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My fellow young Calvinists, what I have not mentioned yet is that there was a third part to Rev.Herman Hoeksema’s editorial in that issue of The Young Calvinist (Vol. 3 No. 6, June, 1921), titled “Collecting a Library”. Here, “to create a new interest in the study of good books”, Hoeksema encourages the Young Men’s Societies in the churches to start a library. Such a library will help young men prepare for their discussion essays in the societies (what we used to call “after-recess program” in our Young People’s Society – something that has sadly dropped by the wayside, I believe), and for that reason also stimulate them to read more and better books.

In this follow-up article to my previous one, I am going to give you a few brief quotations from that editorial and tell you about some of the books he recommended in his day for such a library, most of which are still excellent suggestions and readily available.

My hope is that this may once again serve to encourage our Young People’s Societies to collect good Reformed books and start their own Young Calvinist libraries for the benefit of the whole society, as well as for personal growth in their Reformed faith and walk. I realize that many of our churches already have a library. Perhaps the young people can strengthen these libraries with their own section, or supplement them with their own section of books. Just a thought.

Now, here’s “H.H.”

 

For this purpose (to prepare for society and for their own essays—C.J.T.), to remove all obstacles and every excuse for not being prepared, the Young Men’s Society ought to possess a library of its own. Instead of spending the money that may be found in the treasury at the close of every season for a social or ‘blow-out’ (Wouldn’t you like to know what a 1920s “blow out” was about?—C.J.T.), it ought to be devoted, at least in part, to the building up of a good library of books that shed light upon the subjects discussed in the meetings of the Society. And, of course, the Society ought to urge upon the attention of the members that the purpose of the library is not to adorn the room where the Society meets, but to be used by the members. In this way the Society may be a powerful means to create a new interest in the reading of good books.

If work is made of this, we may perhaps succeed in creating a new interest in reading, and many of our young men may probably be roused to set themselves the task of studying different problems of the day. Then only may we expect that in the future they will take a stand, a Reformed stand, in the various spheres of life in the world (pp.173-74).

 

A good, practical suggestion for our Young People’s societies, don’t you think? With a lofty but attainable goal, wouldn’t you agree? But is such a proposal still relevant for today’s young Calvinists? Some, perhaps many, would argue that it is not. With a pointed, pessimistic perspective they would say, “You can’t bring back the glory days of reading and physical libraries, especially for today’s youth. You will never get young people interested in reading and starting a library.”

But I am not convinced. When I look at the young Calvinist men and women of our churches, I see young people who can read and who want to read spiritually more and better. I see an interest in good books and magazines, and I believe these young Calvinists would also be interested in starting a personal/family library or helping to develop their church library. Am I wrong, young people? If I am, please prove me wrong!

But how shall we move forward? To start gathering books for a library (personal or society or church) you need more practical help. You need concrete suggestions for books. Rev.Hoeksema gave such suggestions in that editorial to which I have referred. Some of them are now dated, but others are still good ones. What I like are the broad categories he mentioned, for that in itself is helpful in getting started with a library. Get a pen and paper (or your laptop, tablet, or smartphone) and start jotting down some broad areas in which to collect books. Here are some of the ones he mentioned:

  • Commentaries: Yes, if you are going to study the Bible together, you will need some good works by others on the Bible. “H.H.” mentions Matthew Henry, J.Calvin, C.Hodge, and F.Godet. These are still good, but there are many newer ones readily available too. Visit your local Christian bookstore, or better yet, visit Monergism.com’s website (bookstore part) or Reformation Heritage Books (heritagebooks.org), or the RFPA (rfpa.org). Click on the category commentaries and browse a bit.
  • General Bible Study: Again, if the main object of our reading and study is the word of God, personally and as a society, then you want to grow this part of your library. Here “H.H.” includes books on OT and NT history, books on the miracles and parables of Jesus, and meditation and devotional works. We might add Bible surveys, handbooks, and atlases here as well. You can find many older, helpful Bible study aids in your local thrift stores.
  • Church History: A vitally important area of knowledge that is often neglected, this ought to be a key part of your reading and library. Hoeksema lists W.Walker’s History of the Christian Church and Great Men of the Christian Church, as well as G.Fisher’s History of the Reformation (Yes, these are still available Check on Amazon.com.)
  • American History: This may surprise you a bit, but “H.H.” actually included it, and I hope you can see why. The history of the church goes hand in hand with the history of the country in which we live (as well as world history), and therefore we ought to study our own country’s history to see how God was at work more broadly for the sake of his church, e.g., during the American Civil War. Hoeksema suggested some general U.S. history books, suggestions for which you can get from your high school or college teachers. I would include a study of the lives of our key presidents by gathering some good biographies. Again, you may find such books cheaply at your local thrift store.
  • Social topics: Here is another area you might not think of, but “H.H.” has in mind especially the social/moral problems that plague each generation. In modern terms, he is suggesting that you ought to collect books on abortion, homosexuality, marriage, etc. There are some very good Christian books that cover a wide variety of contemporary ethical subjects in one volume, e.g., those by Norman Geisler or R.C.Sproul.

