Open Letter to the Rev. H. Hoeksema
Dear Rev. Hoeksema:
Will The Standard Bearer kindly make room in its next issue for the following lines? When one’s person and integrity are drawn into question, publicly, opportunity should be given for defense, and that without delay.
First, may I assume that space will be available to me to answer the articles of both yourself and Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, if I should feel the need and desire to do so? Your articles on the protests and their answers filled some fifteen columns in The Standard Bearerwherein you gave the readers everything but adequate information about the issues at stake. This could have been done only by publishing the protests and their answers verbatim. The articles of Prof. H.C. Hoeksema consumed some thirteen columns. Is equal space available to me, if I should choose to reply?
My chief reason for writing at this time is the paragraph appearing above your name in the last Standard Bearer, April 1, page 293, wherein you choose to discredit my sincerity and integrity. Concerning the appearance of Mr. P. Knott before the consistory of the First Church for the purpose of making the “required confession,” you write among other things: “But the strange thing is that the brother acted upon the advice of the Rev. R. Veldman as the latter told me himself somewhat later. And my question is: why did the Rev. Veldman give brother Knott that advice, and why did he not give the same advice to the Gritter family? Why create all the present trouble in our churches?”
I deeply regret that you have chosen to follow this course. Has it come down to this? Is it a matter now of defaming my name and character by telling our people, and many outside of our own churches, that as far as the Rev. Veldman is concerned his case rests on little more than insincerity, duplicity, and hypocrisy?
From the beginning I have felt deeply about the issues at stake, the right of our consistory to deal with those who return. I told you this in no uncertain terms at the time our committee met with your consistory. My speech and conduct have been marked by complete consistency. I have not spoken out of both sides of my mouth. I have not “measured with two measures.”
Why, if I had advised Mr. Knott to go to your consistory for confession and reinstatement and you had this information from my own mouth, did you not raise this point at the last classis? It would have been so effective. You had so many opportunities, especially when I stressed so strongly that I had advised the Gritters not to go to First Church consistory for reinstatement. It would have gone so far toward weakening our case and discrediting our motives and position, even as the “discrepancies” discovered in the position of the First Church did much harm to your cause.
Neither have I entirely lost my reason. Would a sane man have told one family on thing and another family the very opposite within the space of a few weeks? How could the Knott family have any faith in a minister, whose conduct was so unfair and contradictory? How could the Gritter families want to join a church with a minister so void of conviction and character? How could my consistory or congregation have one gram of respect for a leader who is guilty of such duplicity? And let no one err on this score: our consistory is deeply convinced of the justice of its cause.
The naked truth is this. I never advised Mr. Knott to do as he did. I never advised him anything from which he could even deduce such a thing. I did advise him, out of consideration for you, to repudiate the personal attack against you in the cross-bill. And I advised him to do so by letter, because I knew well enough what he would be told if he spoke to you personally. I never told you, Rev. Hoeksema, that I advised Mr. Knott to go to your consistory for confession and reinstatement. I never told you anything from which you could even deduce such a thing in good conscience. I told Mr. Knott the opposite more than once; that I was “dead against” such a policy. I told you the same in the presence of your entire consistory. I cannot explain your writing; I shall not attempt it. However, as it stands, it is an inexcusable and vicious untruth.
You add the insinuation: “Why create all the present trouble in our churches?” I resent that accusation with all my soul. I do not hesitate one moment to reverse the charge. We did what we were convinced was our perfect right to do. We did what the entire Reformed world will agree was our duty and privilege. Of this we have no doubt. We violated no ecclesiastical decision. You lodged the protest, not we. Out of a hundred Reformed leaders, here or abroad, acquainted with the facts, no two will support your position. Who is causing the trouble in our churches?
Our readers will understand that this is one insinuation I could not leave unchallenged. It brutally discredits my person, when I could not be more convinced that our position is right. It was a low blow. I feel certain our readers must understand.
P.S. 1 — Mr. Knott told the Rev. Hoeksema when at his home, that he had an appointment that evening with our Southeast consistory for the purpose of reinstatement. Does that sound as if I advised him to go to First Church?
