The Confessional Outhouse is truly a National concern; three men from Grand Rapids, two from San Diego, and one from San Antonio share this facility. They are (click on names to see every post from that author) :
Zrim (Steve Zrimec)
I am a born and bred Michigander. I was born in Southeast Michigan, was raised in Northwest Michigan and now reside in Southwest Michigan (yes, Grand Rapids, there is more than one “west Michigan”). I was not raised in formal faith. Though my family might be contentious about my calling my rearing one in unbelief, I was there and that’s my take on it. At best, it was a mainline experience by proxy. I have come to call such piety the after-school special variety in which the warp and woof was to brush one’s teeth each night, avoid drugs and sex in the locker room, be as open-minded as possible, a good son, friend and citizen and show up on Easter (maybe) and Christmas.Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. A fertile and curious mind could not resist the rantings of a Jesus freak named Dirk at my beloved summer job. One copy of Mere Christianity and (I have learned to admit) a backseat load of Willow Creek tapes later, I had converted. It didn’t hurt that I was simultaneously dating my present wife who was a born and bred Bible church Fundamentalist and whose father was one of her church’s teachers.
Four years into this form of broad Evangelicalism and I couldn’t take it anymore. Truth be told, it was a steady decline from the very beginning. If my rearing engendered a mere glorified after-school special piety, the piety of my Evangelical conversion was marked by mere personal and particular social activism. Soon I was reading the Desert Fathers and contemplating the trail to Rome—or perhaps my fraternal grandmother’s Canterbury. Where the Fathers were just an ancient version of the navel-gazing pietism presently suffocating me, Rome would surely be my persecution because no self-respecting, Bible-toting Fundamentalist could admit to its attractions. I was stopped at the mouth of the trails by the writing and work of Michael Horton who showed me the way to Geneva. Suffice it to say that I have since referred to Horton as the patron saint of my Reformed conversion. In contrast, it has been a steady progression from the very beginning. In case anyone wonders, I maintain the best of familial relations with my PREF (see Graffiti tab for a definition) family despite our marked differences.
My vocation is not sacred but entirely secular. It would be best that I not speak publicly of what I do since I recently signed another confidentiality agreement not to, which was wisely updated to include blogs and the like. I will say it is a unique, interesting and very gratifying work. I have one wife, two daughters and still enough testosterone to keep me this side of sane and male. We have been members of the CRC for many years. At this writing, I am in my third and final year of term as a deacon. I think the Avatar default icon does the job. I am a non-descript white male with a round head whose face and personality you’d soon forget and whose background is as inconsequential as gray.
Rick (Rick Bierling)
I live in t Grand Rapids, MI. I am a 50 point Calvinist, Vosian, Klinean, and and an amillennial two-kingdom person.
I enjoy walks of undetermined length on the shores of Lake Michigan, Science Fiction, Bells Ale, Founders Ale, other Ales, Detroit Tigers Baseball and Old Time Hockey. I went to college even though this isn’t Russia (this isn’t Russia, is it?)
Sarah is my rib and we have three arrows; Anna, Fredrick, and Eliza. So I got that going for me, which is nice.
I have been just about every kind of Protestant there is. Having missed out on the opportunity to join the family CRC tradition at birth, the bulk of my youth ( 8-18 ) was spent in a generic charismatic nondenominational church. In college, I quickly burned out on sensationalism at The Rock, and began my wanderings through a PCA — which was quite good, but then I moved to grad school and fell away for a while. Eventually I started looking for a good church again, and worked my way through more churches in grad school than I can remember, and then Mennonite, Anglican, Methodist, Episcopalian, and finally OPC (which became PCA). (Someday I might chase down links for all of those). All through my wanderings, I thought I was fleeing Lite FM church music, but in the end, it turned out that it wasn’t merely a hymnal I was chasing, but good, meaty, doctrinal, exegetical, expositional, preaching. Since I’ve found a home in the Reformation, I’ve been learning so much it feels like I’m in college again (by this point, I’ve learned enough that other parents in my church trust me with the Sunday School education of their 3rd and 4th graders).
…is the answer to the question “Who’s yer Daddy?” (when asked of RubeRad).
Not that I would pursue this line of thinking from a pulpit but if you wanna get the picture of my pilgrimage, check out Naomi. You know, a covenant child, grows up only to have to deal with a lack of rain causing a famine in the land, interrupts pilgrimage by going to live with the folks in Moab, suffers great losses, moves back to the covenant community, resumes pilgrimage.
So, yes I was born a covenant child. CRC variety. (The very same congregation in which you will find zrim on the Lord’s day. My father is still there to this day, having outlived my mother who was the original CRCer.) The leaving part probably can not be attributed to dryness in the denomination. Who knows? But the CRC in the mid to late ’60s was about to go through something for which it was not prepared. I know it wasn’t prepared to deal with my own questions.
