Letters

After launching this website in June 2007 people from all over the world have been sending me a steady stream of letters. Some of these letters have simply been amazing. I thought it would be a blessing to the wider Christian community to post some of these letters online.

In each case, I either received permission from the author to post their letter online or have removed any personal identifiable details. In some cases the author requested that they remain anonymous.

Besides the many letters from people who have come out of an NRC church, I have also received some letters from people who come from an RCNA (Reformed Congregation in North America) background as well.

Some of the letters contain a few minor points that I may not see eye to eye on.

If you wish to share your thoughts or experiences with the NRC with me, please write to:    nrcrwsATgmail.com

Your brother in Christ,
Phil

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Hi Phil,

I just wanted to say thank you for creating this website! About a week after I broke up with a guy who goes to the NRC, I sat down and tried to make a list of some truths (from God) and some lies (from the devil??) I had so many thoughts running through my head, I had never known this type of thinking (NRC) before and wanted to try and sort them out. So I decided to look online and your website is what I found. Your website helped me very much. This experience has taught me a lot and even though things were hard at times, our awesome God has made me stronger in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Katie

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Dear Phil,

I am very interested in the contents of your website and would like to take this opportunity to share my story and my experiences within the NRC church.

I grew up in the Netherlands Reformed Church and am familiar with its culture, teachings, practices and weaknesses. I left the church several years ago after a very difficult and trying time in my life. I did not feel supported by my church family and was urged to believe that my circumstances were God's will and that I should be quiet about my difficulties and submit to them. I chose not to do so. I could not ignore the situation my children and I were in and chose to do something about it. As a result I was shunned.

I feel very strongly that the NRC does not accurately portray the character of God. God is a God of love, patience and forgiveness. While He is a jealous God and wants all of our love and devotion, He can not be viewed as an angry God who is willing to allow us to perish and send us to eternal death. He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more. He would that no one would die, but that we would live through Jesus Christ and His payment on the cross. John 3:16 states clearly that Jesus came for the world. It means just what it says; the whole world, every one of us, not just the elect as the NRC teaches. Jesus' sacrifice is enough for every individual to be saved, however, we need to make the choice whether we chose to believe that or not. God has our best interests at heart; he wants to give us hope and a future and to give us abundant life. He has no plans to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11).

My life has changed dramatically since leaving the NRC. I have come to recognize the tremendous religious baggage that I have been carrying. I have learned that God is not interested in religion but in us having an intimate relationship with Him. I learned that he is the lover of my soul, my husband, my beloved, my father, my teacher, my comforter, my healer, etc. His Word is His love letter to me. Through it he speaks directly to me and not through David or Paul or any other author. I have learned that we can take God's Word at face value, literally. It means what it says. When God says that when we seek we will find, when we knock it will be opened, it means just that. It is not to be interpreted as the NRC teaches that we need to ask everyday for a new heart, because if we ask we receive in faith by grace and it WILL be given to us. It is not as if God hears us asking and will send us to hell anyways, he is gracious, not devious! He doesn't seek to trick us! Never! Those are characteristics of Satan, not of God!

I feel strongly that the NRC is cultish in nature. It has similar characteristics of a cult. First, their membership is kept through fear. They teach that they are the only truth and that all other teachings are false. Secondly, because they are exclusive in nature they do not welcome outsiders. The Gospel commands us to preach the good news to all people, not to a select few.

I am now aware of God's deep love for me and for all of his creation. That includes that homeless beggar, the alcoholic, the murderer, the sexual offender and you! He loves us, though he is most certainly disappointed by the poor choices we all make every day. Still he pursues us, he longs for us to draw close to him. As our daddy, he waits patiently for us to come and will never turn us away. I long for NRC members to discover the truth about God and how a church needs to functions as an expression of his love.

God accepts us just as we are. He takes us with open arms with all our weaknesses. We all do things we shouldn't and don't do things we should. The comfort is that Jesus understands. He walked on earth and was tempted in everything as we are. We grow because we love him and chose to reflect him in our lives as best we can.

My advice to anyone in the NRC would be to question things. Seek things out. Search for the truth and don't settle until you find God. Only then will you be at peace because He will hold you securely in His hands and that is the best place to be. I promise you that you will keep going back to Him for more.