 

If you will, allow me to expand on Hoeksema’s suggestions for collecting books for a library. What I would like to do is give you a list of the top books I believe you should have as young people for reading and for your personal library. I mean, of course, for your spiritual growth, both in the knowledge of the truth and in godliness. Obviously this list is going to have my personal perspective/opinion attached to it, but I hope it may be of some guidance to you in knowing where to start. Also, obviously I could make this list a lot longer, But for now I will limit myself to my top dozen titles, reserving the right to add to the list in the future.

I am going to put these in alphabetical order by author, except for the first one, which I place at the top of the list deliberately (And you will see why.).

  1. A good study Bible I recommend the Reformation Study Bible (available new only in ESV from Ligonier, but you can find the older NKJV edition as well). A good study Bible is a must. Please avoid the Arminian, dispensational study Bibles, even if they are KJV (such as Ryrie, Schofield, etc.).
  2. Augustine’s A classic of the Christian faith. Many editions are available. Make sure it is a complete and not an abridged version.
  3. Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. A classic. Get it, read it, and then re-read it every five years or so.
  4. Calvin’s Calvin’s Calvinism (ed. by R.Dykstra, RFPA). This work includes his major, mature writings on providence and predestination. A “must have” to understand the full Calvin.
  5. Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. This is his great systematic theology of the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective. Every young Calvinist ought to make this a matter of his study. There are many editions, including single volumes in paperback. I suggest you get the full McNeill/Battles edition in hardcover (2 vols.).
  6. Hanko’s Doctrine According to Godliness: A Primer of Reformed Doctrine (RFPA). One of the finest summaries of the Reformed faith around, and from a PRC perspective.
  7. Hendriksen’s Survey of the Bible: A Treasury of Bible Information. A solid summary of all the books of the Bible from a Reformed perspective.
  8. Hoeksema’s Wonder of Grace (RFPA). A wonderful summary of the doctrines of grace (God’s plan and working of salvation).
  9. K.Kuiper’s The Church in History (Eerdmans). A classic textbook for Christian schools and readily available; get the latest edition if you can, but the older ones are good too. This work surveys the history of the Christian church from the beginning and includes Dutch Reformed and CRC church history.
  10. I.Packer’s Knowing God. A classic on the attributes of God, applied well to the Christian heart and life. Another title to read and re-read.
  11. W.Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. This summary of the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty has been used by God to lead many to the Reformed faith. Be sure to get the full edition with the chapter on reprobation (old Baker ed.).
  12. C.Sproul’s The Holiness of God. Now 25 years old, this work too has become a classic of the Reformed faith.

 

If I may mention one more encouraging thing for you to do regarding reading and starting a library, watch and listen to Rev.B.Huizinga’s recent speech (Sept.19, 2013) at the annual RFPA meeting. The topic was “Encouraging the Next Generation to Read” and the presentation was excellent. You will find the links for it at rfpa.org (go to the blog). Do it soon!

So now, get started on collecting that library! Only remember, these books are not for show and dust-collecting. They are for reading!

“Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim.4:13). “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter.3:18).

Are you readers, young people? Do you have your own personal library (collection of books)? Do you take an interest in and use the library that may be in your church? Young Calvinists should be readers and librarians, don’t you think? The Federation of Protestant Reformed Young People’s Societies recently started a new “test” organization called “Young Calvinists” —a great idea, in my estimation. Were you aware that this name was once used for a Reformed magazine for young people in the Christian Reformed Church (our “mother” church), and that one of the founders of the PRCA (Rev.Herman Hoeksema) was editor-in-chief of this magazine for a time?

I don’t expect you to know all this, since it was a bit before your time—even a generation before myself (1920s). But it is good for you to know this, because in the June 1921 issue (Vol.3, No.6) of The Young Calvinist Rev. H. Hoeksema penned a powerful editorial encouraging his young Calvinist audience to read good literature and to build a library in their churches. In this article and in one to follow I would like to encourage you to do the same. I want you, young Calvinists, to become readers and librarians, because I believe your personal well-being, the well-being of your future marriage and family (if God wills), and the well-being of our churches rest in part on your reading and your library!