On my way to Moab, I made a decade long detour through my own personal Haight-Ashbury (if you get my drift). Mid way through that period I met Big D and things started looking up.
The Moab period is twenty plus years in what RubeRad has called a “generic charismatic” church. I would most strenuously object to the idea that it was in any way generic. Look here if you don’t believe me. It was generic in many ways but that they and their offspring feature hyper-immanence, a theology of glory, an over-realized eschatology, law-works based approach to soteriology, ecclesiology and Christian living etc. put them definitely left of evangelical. (NOTE: That I now hold these, to me unassailable views, is in no way intended to say anything personally negative about the many friends that we as a family made in these groups.)
In fact it was exactly the above errors that were unable to fend off (and likely caused) the near complete collapse of faith and all-pervasive “edge-of-insanity” condition that resulted from the death of our daughter in February 2000. My prayer (all day, every day for a year and a half) was “Jesus, help me”.
So it was time to head back to the religious roots of my youth. With a brief stop-off at a newish SoCal CRC, where I found they weren’t in Kansas anymore, I enrolled as an MDiv student at a WSCAL seminary. (“Hey Bruce, what’s up with that? Are you going to be a Priest?”) . The prayer was being answered.
Throughout this period, I was in despair that I would ever find a church that was managing to escape the gravitational pull of vanilla Evangelicalism. Eventually, I found the OPC, specifically this church.
Basically though, I am just a dolt when it comes to many of the discussions that will be found here. Even though they resonate with my thinking, I am probably stuck with the old-dog-new-tricks bind.
Riorancho (Rev. Todd Bordow)
Converted to Christ at age 17, I soon joined a large Bible church, where within a year’s time I became a youth leader. From campus ministry, to playing guitar at Young Life, to camp leadership, to Bible teaching, to witnessing to drug addicts on the street, I did it all.
After graduating from the local community college, I received my BA from a dispensational bible school, and six months after marrying my wife was called to be a youth pastor of a Baptist church. Over time I realized how little I understood the Bible. Though I had hundreds of verses memorized, I could not tell you how it all flowed together.
At the same time I was questioning the whole concept of dispensationalism ; it just didn’t make sense. I was also growing increasing suspicious of the whole youth ministry culture. Why did God need to depend upon the quality of personality and programs to accomplish his purposes, especially when my personality is so boring?
With my questions on the Bible, and needing to understand ministry better, in God’s providence I began attending Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, CA in 1990. There, as I sat under Meredith Kline, Mark Futato and others, the glory of covenant theology, the two kingdoms, and redemptive history filled my mind and heart. Studying under Dr. Kline is one of the greatest privileges the Lord has given me in this life.
I have been a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for eleven years now, and I have been sounding the 2k bell for 20 years (I was country when…). I have five children, all public schooled, two are avid skateboarders, and in the common realm very few experiences are more therapeutic to me than driving at night with my windows down listening to 70’s rock and roll. Oh, and a good round of golf.
I was raised in a little hyper-dispensational sect which, in the 16 yrs I spent in it, devolved from a somewhat doctrinally distinct group which based its identity in its peculiar biblical theology. What we left was what I would now identify as a piece of the broader American Evangelical scene with the only real distinction being that they were intellectually honest enough not to observe Baptism (which Evangelicals have tapped of its meaning these days anyway) because of their vague ties to mid-Acts dispensationalism. While my parents had met while attending the group’s school and my great-uncle, grandfather, and uncle had all been active church planters in this small group, my parents saw fit to attend (but not join) an Evangelical mega-church here in Grand Rapids when trouble erupted in the congregation where I’d been raised.
It was in this new congregation that, at the age of 16, I saw a baptismal font and asked my father, “I thought only Roman Catholics baptized with water?” It is, looking back, ironic that my parents thought so little of the doctrinal distinctives of the church in which they were raised that they would leave for a baptistic mega-church, but my ignorance at the time demonstrates how genuinely insular that group had been. This new congregation did everything big including music and so-called “youth ministry” which was little more than a social gathering. Before long I was smoking more dope in the parking lot than I was listening to preaching or teaching. My catechesis, as implicit and non-deliberate as it could have been, was complete.
As soon as I left my parents house I left behind meaningful church attendance. I would go if there was a girl involved or if I stayed at my parents house, and being socially conservative politically I fit in. I even did some time at their little Bible college, but I was extremely unsettled with the theology of that group and their apparent lack of consciousness for the Church outside their small boundaries made me leery. The fact that I couldn’t tell the difference between them and every other “community” church on each corner of this heavily-churched town told me a lot more about them than I realized consciously.
