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Plumb—true, precise, upright. According to my skewed memory, "plumb" was one of my grandfather's favorite words. As a boy, when we would work on little projects together, he seemed forever to be asking, "Is everything plumb?" To my young eyes, everything about my grandfather was plumb. He walked briskly and upright. His hair was combed, his shoes polished. His whole life seemed to have a precision about it. Because he was a carpenter and a hardware man, this same grandfather…

Pushing Ourselves Forward

Compared to the beloved Heidelberg Catechism, feted in these pages and still recited on death beds, the Belgic Confession is a rather unremarkable Reformed document. The Belgic Confession is like that ordinary, stolid child who has the misfortune of spending life next to the bright, charming, and popular sibling. Although the various Dutch Reformed groups in North America all recognize the Belgic Confession as one of their doctrinal standards, it is pretty much a garden variety sixteenth century Reformed confession.…

Salve for the Evangelical Soul

In recent years there have been numerous books, almost a nascent genre, in which disaffected or "enlightened" evangelicals share how they were wounded by their childhood faith and have now outgrown it. I am always amazed when the new insights and startling breakthroughs shared in these books are things that the wider church has practiced for centuries. More amazing is how evangelical readers, who have largely ignored the historic church, seem so eager to receive the condemnation and kicks from…

Blood on Our Hands

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace. Ephesians 1:7 On the day after Thanksgiving last year, representatives from the Collegiate Church--the oldest Reformed church in North America--held a ceremony of healing and reconciliation with the Lenape Native American people. Established in 1628 in what was then New Amsterdam, the Collegiate Church was the "company church" for the Dutch West Indies Company as it settled Manhattan. The Lenape…


Pornography: "porn"--literally meaning prostitute, implying distorted or exploitive; "graphy"--writing, pictures. For a long time, pornography seemed more of a tawdry embarrassment, an ugly rash on the underbelly of society. With the rise of the internet, two lethal ingredients were added: easy access and privacy. Pornography has exploded. Pornography is a symptom of a larger illness. Not just a general coarsening of morality or a desensitization of sexuality, where we are bombarded by sexual images and innuendo everywhere, all the time,…


NOVEMBER 2008: INSIDE OUT by Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Luke 1:35 In The Gospel According to Steve, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary to ask her permission, to give her a choice. Luke's gospel doesn't tell it that way. Gabriel only makes announcements. He asks no questions. He tells Mary she is favored by God. He tells Mary not to be afraid. He tells Mary…


My thanks to John Bolt and Jeffrey Sajdak for responding to my friendly nudge in "Reformed Intramurals: What Neo-Calvinists Get Wrong." In addition, my gratitude to Nicholas Wolterstorff for his gracious reply in the February issue of Perspectives. Perhaps I should not be surprised, but I am a little disappointed, that the response to my nudge, at least Bolt's reply, was more political than theological. Bolt heard me to say that my "real and deep disaffection is not so much with North American…

The Joy of Caucusing

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell It is sometimes fun to live in Iowa. Normally, I can come up with many positive adjectives to describe life in a small midwestern town. Fun might not always be one of them. But every four years, we in Iowa become the center of the political universe, and for a political junkie like me, this is fun. More than just fun, the Iowa caucuses have restored my faith in American politics. They have transformed me into an interested,…

Reformed Intramurals: What Neo-Calvinists Get Wrong

To a teenage boy growing up in post-Christian-before-the-term Seattle, the old Reformed Journal was a gift, like rain on dry ground. My predilection for that magazine shows either that theological persuasion is genetic, or that one can absorb far more theology than one might expect in a home far from the bastions of the Reformed world. Thinkers like Richard Mouw, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and others seemed so fresh and exciting, relevant and culturally engaged. At the time names like John Calvin,…