vague?

If language is vague–as I believe can be at times–and Scripture is communicated via language, then Scripture itself is not exempt from vagueness. Scripture is vague at times, and helpfully so, if its primary purpose from God is not always to communicate necessary precision, but to communicate truth as God intends it. This allows for imprecise quotations, rounded numbers, varied (though not contradictory) accounts without compromising its integrity. How so? This can be maintained if we allow Scripture to set its own standards of historiography and lexicography.

  1. Discuss the values, limitations, of the use of technical terms.

Technical terms, while not often biblical in origin, are useful and even necessary to the task of theology. If theology is the reflection upon and the application of God’s word to contemporary issues, then it must at times use non-biblical (but not un-biblical) language. The task of theology recognizes the at-times vagueness of Scripture and the necessity of technical terms to apply the vague areas of Scripture to concrete situations. However, technical terminology is not without its limits. A technical term by definition limits full biblical expression of the term (i.e.,regeneration). The danger then happens when the theologian uses one term as a b lanket statement for all of the scriptural usages. In other words, theologians are often faced with the danger of pulling terms out of the biblical context.

  1. Never use technical terms from non-Christian histories.

If this is the case, then we will not be able to use much terminology at all. Propositions are not to be judged faulty by the words they use, but on what are they are saying.

  1. Don’t confuse technical definitions with biblical usages. Describe the danger here.

Technical definitions are useful due the degree that they are precise in scope. Their greatest strength is their greatest weakness–precision. Technical terminology limits the use of a biblical expression or term and applies it, hopefully, within a proper context with a view towards application. The danger comes when assuming that because term x means y in this situation, it must always mean x.

  1. There is no one right set of technical definitions? Why? Evaluate.

Given that biblical terminology is often richer than technical terminology, it follows that no one theologian or theological school can exhaust a doctrine in one formulation. No theological system is free from the necessity of making qualifications.

  1. Some technical definitions can actually mislead us. For example, if one uses enlightenment, rationalistic terminology and applies it to the supernatural, then the Christian Theologian is immediately pressed to defend his faith using the opposition’s weapons. He is, in effect, fighting a losing battle from the start. Given the insights stated above, he must allow the Bible to be its own standard (this would require its own prolegomena) and define its own terms.


  1. Describe and discuss the liberal distortion of Scripture through an illegitimate development of technical terminology. Liberal theology takes biblical terminology out of its context and then imports

humanistic, romantic, or existentialist meaning upon the terms. Liberals take the concept of God’s love, strip it of its transcendence, and place it into metaphysical categories. Socialistic Christians (liberation theologians) take Christ’s concern for the poor and despised and draw the illogical conclusion that Christ primarily came for the socially outcast and was at war with those who were not themselves socially outcast. Barth saw divine transcendence as God’s own freedom divorced from the restraints God places upon himself.

  1. Discuss the danger of trying too hard to eliminate vagueness from theology.

Simply put, aiming for maximum precision at all times leads one to be more precise than God himself! Theologians must come to grips that God did not clearly outline many issues in His word: Supralapsarianism/infralapsarianism, traducianism, etc. An attempt to eliminate vagueness in theology leads


Frame Paper, Part 1

This is a paper, or rather part of an exercise, we had to do in seminary.  It was 12 years ago.  The italicized is the issue under discussion

1. Implication is something that pervades our experience.

Men are rational creatures (but much more than that!). While some men are not logically consistent, they cannot escape the demands that logic and rationality make on their lives. Even if men are not able to formulate symbolic arguments, they see the implications of such arguments everyday and act (or refuse to act!) accordingly. It is indirectly tied to the determinative nature that presuppositions (or ultimate) commitments play in our experience. Men may not fully understand (or rather, articulate) an issue, but they can act accordingly.

2. Logic is a hermeneutical tool.

Logic, like hermeneutics, seeks to unpack the meaning of a sentence (or structure of thought). Building off implication, which doesn’t give new meaning to the statement, but rather rearranges the meaning in new ways. Similarly, logic in theology doesn’t give “new meaning” to the text, but unpacks and rearranges meaning already there.

3. Define the nature of a logical must.

Logical musts are both analytic and moral. Those who know the truths of several premises know the conclusion, whether they act on it or not. Secondly, logical musts are moral in nature. Men are created imago Dei and since logic and rationality is a part of God’s character, to be logical is to be faithful to God.

4. Logic is dependent on ethical values.

If logical musts pervade men’s experience, then there is some ethical foundation for why this is so. However, logic itself does not provide the foundation for ethics. There must be some transcendent standard which gives meaning to logic. This standard, I suggest, is Christian theism.