Name withheld by request


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Hi Phil,

I have been searching for a website that went into greater detail about the NRC and last night I stumbled on to your site! I have a co-worker who is part of the NRC; been all her life as well as her husband and now their kids as well. Once in a while, we will get to talking about church and I always walk away feeling like I should have told her this or that, but never do because I just simply do not know enough about their beliefs. The one thing she shared with me that bothers me the most is that she says that there are only about 10% of the congregation that participates in the Lord's Supper, since those are the only ones that know for sure that they are saved. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church and am still presently a member and hope to always be. Like the NRC, we adhere to the teachings of the Heidelberg catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dordt. Why do they get a different interpretation from it than us? I know that our denomination has flaws, but show me one that doesn't. There are going to be people from all denominations, even no denomination in Heaven. She makes me feel like it will be only those from the NRC. I would really like to know more about what gives them assurance of salvation. Is it really true that they need to see a vision before they die? I have heard that if one really wants to get depressed, just go to a funeral at a NRC. Is it really that way? Thanks for all of your work in putting this site together. I really appreciated it!

Name withheld by request


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Hi Phil,

I came across your website and read it with great interest. I grew up in the Netherlands Reformed Church and spent 8 years in their Christian School in Rock Valley, IA. One of the things you did not address is how they believe one gets to heaven, I was there until I was about 18 years old and never understood how one gets saved, my belief was that it was impossible for me. I believe differently now, but I am still affected to this day by what I heard growing up.

Have an excellent day.

James Vanden Brink

Editorial note: Mr. Vanden Brink's evaluation is correct. One of the chief weaknesses of this website is that it says very little about what the NRC believes about saving faith. NRC soteriology is much more complicated than how it is presented in their doctrinal statements. I attended the NRC for only ten months and such a short period of time was not sufficient (for me at least) to thoroughly understand the unique characteristics of their soteriology. Mr. Vanden Brink sent another email to help clarify this key area.

Hi Phil,

There is much about the NRC message I agree with. (Although the method of delivery and worship is somewhat cold.) They are definitely right on when it comes to the depth of man's sin and the need for repentance (a message which is severely lacking in a large number of churches today). Where the problem for me comes is after that there seems to be no hope offered, Jesus is held out as the way but it seems impossible to really know him, there is no call to trust on him alone for salvation. The doctrine of predestination is taken to an extreme which I don't really know how to explain because I don't really understand it. I do understand their frustration with many people who casually "accept" Jesus and then continue living as they were and their life has not changed one bit. I think we could use a few more sermons today on the following passage from Matthew 7:15-23:

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"

In conclusion, I have no animosity toward the NRC, there can be no doubt of their sincerity. The Bible knowledge of most of their pastors is formidable. My greatest fear is that their view of salvation and predestination leaves many convinced of their sin but not trusting in Jesus and him alone for salvation. This is not a subject to be taken lightly. "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me." John 14:6

James Vanden Brink


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Good Afternoon Phil,
 
I recently came across your website and have enjoyed the readings, resources, and convincing biblical arguments that outline many of the struggles against the NRC. While I am not, and have never been, a member of the NRC, I grew up in a related reformed church and have many family members that are still members. Further, I am very familiar with the beliefs and ideologies that exist within this church, and have sadly fought against many of them that have trickled into my own upbringing. As a result, it has been a huge struggle for myself to explore other local churches to find something that I believe to be more Christ-centered and biblically-focused.
 
My family currently attends a reformed church in ____, which has it's origins in the NRC. As a result of our origins, we see many legalistic tendencies and traditions that are still prevalent within our church, and we struggle with it immensely. Our struggle is that we believe in the reformed principles and foundations, but do not approve of many of the traditions and "lifestyles." This is difficult however, as the majority of reformed leaning churches in our area would fall into the same category. I was wondering if you still attend a reformed church, or if you would be able to recommend a particular denomination that would still support the good qualities of the reformed faith, without the negative traits that come through legalism and a lack of Christ-centered preaching. I realize that you are most likely located in the USA still, so there might be a difference in denominations, but I'd love to even explore some different churches online so that I could get a better idea of how these ideologies are manifested outside of the NRC (or related churches). We are quite limited locally, as most churches here in Canada tend to be either overly new-age evangelical or quite conservative and misdirected in reformed preachings.
 
Any thoughts or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
 
Regards,
 
(name withheld)
July 10, 2018


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Good morning Phil,
 
I recently discovered your website and took the time to read a significant portion of the material youíve posted. As I couldnít get it out of my head, I returned this morning and re-read some of it.
 
As a member born into the NRC, some of your comments cut deep. It has been quite a few years since I listened and learned the doctrine and teaching of the church without questioning, but there was a time that I simply memorized without understanding. However, at a young age, the Lord began to apply the lessons learned, leading to several years of uncomfortable knowing, but not having the experience of that doctrine. In his time, God, despite the issues of the church, presented the true and complete Saviour, Jesus Christ. Distracted by emphasis on the doctrines of election and total depravity, I spend years doubting the sincerity of the Gospel and its application for me, until he showed me that grace was truly free, and faith was a gift of God. In the years since, Iíve had my struggles with sin and doubt, through which God has kept me, as a testament of his faithfulness.
 
