Friday, April 30, 2010



In 1533 Jean Cauvin (John Calvin, 1509 - 1564), an argumentative student of theology and law at Paris, fled for his life, eventually ending up in Geneva. His weltanschauung was influenced by much of the theological ferment then current in Europe at that time, including Lutheranism and Anabaptism.
Two basic themes that he developed were Biblical authority as opposed to Church authority in matters of the faith, and praedestinationism.

Two major ethno-denominational groupings eventually formed that were based on Calvin's thought: Scotch Presbyterianism, and Dutch Reform.
The less said about Scotch Presbyterianism the better - those people never had to fight a super-power for freedom for their faith, and in consequence have a self-satisfied priggishness wich is quite unstomachable.


At the same time as Calvin was contemplating his navel in Switzerland, Netherlandish cities and nobles were getting steamed over Philip the Spaniard's attempts to unify the Netherlands into one coherent legal and administrative system.

The Netherlands which Philip had inherited were a loosely unified mess of conflicting law codes and civic privileges, sporadically called to order by a grand meeting of the States General in Brussels. While all territories were represented in the States General, not all played along with its decisions, and even fewer had any intention of doing so in any consistent manner. Other than in name, their unity lay in resisting Philip and disagreeing with each other.

The situation exploded in 1567 when Philip sent the Duke of Alva (may his name be erased!) into the Netherlands to eradicate dissent and destroy heresy. In 1568 Alva had two of the grande seigneurs of the Netherlands (counts Egmont and Hoorne), executed in the Grande Place in Brussels.
Their crime was not disloyalty or treason, but that they had been too permissive of religious dissidence, even though they themselves had remained Catholic.

The executions may have been pointless. But they did serve as tinder.

For the next four years, Alva savagely suppressed all dissent, political and religious, throughout the Netherlands, painting a swath of blood and murder across all the provinces. The tide turned in 1572 when the Sea Beggars captured Briel in 1572, gaining a foothold along the coast. Within the next few years the rebellion gained strength and territory, eventually unifying all of the northern provinces. Protestants, who faced certain death in the south, fled north in large numbers, and contributed their skills and their lives to the cause of the rebel republic .

The war between Spain and the Dutch lasted until 1648, by which time Protestantism, in it's rather severe Dutch Calvinist form, had become entrenched in the north. Thenceforth Netherlandish quarrelsomeness would have the perfect medium in which to manifest itself - religion.
[Not until twentieth century politics would another so perfect vehicle for petty dispute and despicion come along (and how the Dutch enthusiastically jumped on that bandwagon is another story).]

Among the first actions that the Calvinists theocrats took was the banning of Catholicism in Protestant cities (and permitting Judaism).
Thereafter they started fighting among themselves.

Not only in the Netherlands.


The first Dutch Reformed church in the new world was established in New Amsterdam in 1628, and the first church was built in 1633 on what is now Pearl Street in Manhattan. The Brits eventually seized the property for military purposes, and a new church was built in 1693 on Exchange Place. By the end of the century Dutch Reformed congregations had arisen all over New York and New Jersey, including areas which are now Hareidi strongholds such as Brooklyn, Flatbush, Hempstead, Monsey, Paramus, etcetera. By 1792 the Dutch American churches split off from the Dutch churches, at which time they already consisted of various splinter groups on both sides of the Atlantic.


In 1816 Dutch government meddling created even more splinter groups, all disunited in opposition to the official approved Dutch Reformed denomination. In 1822 more seceders split off from the Reformed Church in America to form the True Dutch Reformed Church, while in 1834 dissidents left the Reformed Church in the Netherlands to form two new denominations, the Christelijk Afgescheiden Kerk (Christian Separatist Church - CAK) and the Gereformeerde Kerk onder het kruis (Reformed Church under the cross, aka the Cross Churches).

It gets worse.