5. What is the nature of logical certainty?

Logical axioms appear certain because on one level they are “obvious” to the world. Scripture teaches us that we must live wisely and by implication we are to live according to these facts insofar as they line up with Scripture. However, logic is not the normative perspective and so will at times need to be modified by Scriptural reflection. We are certain because God has revealed facts in nature (which do not contradict his word), commands us to live wisely and to judge all things by his word which at times will cause us to modify a previous system.

6. Is it biblically legitimate to use logic in theology? Does such use of logic conflict with sola scriptura?

Yes. Logic is a characteristic of God and while not the normative standard for the believer, it will not contradict God’s word provided logic is put in its proper category. Logic no more violates sola Scriptura  any more than the practice of hermeneutics does. Logic, like hermeneutics, unpacks meaning already in the text.

7. If you cannot handle the implications of formal logic, what is the next best thing to do? Why? Discuss.

If one is not ready for formal logic then he ought to become more self-critical and anticipate objections. Doing this implicitly involves the obedience/learning paradox. The more self-critical one becomes, the more logical he comes (that is, assuming that he seeks out logical instruction from more mature and perhaps, philosophically trained believers).

8. Discuss some limitations of logic.

Logic, for one, cannot provide its own epistemological justification. There must be a worldview present to provide the preconditions for intelligibility. Secondly, human logic is fallible. Or rather, human application of logical principles is fallible. While not necessarily a fault with logic, often logic fails to provide “the persuasive power” that more situational perspectives might have.

9. We cannot learn all we know all we know from logical proofs. Discuss, evaluate.

Proofs are tools of logic and while useful and indispensable, they are only secondary. More importantly, proofs themselves do not constitute the premises. In short, premises are often suggested by an extra-logical source (divine revelation, sense-experience, etc.). Therefore, logic often has no more authority than the source of its premises. This is quite useful for the Christian apologist. Logic presupposes God (of course, this argument can and needs to be developed elsewhere in Reformed studies).

10. Apparent contradiction is insufficient ground for rejecting a premise. Discuss.

A chief example of this truth is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. But more to the point of what Frame is discussing: we may not have all the facts that present with us. Granted the support of a premise that the author left unstated, the contradiction disappears. The author might have a perspective on the issue from which there is no contradiction. Of course, upon further evaluation the author might just be wrong and the contradiction stands regardless. But this issue should keep young theologians from jumping to premature conclusions.

11. Human logic is never a final test for truth. Why? Discuss.

Human logic is subject to human finitude. It does not escape the fact that humans do not know all the facts, their imperfect use of the right facts, and the fallibility of their own logical systems. In other words, it does not have all the perspectives on a given situation.

12. “Logical order” is an ambiguous expression.

Logical order is an umbrella phrase for different kinds of orders. Among other things, it is unclear as to whether one is speaking of temporal orders, varying degrees of conditionality, causality, and priority, among other things. The difficulty of such an expression becomes obvious when one looks at the decrees of God and the ordo saludis.

13. Analyze the controversy between the supra- and infralapsarianism.

The supra- wanted to see everything in the context of God’s electing love. The infra- wanted to see it in terms of God’s unfolding drama. Within the context of “logical order” the supra- saw everything in presuppositional priority whereas the infra- saw everything in anticipated temporality.

14. Theological doctrines have a tendency to become analytic. Explain, evaluate using examples.

Analytic doctrines imply the truth of the inclusion within the premise. Seen this way, many doctrines imply one another rather than counteract one another. Human freedom is intelligible only within the context of a sovereign God who gives meaning to human actions. God is good because his attributes are inseparable from him and good becomes part of the definition of God. This allows the believer a sense of certainty that the analytic doctrines can index.

15. Give some examples of theological discussion in which the burden of proof is an important issue. Show why.

Whenever one sets forth a new doctrine he has the responsibility to show that he is correct. The Baptist must show that God no longer deals covenantally with families with respect to covenant membership. The pro-choice advocate must show that the fetus is not alive and so may be killed without moral qualm. Traditionally, the Christian theist has had the burden of proof for God’s existence, but if he redefines his position as an a-atheist with the understanding that all men know God, then the atheist has the burden of proof to show that God does not exist!

The 5-Point Biblical Covenant – What is it?

Rebuild Your Biblical Worldview

The law of the covenant

The word “covenant” is used all throughout the Bible by God to describe His relationship with us. Before He flooded the world, God told Noah “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (Genesis 6:18)

After the flood, God made a promise to Noah:

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