I ended up pretty thoroughly jaded against Christinianity, but all attempts and coming up with a better idea of what I was supposed to be doing in this life brought me to a dead end. I found myself attending church regularly, preparing to be baptized and make my profession of faith in a liberal but liturgical congregational church here in Grand Rapids. I honestly do not know what got me there or why I was going, but I was beaten down by my own attempts at being god and was forced to stop identifying myself negatively as “not one of those fundie freaks”. It was my pursuit of a biblical answer to my questions and my meeting of a woman who I would marry and who had a 4 year old daughter (neither of whom were getting what they ought to have gotten from that liberal church) that made me realize I needed to find a place to allow deeper roots to grow.
When I opened the Scriptures I described to my pastor what I saw, and he said that I sounded like a covenantal Calvinist. That gave me the vocabulary to investigate further, and I found what I’d looked for for many years, and pursued a pre-seminary degree at what was then called Reformed Bible College, where I was the student of Dr. Doug Felch, an OPC minister. He planted the seed of confessionalism in my mind with names like B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, John Murray, Geerhardous Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and Anthony Hoekema.
Unfortunately, I went to a liberal CRC congregation for a year, and joined a PCA congregation here in town for 5 before I finally found my church home. Of course this process has taught me a lot about the application of the solid doctrinal legacy of those named above and of the great Church they represent. In the CRC I saw a desire to save the lost and to be culturally relevant which overtook their commitment to their Three Forms of Unity and the high view of Scripture contained therein. The office of minister and his preaching was no longer esteemed any higher than the work of a social worker handing out food stamps, or of Jimmy Carter building Habitat for Humanity homes and it showed.
Similarly, in the particular congregation of the PCA in which I was involved, Christ Church of Grand Rapids, I saw a profession of commitment to the Westminster Standards but when pressed as to its application in worship no one wanted to be held to account. Instead, those who asked the tough questions regarding the place of subscription and how we ought to handle the lack of conformity to the teachings of the Standards on worship were told that they simply held the teachings therein higher than Scripture. It seemed to me that for them subscription was merely a form that they observed when installing an officer, and that it meant absolutely nothing when the system of doctrine taught in the Standards (which they said reflected that of Scripture) seemed to confront some popular observance in worship.
BB Warfield once said that he did not subscribe to the Westminster Standards because Scripture could be interpreted in such a way as to agree with them, but because when he read the Scriptures he could not help but find the same teachings as those systematized by the divines of the Westminster Assembly. This is my position as well. Those who would seek innovation in worship so they may compete with the mega-churches in their ability to appeal to the felt-needs of church shoppers ought not subscribe. Those who would seek innovation in worship so they may not step on the toes of those who prefer certain styles of worship and please everyone through a non-offensive “blend” ought not subscribe. A man who cannot point to the Standards (or Three Forms, depending upon denomination) and say that they are fully committed to doing church in such a way as to conform to the teachings held therein ought not subscribe, and one who suggests that the Standards are held over Scripture by those who make this confirmation do not understand the meaning of subscription at all in the first place. The Standards are not a threat to Scripture as much as is the hermaneutic popular today of the “me and my Bible crowd” who, no matter how “reformed” they may say they are, do not judge their orthodoxy according to any historic confession but only to what “they see” in Scripture.
I am currently transfering my family: Rachelle (my wife of 8 yrs) and our five children Gabrielle (13), Marlena (9), Samuel (5), Elijah (2), and Marian (born Friday, 10/19/07) to Cedar, OPC of Hudsonville, Michigan. There the whole council of God is faithfully preached, and worship is done in a reverent way in keeping with the directory for public worship of the OPC and the Westminster Standards. There is no watering down of the message of historic Christianity to keep with the times or to grow larger. The doctrinal distinctives of the faith that has been passed to us by the likes of the Apostle Paul, Augustine, John Calvin, John Knox, Archibald Alexander, James Henley Thornwell, BB Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, John Murray, D.G. Hart, and others are not “toned down” to keep from seeming “too parochial,” but are on full display for all to see.
And I praise God for it.