Despite many sins and short comings, I cannot deny that some of those marks of grace as you have mentioned. And for this reason I share your concern about the lack of urgency surrounding the unconverted state, especially among those that do confession of faith with little care or concern for the doctrine they confess to believe.
 
The analysis of beliefs outlines some serious problems within the NRC, which need to be addressed. Knowing the other side of the arguments you offer for believers only membership, I struggle to find the best option. However, I feel that neither switching to believers-only nor staying with the current  state are viable solutions. In my opinion, the best alternative is that preaching as you quoted of Rev. Tennet. Then regardless of how they become members, they will be placed under that soul searching preaching that tears down the faÁade of the almost Christian and the unbeliever, and leaves all uncovered before God. This is what I pray for in our church.
 
As I mentioned before, some of your comments cut deep; this is not always bad as it reminds us to compare ourselves against the standard of the Bible. I appreciated many of the comments and perspectives on how we leave out the doctrine that we teach. However, there are several points in various places on the website where the comments cut in a different way.
 
Most importantly in Doctrinal Standards, you list Experiential Calvanism and Presumptive Regeneration as two main focuses of the NRC. The first is very true; the second, not at all. As I havenít thoroughly interviewed each pastor of our denomination, I canít say that with absolute confidence. But from my knowledge of several pastors and quite a few of the churches across north America, I can say with a high level of certainty that we absolutely reject the doctrine of presumptive regeneration.
 
The second point that you make in various places across the website is that pastors do not the define or discern the regenerate nor express the critical need for regeneration. Again, I donít know everyone, and I know there are differences between pastors, but my pastor as well as many others are not afraid to make that definition between the people, and to preach with passion the need for that change.
 
I think there are a few other things that I felt were not a fair representation of the NRC, but Iíll leave those as coming from your limited exposure to the church.
 
Phil, Iíd like to thank you for the tremendous amount of time and thought you must have put into this. I hope it may be used to expose any error that we may harbour, and drive us to follow the biblical guidelines as much as possible. May God, despite the flaws and failures of this denomination, yet send a revival among us: a true, revolutionizing, evangelizing revival.
 
Finally, on behalf of myself, my friends, my church, and my denomination, I humbly ask that you edit the web page to reflect our true position on the topics mentioned above. If you remain unsure what our position and the actual practice is on these issues, please let me try expose the truth.
 
Sincerely,
 
(name withheld)


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Phil

I left the NRC years ago but still have siblings in that church. One of them is my business partner. We donít really talk religion because we canít relate.

I left the NRC when I got married to my wife. When we were going out we had many discussions with her pastor as we both subscribed to the three forms of unity however the interpretation of what those forms meant resulted in two fairly different denominations. I was sent to an evangelical school during my high school years which helped to open my eyes to a different understanding of what the Gospel really was. I had a desire to be ď savedĒ but was challenged as to what true conversion was. With time I began to understand what it meant

I was considered a bit of the ď black sheepĒ of the family that had fallen into the trap of easy believes. As time went on and some of my other siblings as well as my parents moved to other Reformed churches, the understanding between us of what true faith is, has become a real blessing.

There are still some doctrinal differences on the ď weight of the covenant ď but that to is being understood.

At any rate, just a few thoughts from my end.

I do wonder about those in the NRC that show a conviction beyond the legalistic fences that they put up as we either love God or hate God, there is no in-between. Their devotional life, worship desire etc would indicate a real desire to serve God, yet they donít believe that they have the ability to believe  the gospel promises. So there are certain aspects that are donít seem to add up.

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Phil, having grown up in the NRC, I found your website and your observations very interesting.  I'd like to offer a couple of my own observations to hopefully add to your understanding of this denomination.  For the record, I left the NRC for the CRC and have since left the CRC for the URC. The NRC has its roots in the Second Reformation in the Netherlands where christian practice was completely internalized and to some degree, mystified.  The results are:

 1.  God's sovereignty is placed in front of the Bible's gospel command to "repent and believe".  This has the destructive effect of removing any initiative on the part of the unsaved.  The NRC's normal response to a person expressing an interest in being reconciled to God is to "pray that God might save you".

2.  The internalization of christian practice is taken to such a level where they have, in effect, created an intermediate state between being lost and being saved.  It can best be called the "I don't know" state and is characterized by a great sensitivity to sin, a great sense of being under God's judgement, no confession, no sense of Christ's being an intermediary or advocate, and a frightful understanding that all contact with God is thru the Father as Judge.  This condition describes perhaps the majority of NRC members including office bearers and catechism and sunday school teachers.  Curiously, some of these have advanced to the point of being communicants but still have no confession and no confidence.

