On Friday, June 15, just under 50 pastors, elders, and deacons gathered at First Christian Reformed Church in Mount Vernon, Wash., to dig deeper into the doctrine of atonement. The day of learning was hosted by Classis Pacific Northwest, a regional group of Christian Reformed churches. The goal was to create a better understanding of the biblical teachings on the atonement and to suggest how best to communicate the riches of Christ's sacrifice to a world so in need of this good news.
As guest speaker, the classis welcomed Ronald Feenstra, academic dean and professor of Systematic and Philosophical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. John Knoester, the pastor of First CRC, said the professor’s teaching style was engaging and his words were valuable for church leaders. “His posture of humility regarding the power and mystery of the gospel sets an example to all of us who are leaders in Christ’s church.”
Feenstra based his talk on the teachings from the confessions of the church and on the writings of Augustine and Calvin. The group also looked at the doctrine of atonement through the many great hymns of the church. “It was thrilling to engage in theological discussion as well as explore practical application with a room full of passionate Christians,” wrote one attendee in feedback on the conference. “I now see that the atonement is so rich and mysterious that it cannot be contained in one theory. This conference helped to broaden my view of the atonement and at the same time deepened my sense of mystery that the gospels describe.”
Classis decided to hold this conference in response to discussions at classis meetings regarding adherence to the Reformed understanding of the doctrine of atonement and a perceived difference in the understanding of this doctrine amongst its member churches. Costs were covered by the classis budget.
Knoester and Rob Jansens, who serves as stated clerk of the classis, both remarked on the good outcomes of holding this day of learning, which brought together members from 15 different churches from the region.
“This event is a part of Classis Pacific Northwest’s efforts to revitalize our classis and deepen our sense of community and shared ministry,” Jansens said. “I think it was a huge success in terms of attendance, but more importantly in the atmosphere of unity that it helped create.”