Born into an Irish-roman catholic family, I early on grew weary of the sacramentalism and carrot-stick approach to religion and in my brief exposure to the unfettered gospel proclamation, began to think I might be on the wrong side of this fence. I officially departed Roman catholicism at 18, and soon found myself in the company of dispensational-pentecostals with a bent for prophecy conferences and crusades. Needless to say I quickly found my current state worse than my first. After much angst and endless altar-call induced neurotic episodes, I had the good fortune of coming across Spurgeon’s “Soul Winner”, and quickly realized that what I was now living through and peddling was nothing more than the “enthusiast’s gospel” and I went looking for a way to get off this ride. I soon thereafter found a home in the confessional tradition of the protestant reformation and have resided there ever since. I am currently attending an episcopalian church with confessional sympathies with the African Anglican communion. I’m hoping to find a home back in the PCA or OPC if I can find a pastor willing to actually proclaim the gospel truths and practices as they were rediscovered in the protestant reformation. If I wanted culture transformation, and emphasis on infused categories I’d head back to Rome where they do it better, and where the sacraments can at least bail you out of navel-gazing. As it stands, I’ve been busy shepherding my own soul for at least the past ten years, and in doing so, have developed sympathies for a Vosian/Klinean approach to scripture, an amillenial approach to eschatology and a two-kingdom approach to culture.
I was interested in your comments about the PCA church in Grand Rapids. We sent our son off to college at Calvin several years ago, and went about looking for a solid Reformed church in the neighborhood. I didn’t get good vibes looking at the web site for Christ Church (yes, it’s a lousy way of looking for churches), so we wound up having our son become a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in the nieghborhood, Our Savior. Thanks for confirming we made a wise decision.
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“Living in a theology of the Cross never makes you any ‘better’ than anyone else. (But I’ve been taught that every Christian is at different spiritual levels of growth from one another.) Every day in every way you are not getting better and better. (I thought that I am becoming more like Jesus everyday. This is produced by my choices—saying no to sin and yes to righteousness—and prayer, quiet time, church attendance, mutual ministry with other believers, and of course, if I really want to grow, mission trips! I’ve taken a lot of those!) In fact, the preaching of Law and Gospel will not lead you to an awareness of your holiness, but rather to greater awareness of the depth of your sin. (And here I thought that being more aware of my holiness served to prove how much I was growing spiritually.) As a result, you will develop an ever-increasing faith in and appreciation for the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.” (Who’s that? I’m so busy doing all this work and being depressed as a result of it, I have lost sight of the cross.)
Thanks for a great post!
Referring to “Horton as the patron saint of my Reformed conversion.”
YES! I’d have to say something similar for myself as well.
Zrim, Which part of nw michigan are you from?
We are trying to gather a core group for an opc church plant around Petoskey do you know anyone who may be interested up this way?
Check your email.
“…or perhaps my fraternal grandmother’s Canterbury.”
-You mean paternal?
But she was my brother’s grandma, too.
Zrim and RB,
Can’t find your email addresses (don’t ask!) . . . but, I’ll be at the Walker URC this Lord’s Day (May 16th) at 9:30 and 6:00.
I left a reply for you over at kim’s blog about theosis, but I don’t know if it stuck or not. I looked for an email to drop it to you ubut found none. if you are interested, drop me a line and delete this remark.
This is Hannah Bevills, Editor for Christian.com which is a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians, to directly fulfill Christian’s needs. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the ENTIRE christian community an outlet to join together as one (no matter denomination) and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features aside from the obvious like christian TV, prayer request or even find a church/receive advice. We have emailed you because we have interest in collaborating with you and your blog to help us spread the good word. I look forward to an email regarding the matter, Thanks!
Would love it if you could give a shout out to our upcoming conference at Christ Reformed Church in Washington, DC, “Preaching in the Capital.” Info at http://www.ChristReformedDC.org.
We’re giving away an iPad in a drawing open to attendees AND those who help promote us online. Hoping to provide a little incentive to you and your readers to help us get the word out. Thanks.
Christ Reformed Church (URC), DC
Brian, looks like you just did. But we’ll make a more formal (and louder) shout. I wouldn’t know what to do with an iPad, so it’s a labor of love.
I probably ought to post this link here in case Steve Zrimec, Rev. Bordow, and Rick Bierling haven’t yet seen it, since their work and this website are mentioned by name:
DTM, thanks. I saw it yesterday. My eyes are still trying to catch their breath.
Hope your eyes catch their breath soon 😉
Hey, what am I, chopped liver?
Z, since we (or at least you!) have been called out as the number one amateur (or should I say unprofessional?) 2K blog in the world, it would seem a response is in order. CO could use a fresh post, that’s for sure. (It’s gonna be awhile before I can even finish reading that piece at Bros. Bayly though)
I’ll settle for DTM responding to me at OL.
Just yes. To all this.
PS I am not a web-bot spam, despite nothing above to distinguish me from such.
Haha — yours is a name I recognize from OL, so I will let this through. But next time you better bring some content, if you look around you’ll see that the ‘house has some incredibly rigorous standards to maintain and we can’t have loafers comin round and tarnishing our reputation!