It was with some surprise that I read the news that Dr R Scott Clark deleted his fine resource on the Reformed churches, Heidelblog, earlier this month.

Dr Clark has been a professor at Westminster Seminary California (in Escondido) since 1997, where he teaches Church History and Historical Theology. He is the author of Recovering the Reformed Confession and contributes to a variety of theological publications and books.  He also serves as Associate Pastor at Oceanside United Reformed Church.  If you are in San Diego County, it would seem a good place to go for Sunday worship.

Along with many admirers and adherents to Calvinism, I have dozens of Heidelblog bookmarks on my PC.  Now, they are of no use — lost to the four winds.

What distinguished Heidelblog from similar sites is the intellectual insight of Dr Clark’s posts.  Until last year, he opened each post to comments.  The result was a cross between Luther’s table talks — educational conversations with students — and, for his more remote readers, lessons in Reformed theology and practice.  Therefore, it will be difficult to know where to go after this.  Yes, certainly, there are other Reformed sites, but, as much as I like them, none will match the sharpness and variety of Dr Clark’s.  And, once a blog is gone, it’s gone — there will be no Recovering the Heidelblog.

Dr Clark came to the Reformed church as an adult.  In a half-hour audio interview with Dr Michael Horton, also a professor at Westminster Seminary California, he explains that he only started going to church as a young man, having found a copy of Good News for Modern Man on a friend’s nightstand.  At that point, he thought that the Bible came out in monthly instalments like the Reader’s Digest!  From there, he began going to an evangelical Baptist church.

Although Dr Clark later rejected the Arminian doctrine of free will for Calvinist predestination, he does credit the Baptist minister for having preached Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, His Resurrection and the Gospel.  Those sermons, combined with fellowship from the congregation, led a young Clark to explore Scripture and the Church in more detail.  Whilst living in Kansas City in young adulthood, he evangelised in a car park on more than one occasion.  His journey took him to study theology.  He earned his M. Div. from Westminster Seminary California and his D. Phil from the University of Oxford.  It’s a pretty incredible journey for an unchurched youth to have made into adulthood and no doubt serves as a good illustration of why we might not always want to know God’s will — it would be too intimidating.

In the audio interview Dr Clark likens learning Church history to knowing one’s own family history.  For the Christian, Church history is our history in many ways.  (As an aside, the more one studies it and compares it to what is going on today, the more one sees the similarities: the same errors and heresies, just dressed up as postmodernism!)

He also cautions us against romanticising the past.  Many Calvinists today want to return to a perceived Golden Age of Christianity, whether that be the early apostolic Church, the Reformation or Cromwell’s England.  Dr Clark tells us that none of those ages was golden.  They all carried danger and controversy — believers were insecure and the Church was not safe.

Back to Heidelblog, which no doubt got its name from the United Reformed Church’s adherence to the Heidelberg Catechism.  Even online, Dr Clark taught as a professor of the old school would.  It was not unusual for him to respond to commenters with a sharp request to not return until they had read the material!  On the rare occasion, his wife Eileen commented with wit and insight that matched her husband’s.

So, why did Heidelblog have to go?  It seems that Dr Clark blogged about a worship inconsistency in his own church.  The more orthodox Reformed churches structure worship around what is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW).  Public worship aligns to strict biblical principles.  One of these is sung Psalms (normally a cappella) and no hymns.  (If you want to know more, read this general discussion on the topic, to which which Dr Clark responded.)

Dr Clark ended up issuing the following apology to his local consistory (pastors and elders), which he also posted on Heidelblog.

Soon thereafter, RSS subscribers received this message:

The status of the Heidelblog will be changing very soon. If you operate a blog with links to the HB you will want to remove them.

Along with Pilgrimage to Geneva, we are sorry that this fine catalogue of information about the Reformed Confession — written by an orthodox seminary professor (hard to find these days!) — is gone.  Although we are grateful, we also believe that the Reformed churches have lost a valuable resource.  It is a shame that Dr Clark could not or was not allowed to delete the offending posts and retain the blog as an archive.

In any event, along with his hundreds (probably thousands) of faithful readers around the world, I wish him and his family every blessing.


UPDATE – September 2012: Heidelblog — back by popular demand!