In 1841 pastor Ledeboer and his group in the Netherlands set up shop separately, along with others (forming the Ledeboerian faction). A number of these people headed for the U.S. in 1846 under the leadership of Pastor Albert Van Raalte, becoming the second group of people to immigrate to North America to get away from religious freedom (the Puritans having been the first). They established the settlement of Holland, Michigan (gosh what an imaginative name for a settlement of Dutchmen!). By 1850 they had more or less united with the Reformed Church in America.

Shortly thereafter, a group of dissenters split off from the Second Reformed Church (in Grand Rapids) and the Fourth Reformed Church (in Pella) to form the Christian Reformed Church. The True Dutch Reformed Church joined with the Christian Reformed Church in 1890, forming their own classis within the movement - Classis Hackensack. In 1908 most of Hackensack withdrew from the Christian Reformed Church in a dispute over the faithful joining civic lodges or fraternal organizations.

Second Christian Reformed is actually a term for split-offs from the Fourth Christian Reformed church (Pella), which itself is a split-off variant of Dutch Reformed.
Second Christian Reformed should not be confused with Third Christian Reformed or First Christian Reformed, even though most Christian Reformed Churches adhere to the same source documents: The Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort.

Many Christian Reformed Churches in America, when they still worshipped in Dutch (in some places up until the nineteen-seventies or eighties!) still held to the Psalter of Petrus Datheen (1531 - 1588), though some "Reformed" Churches held instead to the Psalter of Marnix Van St. Aldegonde (Philip van Marnix, lord of St. Aldegonde, 1538 - 1598), and a few sick deviants had long since switched to either the first or second Statenberijming ("State's Rhyme" - the official version of the psalter), which dates from governmental meddling in church affairs starting in 1816 under William I.

In the Netherlands, several of the congregations of the Christelijk Afgescheiden Kerk and the Cross Churches combined to form another denomination - the Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk (Christian Reformed Church, but not the same as the Christian Reformed Church in the American Midwest).
In 1886 Doctor Abraham Kuyper and his followers split off from the official Dutch Reformed Church to unite with Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk.

The Ledeboerian churches in the Netherlands joined with the remaining Cross Churches in 1907, forming a denomination which called itself the Gereformeerde Gemeenten (Reformed Congregations).
The remaining Ledeboerians in America had meanwhile formed the Netherlands Reformed Church in Michigan in 1877.


In 1924, Reverend Herman Hoeksema of the Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids refused to agree to the teaching of the doctrines of common grace and presumptive regeneration, and left the church with most of his own congregation, plus a congregation in Kalamazoo, and other dissidents. In 1926 they organized the Protestant Reformed Churches. Their unity lasted less than thirty years, nearly half of the members splitting off in 1954 to form the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Churches - which joined up with the Christian Reformed Church in 1961.

During WWII a new denomination arose: Gereformeerde Kerk Nederland - Vrijgemaakt (Reformed Church Netherlands - disassociated). By the nineteen fifties, this new denomination was also present in the U.S. and Canada.

A group seceded from the Gereformeerde Gemeenten (Reformed Congregations) over a doctrinal point that is totally incomprehensible, and became the Gereformeerde Gemeenten in Nederland (Reformed Congregations in the Netherlands). Their American branch is called the Reformed Congregations in North America.

Naturally, the recent mega-merger in the Netherlands of the Nederlandsch Hervormde Kerk, the Gereformeerde Kerk Nederland, and the Dutch Lutheran Church has of course resulted in even more break-aways.

The end is not in sight. Dissidence is a sign of health.



1. If at this point you are reminded of that scene in Life of Brian where they discuss the differences between the People's Front of Judea, and the Judean People's Front, that is perfectly appropriate. They are SPLITTERS, and it is entirely unknown whether they support your RIGHT to have children even if you are biologically incapable of it.

2. Decades ago I ceased believing that the Messiah already came, and I am skeptical that he will ever come. I await his first coming, even though he may tarry.
No, I don't particularly feel like dealing with 608 more commandments. Why do you ask?


This description was originally the appendix to this post:

It seemed like it might be useful to park it here as a separate piece.

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