At this point you might be saying, Are you serious?! Yes, actually I am, and I hope that what I quote and write from this point on will make that claim plain.

Let’s start with the reading part. For this I am going to go back to the first part of Rev. H. Hoeksema’s June 1921 editorial, which was titled “What Are You Reading?” He addressed this question especially to the young men in the CRC, though the young women were also included. Here are a few of his thoughts on this significant question:

If you ask our young men concerning the literature they read, you will receive different answers.

Many will tell you nowadays that they do not read at all, that they find no interest in reading whatever. …And it seems to me that the number that will answer the question in this way is increasing.

…That this is a deplorable condition need hardly be said. The results are plainly evident.

There is with many little knowledge. Not only little knowledge in regard to things spiritual and our Reformed truth, but often little general knowledge. There is little ability to read critically. A good many novels of our modern times ought to be read with a critical eye. It is in the modern novel that a life-view is often advocated in a subtle manner. And the life-view that is embodied in our modern novel is not so infrequently radically opposed to our own. But naturally, in order to read critically there must be some general knowledge of principles. And this knowledge is rare. There is often little interest in matters pertaining to God’s Kingdom and the Church. And there is a weaning away from and a loss of contact with sound doctrinal preaching. All the instruction many of our young men receive is the one hour catechetical training per week. And this surely cannot be adequate to meet their needs. That there is so little interest in reading and studying the principles of our Reformed faith is surely a fact to be deplored.

 

That may seem rather negative to you. I can hear you saying, “I thought you said Rev.Hoeksema was encouraging the young people to read in this editorial. This doesn’t sound very encouraging to me!” You have a point. But so did he. And we need to listen to it. Sometimes to be motivated and encouraged to do something positive we need to hear criticism (the negative). And if his evaluation of the reading habits of young people was justified then, I suspect that it might be even more so today. Am I right, young people? Are Rev.Hoeksema’s words convicting you right now? Young men, does the truth of what he says hurt you in the heart and make you put your head down with shame? What are you reading? And even more basic than that: are you taking the time to read?

I know you young Calvinists have time to read certain things—hings you must read, such as your textbooks and assigned readings for school, perhaps some reading for catechism and for your Young People’s Society meeting. And I believe you are reading some things for pleasure—things you want to, such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine, the newspaper, novels, and romances. And, of course, things you find online to read: news, information, sports. But what are you reading to feed your souls, for the good of your spiritual life and your relationship to the Lord? What are you reading to strengthen your faith and walk with Christ? Young men, what are you reading to help you become a godly man to lead in your home and in the church? Young ladies, what are you reading to help you become a godly woman to serve in the home and in the church? That would include your Bible, correct? You do tell yourself that you must read God’s Word, right? But you do also want to, do you not?

I realize very well all the demands on your time. My wife and I guided six teenagers through these years. After your time at school, participating in sports, working a job, hanging out with friends and your family, attending church functions and all the other social events that crowd your calendars, when do you have time to read anyway? Typically your good reading is going to take place at home, and when are you home? Yes, I know: to sleep And that Bible by your bedside…? “I’m too worn out from all the activity, Lord. Maybe tomorrow.”

I am also well aware of the fact, young Calvinists living in the twenty-first century, that we are not exactly living in the reading age. The information age, yes, but not typically through reading books.  Images, videos, and social media rule. TV, Internet TV, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, and Google Hangout handle most of your “reading”. And, yes, those texts sent via our  smart phones. Why would you sit down with a boring book, or even a good one, for an hour when you have all these fun pictures, images, and videos (with a few words thrown in) to capture your eye and grab your mind’s eye? Reading books seems so out of date and so out of touch with our enlightened age.

I haven’t even touched on what all these modern “techie” tools have done to your attention span and to your ability to sit still for an hour or half that. Do young people today even have the discipline to be still and the ability to focus on words on a page? Can we sit long enough to absorb a biography of John Calvin a chapter at a time, let alone a single Beacon Lights or Standard Bearer article?  And now I am supposed to encourage you to read? “Fat chance”, I might be tempted to say at this point.

