New Hermeneutics as Pivot of Post-Reformed Theology

Part two of the presentation speech of the Training for the Ministry of the Word and published in De Bazuin of 4 May 2011.


In the previous article the term ‘post-reformed’ was mentioned. If we call a church post-reformed it concerns an institute that originates from the reformed churches. Reformed thinking will still be present. Many terms that fit with reformed doctrine and life will still be used. There is still a certain tradition. However, it is post-reformed, which means that the inheritance in essence has been left behind. We used this term ‘post-reformed’ in our recent liberation, to indicate the church developments going on in the GKv.

After all, the falsehood has been allowed and tolerated, next to and in place of the truth. Being reformed is nothing other than having returned to the Word of God, to the pure Word of God. However, that is over and done with when ‘yes’ and ‘no’ receive equal status. Such a church could also be called pluralistic.
In which manner that will come to the foreground in a theological school or university will differ per subject and tutor.

Yet that is exactly why a post-reformed situation is a dangerous environment, because heresy is possibly not easily detected. It is often still wrapped up in familiar terms. Erroneous literature is not necessarily placed on top of the list, but yet it is offered as literature to take note of, also as required literature.
Of course, during your training you must be confronted with heresy, to be able to defend yourself. But what if the necessary defence and rejection of these heresies is missing? And if it is left in the air, without any comment or opinion, what are you to do?

Post-reformed ? pluralistic: sometimes it still seems so reliable, yet heresy has a place and, like leaven, it works through, destructively. Much in-class education at the TUA (Apeldoorn) is given to sketch the literature of today’s age, and it is given for consideration; instead of rejecting the heresy by using Scripture.
It is a daily struggle for our students and also a huge task for the tutors of our own Training to deal with this in a good and responsible way. A lot of discernment is necessary. Scriptural discernment. Prayer is continually needed for this, by those involved and in the churches.

New Hermeneutics

Is there a common cause of the deviation from the pure doctrine? And then we have in mind especially the doctrine in the literature being offered, which forms the vast majority of the study material. Is there a common factor? If we can recognize this, then we must also defend against this in particular.

Well, if there is one important factor that can be mentioned, then it is the so-called new hermeneutics, which has entered in training courses, also in courses that are called reformed. Hermeneutics is the theory of exegesis and deals with the method of explanation. This subject provides rules that the exegete must follow in the explanation of a part of Scripture, with regard to, e.g. the grammar of the language, the verbal connection, the context in Scripture, the dispensation of the Old or New Testament and the cohesion of the entire Scripture. Also, the historical context: in which time was the Bible book written?

In new hermeneutics, that last point has been made dominant as an independent factor. In the explanation of Scripture, new hermeneutics wants to strongly take into account the so-called “Umwelt”, that is, the situation in which the authors of the Bible lived at that time. This influence is seen as a deciding factor when explaining the meaning of written Scripture.

That is also linked to the denial of the absolute divine authority of Holy Scripture. One lessens this by getting rid of the divine inspiration through the contribution of the writer, his culture and his situation. In this way one no longer recognizes that all words of Scripture originate from God. One does not want to accept that the LORD wrote the whole of Scripture, also with an eye to us, who live so many centuries later.

Defence of the Pure Doctrine (Art. 18 CO)

However, in doing so the new hermeneutics departs from Scripture itself. In article 3 of the Belgic Confession, we believe and confess that this Word of God
did not come by the impulse of man, but that men, moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God, as the apostle Peter says (2 Pet. 1:21).

In article 7 of the Belgic Confession, we confess and believe that Holy Scripture
fully contains the will of God and all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein.

In this the confession the well-known Scripture words are echoed, in 1 Pet. 1: 1-12, but also in 2 Tim. 3:16:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

We also believe that what is taught in God’s Word is perfect and complete in all respects. In this regard, we also mention Rom. 15:4:
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

Positively stated: the LORD, with an eye to us, had all words of Holy Scripture be written as words that came from Him. Not only with an eye to the world of that time. Not only with an eye to the fulfilment of a prophecy in ancient times. But also with an eye to our preservation in Christ. Also with an eye to our life with God and our salvation. Paul says that everything was written for our learning, our preservation and to our comfort.

Negatively stated: everything that departs from this is not to our benefit and diminishes from the service to God and from the honour to Him. Therefore, this must all be opposed.

Unfortunately, that does not happen. Room is given, yes much attention is approvingly given to views in which Scripture criticism has a place. And from this Scripture-critical stance the word of yesterday is attempted to be translated to the man of tomorrow. This so-called new hermeneutics is, in fact, not so new at all. What is new, is that reformed training allows and even embraces this. This goes against article 18 of the Church Order, the article that we discussed in the previous article.


In the study guide 1974 of Kampen (Orientation in theology), which was reprinted in 1987, ‘new hermeneutics’ was already mentioned. It was then noted that this ‘new hermeneutics’ presented reformed theology with an ‘improper problem’ (page 85).

Improper ? because it did not fit with a reformed identity, with holding firm to Scripture. And therefore, it should not have been given a place when explaining Scripture, although it did need to be studied and warned against.

Well, that has really changed in reformed universities which provide much room for this new hermeneutics, and do not reject it. This is reflected in all subjects where the truth of God’s Word is discussed. In dogmatics, which deals with the doctrine of Scripture; in ethics, which deals with the practice of life in accordance with God’s revealed will. In fact, this works through in all subjects because in all of them the content and meaning of Scripture is at stake. Again and again we clash with the truthfulness of God’s Word in all kinds of things.

Time and again our students are confronted with what Peter, in the above-mentioned passage of Scripture, calls: ‘self-willed interpretation’. In this way the prophetic word threatens to lose its power for our students, if this heresy remains uncontested. And that could have far-reaching consequences for the churches.

Training for the Ministry of the Word

That is why our own Training has such a important task, as pointed out in article 18 of the Church Order. First of all in building-up, namely the explanation of Holy Scripture according to the rules of Scripture itself, assuming the unwavering fact that in Scripture man, moved by the Holy Spirit, divinely spoke of God Himself. And that all of Scripture is also written for our learning.

To this end, we can fortunately still use our reformed literature from the past. We may thankfully ascertain that. That literature you can find mentioned in our study guide.

Alongside the building-up we must focus with just as much energy on the preservation and defence of the pure doctrine of Scripture over against heresy. Therefore we must also delve into the literature provided in Apeldoorn. This literature is also mentioned in the study guide.
May our Training be able to show to be true, what it has taken as its logo from Scripture: That it may be of service to the training of the Word in the church of Christ; whereby this church as God’s house, as congregation of the living God, is and must remain: a pillar and foundation of the truth.
The board of the Training desires to pursue this sincerely with the help and blessing of God, and with the support and prayer from the churches.