P.S. 2 — Mr. Knott gave me the following statement: “Our going to the First Church to be reinstated was completely contrary to all the advice received from the Rev. Veldman.”—w.s. Peter F. Knott.
1. First of all, I regret that I referred to a personal conversation with the Rev. R. Veldman concerning his advice to brother P. Knott and his confession before the consistory and congregation of First Church. It was in my mind exactly as I wrote it in The Standard Bearer. The difficulty is that personal conversations without witnesses cannot be proved or disproved. Neither does Rev. Veldman disprove what I wrote by the testimony of brother Knott. The simple fact is that Mr. Knott was not a witness to that personal conversation. Hence, while brother Knott may testify as to what Rev. Veldman advised him, he cannot very well testify as to what Rev. Veldman may or may not have said to me. Nevertheless, I am willing to admit that I may have been mistaken, and in that regard to saypeccavi, I am sorry.
2. Secondly, I deny emphatically that I am guilty of any defamation of character or of vicious untruth or that I accuse you of “insincerity, duplicity, and hypocrisy.” That is your interpretation, not mine. You can much better and more truthfully interpret my statement as meaning that you changed your mind since the Gritter family came to your consistory.
3. Thirdly, I maintain my statement that I put in question form: “Why create all the present trouble in our churches?” For it is my conviction that this is exactly what you do. Would it not be a simple matter, even granted that you are convinced that you are right, to tell the Gritter family and whoever else of the schismatics came or will come to your consistory, that they must first clean their slate before the consistory of First Church and before their congregation before they could become members of your congregation? What is so difficult about that? You ask the question in your open letter why I did not mention this at the meeting of Classis. My answer is that I intended to do so; but I felt that it would be declared out of order. You will, no doubt, remember that at this classical meeting I asked you a few questions, one of which was what they, the Gritter family, confessed. And you yourself both denied that the questions were in order and also refused to answer. Personally, I feel sure that they did not make any proper confession at all. But fact is that also this conversation was deemed out of order. But now I ask you to answer this question in our magazine. Please, answer. Show us from the record what confession was actually made.
4. I deny that, in my articles on the protests, I gave no adequate information on the different protests and answers, even though for lack of space I abbreviated. But tell me what was inadequate about it and I will correct it.
5. About that consistory meeting at First Church, where you and other members of your consistory were present, I remember very well what you said. But do you also remember what you said when you arose, came to the table, and pointed your finger at me and told the consistory that, no matter what happened, you would never change? I do not wish to quote or try to quote that speech literally. But you either said or implied that you would not change even if Classis or Synod would condemn your position.
6. The chief trouble with you, Rev. Veldman, is that you never agreed with the stand our churches took in 1953, with regard to the statements of De Wolf. This is, I am convinced, also the root of the present trouble you are creating in our churches. Is not this the truth?
7. Finally, as to your assumption that space will be available to you in The Standard Bearer, the following:
a. Space will be available to you not to make a new reply to the articles of Prof. Hoeksema, but to place the same reply which you gave on the floor of classis. His articles were merely the report of his speech at classis; you will in fairness be limited to a report of your reply at classis.
b. For the rest, space will be available to you in accord with our usual policy on contributions. And, of course, you may reply to what I have written concerning this case, provided:
1) You do not inject personalities into the case, as you attempt to do in your open letter. Why do you not address yourself to the issues of the case?
2) You write decently and write the whole truth, and do not rush into print with personal charges as above.
And, of course, you may expect an answer.
“The Hymn Question”
Rev. H. Hoeksema
Editor of The Standard Bearer
Esteemed brother in the Lord,
Permit me to assure you that I have followed your editorials captioned “The Hymn Question” with interest; I made a rather critical survey of all your writings on this subject, the nature of your arguments, the grounds and reasons you offer for your position that the Church Order, Art. 69, be changed. I do not intend to criticize your argumentation; that would require too much space, and I do not have editorial prerogative.