Yet, young people, we are called to read, and we need to read. I mean, as Christians, for the good of our souls and for the glory of God. I mean, as young (and older) Calvinists for our spiritual growth in knowledge and godliness. I am here to encourage you to read, to read more and to read better. I know all too well the struggle to find the time to read, and to read even when I do have the time. You don’t think I wouldn’t rather sit in front of the TV and watch March Madness than read a good book? You don’t think I can’t waste hours in front of my computer screen watching videos or reading unnecessary news stories and blogs? You don’t think I can’t so fill my schedule with other things that I have no time to read even my Bible? Think again. We are made of the same fallen nature. Your flesh is my flesh. Your temptations are my temptations. Your wasted reading times are my wasted reading times. Your squandered soul-growth is my squandered soul-growth.

But, my fellow covenant friends, God would have us read, because in his deep mercy he gave us his book (Isa.34:16), and because by his amazing grace he made us people of that book. Grace-readers we have become: readers of his story, of his wisdom, of his Christ, so that we would read his words on his pages and learn of him and his Son through his Spirit, by that reading have the knowledge of eternal life (John 20:31), and by continued reading of that book grow in that knowledge until we end our days in the unending bliss of glory (2 Peter 3:14–18).

Is there anything more important than reading this book of holy scripture? Then, my fellow Calvinists, let us find time to read the word preeminently and with utmost priority, and in the light of that word other sound books that will strengthen and increase our faith in and walk with the Lord.

In a future article we will talk about some specific books we should read and how we can start building a library. Until then, will you make sure that you have a good study Bible, that it is by your bedside or at your desk or in your backpack, and that you will read it daily for the good of your soul and for the glory of God as young, but good Calvinists? This older Calvinist has learned—and is still learning—the great good of that practice.

Introduction

1.  One of the many questions which you as Reformed Young People confront as you grow and develop into spiritual maturity is the question, “What will God have me do in life? or What place does God have for me in His Kingdom?” and then too, “How do I know and find out this calling and place God has for me?”

2.  This is an important question which Young People too often push aside until they are well past high school age, or which they do not seriously consider at all so that they simply “fall into” a vocation to which they perhaps have not been called by God.

3.  This question is closely related to your education, for it is your education which plays a large part in determining what your calling is and how to fulfill it before God.

4.  Therefore, the purpose of this outline is to deal with this basic question by laying down some basic principles, and raising a few questions for your consideration and discussion.

 

I.   The Life For Which You Ought To Be Prepared

A. Negatively:

1. It is not a mere earthly life and existence

a. Should your education prepare you to be “successful” and “prosperous”, to “get ahead” and have the “easy” life in the sense that the world speaks? (cf. Lu. 12:15-21, 22-30; 9:24, 25)

b. Should your education prepare you to be “mode!” citizens, to leave your mark on society, to give your contribution to the next generation, and make the world a better place for your posterity?

2. Nor is it a Christian life which seeks to reform the world and christianize society.

a. Should your education prepare you to be an influential Christian, to have a high position so as to reform the various spheres of life?

b. Should your education prepare you to be an instrument to claim the world for Christ and bring about an earthly, carnal Kingdom of God? (Jn. 18:36; Matt. 5:3, 10)

B. Positively:

1. As children of God you have been given the life of Christ in your heart by God’s work of regeneration.

a. That life is “other worldly”, for it is spiritual, heavenly life (Jn. 3:3-8, 36; 11:25, 26; I Pe. 1:23)

b. By virtue of that life you are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. (Jn. 3:5; Phil. 3:20)

2. Out of the principle of this spiritual life God calls you to live in the midst of this world in every sphere of life to His glory.

a. God does not take you out of this world, but commands you to live in it. Yet in this world you are to live in it, though not of it (the life of the antithesis) Jn. 17: 14-18.

b. And in this world God gives to each one of you a specific calling or vocation. Is it true that only teachers and ministers have callings, but everyone else has jobs? Are there vocations to which God does not call you, both as young men and as young women? Are there spheres of life in which the Christian may not labor? What bearing does the antithesis have on your calling?

c. This calling of God you must find and fulfill as His servants. Thus your education must also prepare you for this calling in the midst of the world.

II.  The Kind of Education Which Will Prepare You For This Life

A. In General

1. Negatively,

a. Public school education with its godless principles of life cannot prepare you for your calling.

b. Nor will a generally Christian education prepare you for your life’s calling.

2. Positively, your education must be specifically Reformed and biblical.

a. It must be biblical because the Word of God alone must be our guide to lead us into a life of service to God in whatever calling that may be (cf. Ps. 119:105; II Tim. 3:16, 17).

b. And that also means a soundly Reformed education. Thus as much as possible we must be prepared for life in our own Protestant Reformed schools where the principles of the Reformed faith are applied to each area of life in this world. How important is the education of the home when this kind of education is not possible?