3.  Any proposal that the Gospel call comes in the form of "repent and believe" is labeled "cheap grace" and is despised and preached against as a denying of God's sovereignty.

4.  As a result of the above, it would not be possible to have an organized church if the Confession of Faith required for membership requires any kind of personal confession of faith in Christ.  In a typical congregation of 200 "members", maybe 15 persons would be so bold as to claim to be saved and actually have a confession of faith in Christ.  Clearly, that would not be enough to build a "church".

Let me say at this point that it grieves me to disparage the Church of my youth and of my parents.  This is the Church that taught me that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God, that I needed to see myself as the bankrupt sinner that I am, and that taught me forcefully that the way I live really matters.  But, when it comes to answering the question of the Phillipian jailor "what must I do to be saved?", they just can't get it right.

The subtlety of their error makes it exceedingly difficult to detect just what is wrong.  I find that, at bottom, the teaching is not so much wrong as it is incomplete.  What they teach is true, as far as it goes.  For example, what Calvinist would deny that it is God alone that saves and that we sinners have absolutely nothing to offer to gain peace with God?  They teach that powerfully!  But that is a message for a person that is in Christ, not the unsaved.  The Bible never throws this in a sinner's face.  Rather, it is "repent and believe".  The answer to the Phillipian jailor is not "you can do nothing.  God has to do it".

In this same line, they often repeat a little slogan "the sinner abased to the lowest and God exalted to the highest".  Now that sounds pious enough but to do the first part is not automatically to do the second.  The NRC is very good at doing the first but failing to do the second.  It seems that doing the first somehow gets the second done too, they think.  The net result, all too often, is that you have guilt-smitten people with absolutely no hope and no clear path forward.  The psychiatric wards are full of these people who are crushed by the desperate hopelessness of this teaching.

To illustrate just how far this can go, several years ago I heard one of their ministers, a Rev. Bazen, preach a sermon on love in their Sheboygan WI church.  At one point in his sermon he mentioned John 3:16 and when he got to the last part about "whosoever believes", he stopped, groaned to himself, and then exclaimed loudly, "what shall we say about that?  Away with such talk!  Away with it!"  And with that, he threw up his hands and rolled his eyes.  To me, this was blatant blasphemy and I have never forgotten it.

Finally, just a comment about your thoughts on their Confession of Faith.  I think it is safe to say that every Calvinist or reformed church links the Confession with baptism and calls it a vow.  The covenant promises that came to the infant at baptism were held, as it were, by the parents until adulthood.  At a responsible age, the baptised young person needs to take those promises and responsibilities upon himself.  In the NRC, he does that thru their Confession of Faith which is no confession of faith at all.  It merely, as you have pointed out, obligates you to the doctrine and discipline of the church.  When done correctly, those promises and responsibilities become his own by confessing faith in Christ and, as a result, becoming a member in Christ's church.  Further, without a real confession, you must not be a member of Christ's church.  So, what I mean to point out for you is that the odd wording of the NRC confession is not so much dependent upon infant baptism as it is on the aversion they have to any outward confession of faith or expression of confidence in Christ's work.  They would never say this but, in practice, they behave as though being pious and unsure, is safer than being a hypocrite and claiming salvation that you don't have.  Isn't that bizarre.  Both are infinitely dangerous!

My heart bleeds for so many of my family and friends that still labor under such a distortion of God's glorious gospel.  That the gospel light will shine in this dark place too is my prayer.


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You're right about this, there are people within that church who are genuine believers.  However, if you mention salvation to our family members, or friends they will look at you like you've gone mad.  They are the most honest and the "nice" people I've ever met, but most are religious Christians, not Chrisitans in the Spirit.  There is no assurance of salvation, which is very difficult to understand since it is called a Christian church.  
 
I see so many things first-hand that just make me cringe inside.  Fear and Legalism, being the main things.  Fear is a big part of the NRC life.  Fear of people finding out where you've been, who your spending time with, what your wearing, how you're spending your money, if you own a television, etc.  Lot's of expressions of what "people like us" should do, say, and be.  I would say that the fear is much greater for the women who are part of this church.  They are held to a much higher standard in terms of behavior, dress, head covering, and given very little liberty.  The young men and women are pressured to marry only within the church which for many of our friends and relatives means traveling across state lines for the sole purpose of finding another NRC church for more of a "selection".   It's very cultish in nature...if culitish is even a word.
 
I will say this though, you may be surprised at how many NRC people I know who know something is wrong, want to leave, who have left the church, but just can't make it work.  The pressure and guilt to stay is just too strong for them.  For many it's a life-time of hearing it's the only true church.

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