Final Thoughts -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 13:1 (Winter 2004)
Article: Final Thoughts
Author: John H. Armstrong


Final Thoughts

John H. Armstrong

For some years now I have been on a journey of faith that has led me to confess, with my whole heart and soul, that I have believe in “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” I have discovered many fellow servants of God who believe the same truth. The late Eugene Osterhaven, and his former student John Hesselink, represent two of those God brought into my life. Here are two men who represent the finest minds in the Christian Church. They have also modeled a deep and firm conviction about Christian oneness throughout life.

In The Spirit of the Reformed Tradition (Eerdmans, 1971) Gene Osterhaven wrote, “That the Reformed Church took seriously the characterizations of the church found in those ancient creeds is evident from a study of its confessional statements written during the Reformation period” (39). He further notes that the Belgic Confession, in its first article on the Church which carries the caption De Ecclesia Catholica, says that “this holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same spirit (Article 27).

Osterhaven later states that “Calvin so emphasizes this truth throughout his writings that he may properly be called the most catholic of the Fathers of the Church in the Reformation era. He felt it to be so important that he included it in a catechism written for children” (40). The Genevan Catechism reads, “This signifies that as there is only one head of the faithful so also all ought to be united in one body; so that there are not many churches, but only one, which is spread throughout the world (Ephesians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 27)” (cited by Osterhaven, 40).

The Reformed side of the Protestant Reformation, contrary to the popular confusions and separatism of more recent eras, stressed that even though the Church militant has many particular churches, it is still one Church. Osterhaven is again correct. He wrote:

Indeed, the Reformation was needed and continues to be needed because of the lack of catholicity in the church. The Reformers’ work was necessary because the church had become too “Roman” in some areas, and too “Greek” in others. The church was no longer “catholic,” or universal, in its breadth, outlook, and teachings, but had become provincial and errant. The Reformers sought to restore it to true catholicity (40).

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