B. Specifically

1. What kind of education will best prepare you at the high school level?

a. Should our own high school (or any other for those who are not able to attend Covenant Chr. High School) limit itself to the liberal arts, giving you a broad basis for your calling without specifically guiding you in a single direction?

b. Should our own high school include vocational/technical education which trains you in a specific field of labor such as shop, carpentry, home making, etc.? Or should it allow students to attend other vocational institutions (as e.g. Kent Skills)? Or would a co-op profitably prepare you for a certain skill?

2. What type of education will prepare you at the college level?

a. Since we do not have our own college (should we?), should you seek an education from a Christian college in the area to which you feel called?

b. Or would an education at a secular college be better? Since many of today’s Christian colleges have wrong views on the life of the Christian in society, should you choose a public institution where at least the wrong is clearly wrong?

c. Should you pursue a college education at all if you are unsure of your calling? Or will it help you to come to a decision?

III.  Your Responsibility As Young People Toward Your Education

A. As Young People you need to take an active part in your education.

1. Often as Young People we place all the responsibility for being prepared for our calling on our parents and teachers.

a. Certainly this is the responsibility of the parents and teachers according to Scripture (cf. Deut. 6:6, 7; Ps. 78:1-8; Eph. 6:4; Prov. 22:6)

b. This is their covenant responsibility according to their baptismal vows (cf. the Baptism Form, the third question and the prayer of thanksgiving)

 2. But your responsibility is also very important.

a. Education and therefore your preparation for life cannot take place unless there is both teaching and learning. Education implies submission and obedience to the teacher as well as appropriating the knowledge which is taught.

b. The book of Proverbs especially emphasizes the responsibility of the Young People in this respect (cf. Prov. 1:7-9; 2:1, 2, 5, 10ff.; 3:1-4, 21-24; 4, etc. -cf. also Eccles. 12:1).

B. How Can You Take A More Active Role?

1. By more seriously considering your calling in life earlier, especially during the high school years. Ask yourselves some basic questions: What talents and interests do I have? How am I going to use my god given abilities to the best of my ability?

2. Seek to determine your calling consciously before the face of God. Ask yourselves, “What does God tell me about my calling in His Word? Pray to Him about His will for you, asking for wisdom and guidance to know what He will have you do.

3. Seek the help of others: your parents, teachers, even pastors. How can they be of help to you in making this decision? Do they know your abilities better than you do, so that they can give more objective advice?

4. Finally, once you are convinced of your vocation, pursue it willingly, cheerfully, diligently, and faithfully! (take Prov. 3:5, 6 to heart!)

It was the privilege of my wife and me to chaperone the 1983 Young People’s Convention sponsored by our Lynden congregation. It was held on the beautiful campus of Trinity Western College in Langley, British Columbia. Providentially the Lord brought us in safety to this magnificent part of our continent. After viewing the majestic mountains, the sparkling lakes, and the splendid wood­lands one could only say, “Surely the LORD is in this place.” As a whole the convention went very well and was a very rewarding experience. As a chaperone, there were a couple of things that impressed me especially.

Firstly, there was evident a true spirit of unity, of oneness, among the young people. Though having a diversity of backgrounds, ages, and personalities, they were of one mind and one purpose. Here Easterners, Texans, Grand Rapidians, Californians, and Canadians freely mingled, making new friendships, renew­ing others, and strengthening still others. All of the activities – from volleyball and roller skating to singing and prayer – were done in the spirit of love and fellowship. This was the communion of saints!

Secondly, the spirituality and sensi­tivity of the young people were manifest. There was an openness and unashamed­ness on their part to discuss problems and struggles. This made the devotional periods (especially the evening ones) and the discussion groups very edifying and uplifting. In that period of a few short days I witnessed young pilgrims applying the principles of Scripture which we had discussed to their lives and to their friendships. The more mature pilgrims helped their less mature fellow sojourners.

Having witnessed the above however, I do not want to deny that there were problems. There were. Some were ser­ious; some not so serious. But then we must understand that while this was a gathering of “saved sojourners”, they are nevertheless sinful sojourners. And all of us – yes, also our young people – must learn that the gospel includes repentance and conversion and a fleeing for refuge under the shadow of the cross. And this we did learn by the power of God’s grace.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Lynden society for a wonderful time, the Lynden congregation for their zealous support, the speakers for their “whole­some words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ”, and the young people for their fellowship, their openness, and their obedience to Christ and to us their chaperones. Above all, thanks be to God for this blessed privilege. Thank Him, young people, and may He preserve you by His grace.

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