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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.


The Rev. Norman Kansfield Ousted


As a follow-up of my last article concerning the President of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, the Grand Rapids Press had the following in its March 26, 2005 edition:

The Rev. Norman Kansfield’s presidency at New Brunswick Theological Seminary ends Sunday, after school officials voted to replace him three months before his contract expires.

…Ecclesiastical charges have been filed against him that could lead to a church trial at the RCA General Synod this summer.

Although the board reprimanded Kansfield, 65, when it earlier voted to not renew his contract, a trustee at the New Jersey seminary insisted his early exit was not because of the publicity.

“We were more concerned, and remain most concerned, about what makes New Brunswick good and effective going forward,” said Larry Williams, vice moderator of the board of trustees.

…The board also authorized a search for a permanent president and expressed appreciation for Kansfield’s 12 years of “faithful service.”

Kansfield declined to comment on the board’s action. He has said nothing in RCA policy forbids marrying gays and the church calls for pastoral treatment of those born homosexual.

A committee is investigating church leaders’ complaints that Kansfield violated his vows by performing his daughter’s wedding. The RCA has no specific rule against such ceremonies, but the General Synod has declared marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Synod President the Rev. Steven VanderMolen said he doesn’t know whether the issue will go to trial at the General Synod in June but is confident delegates will uphold the RCA stance that homosexual practice is “contrary to Scripture.”

It remains to be seen what effect this will have within the Reformed Church in America. Other denominations are being torn apart on this divisive issue. What will happen in the RCA?

Another issue is the faithfulness of the church in exercising Christian discipline. Will censure and, if necessary, excommunication take place if this minister of the gospel continues to hold to his conviction that the homosexual practice is not “contrary to Scripture”?


Then: the issue of divorce and remarriage


In most denominations divorce and remarriage no longer is an issue. It comes, therefore, as somewhat a surprise that a denomination as large as the Church of England officially holds the same position as does the PRC. Yes, officially they maintain this scriptural teaching, though millions of divorced Anglicans have managed to get around the restrictions. The question of divorce and remarriage has arisen in England especially because Prince Charles will marry the divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles. If or when he becomes King of England, he becomes the titular head of the Church of England. The Grand Rapids Press, March 31, 2005, reports:

Millions of divorced Anglicans in Britain have done what Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles plan to do next week—remarry in a civil ceremony followed by a blessing from their pastor. But none of them have been heir to the throne and the titular leadership of the Church of England.

…The couple’s decision to take the well-traveled path around Anglican objections to divorce and remarriage underscores colliding opinions in Britain that could eventually rattle the Church of England, which plays an anchor role for the world’s 77 million-strong association of churches known as the Anglican Communion.

The report continues by explaining that liberal Anglicans “appear either indifferent to the marriage or hope it opens the way for greater Anglican tolerance of divorce and remarriage.” Some believe that a remarriage is better than living together “in sin” as these two have the past many years. The position of the Anglican Church is stated:

But conservatives feel Charles is trampling on Anglican traditions by marrying his longtime lover. The reason: Her ex-husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, is still alive. According to church tenets, only Charles would be free to remarry because his former wife, Princess Diana, is dead….

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England does not grant annulments that would clear the way for a religiously approved remarriage. It also consistently stresses that marriage is a “lifelong covenant” and generally closes the door on a second chance sanctioned by the church.

In 2002, the church’s governing body, the General Synod, loosened rules on remarriage in the church and gave parish priests discretion to decide whether the couple meets certain “exceptional circumstances.” Among them: The new marriage should not “consecrate the old infidelity”—which, many say, would be the case with Charles and Camilla.

So the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches is not so weird, so unheard-of, so “out-of-step” as so many claim. The Anglican Church, with all of its other many problems, still officially maintains the teaching of Scripture that marriage is a “lifelong covenant.” Remarriage is not officially condoned while one of the former partners remains living. They have closed their eyes to the “millions” of their membership who have violated their official position, they have even allowed some “exceptional circumstances” where remarriage is allowed, but officially they maintain the teaching of Scripture.

But there will be some interesting developments perhaps in another week (at the time of this writing) when Charles and Camilla marry.


TNIV: The Smorgasbord Bible


Newspapers and magazines have reported on a major project of Zondervan publishing company. Having launched the NIV a number of years ago, they have now produced a revision of that translation called the “Today’s New International Version of the Bible.” Several years ago Zonder—van created a storm among evangelicals when they proposed introducing a new NIV that would be “gender-neutral.” The storm was so great that Zondervan backed down (at least in the United States) and promised that they would not go ahead with this project.

Now they have introduced the TNIV. The Denver Post, February 20, 2005, introduced it thus:

In what’s described as the largest Bible translation launch in history, a modernized version of the standard-bearer of evangelical Protestant Bibles is being hyped to believers and spiritual seekers in the prized 18-to 34-year-old demographic.

A decade in the making, Today’s New International Version Bible (TNIV) is the work of Zondervan, a commercial Christian publisher, and the Colorado Springs-based International Bible Society, which is publishing versions for churches geared toward evangelizing.

A team of 15 biblical scholars made some 50,000 changes to the New International Version (NIV) Bible, which debuted in 1978 and accounts for one in three Bible sales.

In all, nine versions of the TNIV have been shipped to bookshelves in the past two weeks, from Bibles for men and women to “The Story,” a translation in novel form. By trying to update old language and reflect the latest theological thinking, translators took a risk. After all, evangelical Christians hold the Bible as their guiding authority and the literal word of God.

The riskiest task was choosing which masculine references to pluralize in places the scholars concluded referred to people generally, not just men.

When the TNIV New Testament was released in 2002, more than 100 conservative Protestant scholars blasted the gender changes as theologically dubious and a front on a war against traditional gender roles. 

If TNIV’s advocates can minimize that damage, they face the challenge of selling a product to members of a hard-to-reach and savvy generation notoriously dismissive of marketing ploys aimed at them.

The article continues by pointing out the various criticisms made against this new translation. It quotes claims made that it is in fact more literal than the old NIV. One would have to study it more carefully to know the facts of the case. It is, however, disturbing to hear that there are nine versions of this TNIV: one called “Strive” designed to appeal to men, another, “True Identity” designed to appeal to women, as well as other versions designed to appeal to youth and the unconverted. All of this is in harmony with the principle guiding translators of the original NIV: “dynamic equivalence.” The translators would not translate necessarily literally, but would use the “equivalence” in today’s language. These nine versions go quite a step beyond that—a version for each of nine distinct groups. One can only wonder how one version differs from another so as to appeal to a specific category of people. And once again one must face the question: if the original writing of the Bible is inspired, infallible, and inerrant, ought not one translation suffice? Ought not a translation be as close as possible to the originals? Is this Bible being changed in order to attract people? The memorization of scriptural passages will become ever more difficult. Who knows whether a person quotes correctly? From what version is he quoting? It is disturbing, too, that now translations must be repeatedly modernized. Does this in fact help—or does it create increased confusion? One asks: “Which Word of God are you quoting?” And: “Is that one really the very Word of God?” I fear that the TNIV only contributes to the confusion related to multiple translations.