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The sabbatical of my colleague Lyle Bierma this Fall presented me the chance to teach the half-semester “Christian Reformed Church History” class for the first time.
A couple weeks into the course we were up to the point of tracking what happened within the CRC from about the 1920s up through the 1950s. Sandwiched in there were, of course, the Great Depression and World War II. Both events had the effect of shaking up some elements of the CRC and unleashing some long pent-up tensions and disagreements.
For a long time the more conservative, world-shunning members of the denomination held sway. The 1928 ban on “worldly amusements” (card playing, dancing, and theater attendance) was a key example. But once CRC members returned from World War II—including not a few military chaplains—the CRC’s fortress wall against the world began to crumble. A greater spirit of openness and even of ecumenism began to rise.
But this did not make for easy times. A microcosm of the pressures facing the entire denomination burst into the open across 1951-1952 when fierce theological disagreements among the Calvin Theological Seminary faculty resulted in the de facto sacking of the entire faculty save for one person (and even he got strongly admonished by the Synod).
This was also exactly the time when The Reformed Journal was born (and its opposite/opposing magazine Torch and Trumpet). Times felt uncertain. Fears of communism and nuclear war were rising. And progressives desired a place in which to work out and air their theological take on matters, thus leading to the RJ.
Times are uncertain again (or have they actually never been terribly certain?). We live in a polarized time of such fierce partisan and even ecclesiastical disagreements and divides as to take your breath away.
Perhaps it is fitting, then, that we recently re-branded our enterprise as The Reformed Journal. Yes, today we represent the progressive side of the Reformed faith even as people like James Daane and Harry Boer and George Stob did back in the early 1950s. And then as now that does not always sit well with everyone.
But that the church still needs to hear from all viewpoints is clear. So please consider a gift to help fund The Twelve and the larger Reformed Journal enterprise. All of us who write do so as a labor of love and without any compensation but it still takes some funds to keep the lights on. So please consider a gift. The times once more may just demand this forum of ideas and thoughts and insights.
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