Nevertheless, I do wish to state, here and now, that I begin to see more and more why the Synod of 1961, after it had adopted (formally) the “grounds” offered by the Study Committee, would not vote in the affirmative for the motion which these grounds allegedly supported. I most heartily agree with my esteemed colleague from Redlands when he cautions Synod not to adopt this motion on the table, and I believe that Rev. G. Vanden Berg is performing a distinct service to our churches by giving us, among other salient points, a critical resume of the maneuverings of the Synod in this matter.
Whereas, dear editor, you have publicly encouraged others to write their views on this matter, and have succeeded in initiating a rather broad reaction to this question, I feel con strained, after prayerful consideration, to reflect upon one of the “hymns” you present in the Feb. 15 issue of The Standard Bearer. I realize full well that the mere fact that this will be placed in the rubric “Contribution” does not mean that it is an actual contribution (really contributes something); there is always the danger of some “parroting,” I have observed.
I have some criticism of the hymn which you say is “based upon Ram. 3:10 ff.” Here, I feel, we have an example, a “case study,” which allows me to demonstrate the difficulty of versification of New Testament Scripture passages. Rather than quoting this entire section from Paul’s pen in Romans 3:10-18, I invite our readers to take their own Bibles and read this passage to which you refer.
My basic criticism is that Rom. 3:10-18 from the very nature of the passage, does not lend itself to a lyric poem; at best, it is a composite of free quotations from various Psalms of the Old Testament Scriptures, plus one citation from the Prophecy of Isaiah, which, in the process of being quoted have lost their original settingin the poem; they have become, as far as the poem was concerned from which they were quoted, mere aphorisms.
To demonstrate this point very briefly within the allotted space I call attention to the following:
1. Romans 3:10-18 is a passage in which Paul, led by the Spirit, quotes in a rather free way from the O.T. Scriptures, to wit, from Psalm 14:1-3, 53:2-4, 5:9, 140:3, 10:7, 36:1and from Isaiah 59:7, 8.
2. Paul does not here intend to write a N.T. Hymn, using parts from the Old Testament Psalms mentioned above, but he is clinching a very dogmatical argument in his grand treatise to the Romans; he is clinching the argument concerning the total depravity of man (anthropos), whether Jew or Greek; all are under sin, and all come short of the glory of God. He proves that the law (Scriptures) puts all under sin and wrath. This is only part of the great story, the love story of God, the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
3. The result is that we get a very cogent argument from Scripture here, a good question in the Heidelberg Catechism, but no lyric hymn. We do not at all thus arrive in Rom. 3:10-18 at a composite poem or hymn in capsule form, but we have here a very didactic, clinching argument; it is inspired apology and polemic of the highest order. However, it ceases, in my humble opinion, to be a lyric as it was in the original inspired setting of the Hebrew poet.
Hence, it is my opinion, that, when these elements quoted by Paul in positive, dogmatic argument, are made the basis for a hymn, a versification of Scripture, it becomes impossible to recapture the grand and sublime poetry of the inspired Hebrew poet; the grand, bold figures of speech in which the joys and sorrows, the hopes and fears, the victory and defeat, the righteous God and the guilty sinner, the hopeless state and the saving Jehovah are expressed, is gone! The result is that such attempts at versification, as offered in your editorial, are a far cry from the mighty poet as he sings the praises of the mighty God who thrones upon lyric songs of His people. At best, such versification proves to be rather prosaic verse, be it then ever so Scripturally, dogmatically and Confessionally correct.
Really, dear brother Hoeksema, what do we gain by singing a song based on Romans 3:10-18? All these Psalms from which Paul quotes we already have versified in our Psalter. I refer you and our readers to Psalter Nos. 9, 10, 11, 18, 23, 93, 94, 146, 385. No less than nine Psalter numbers!
I submit that these numbers, granted that they are versifications, at least are versifications of the original Psalms, and are not based upon fragments welded into a dogmatic argument. Take it as one man’s opinion: I would rather sing the strains given in the Psalter than to sing a versification of Rom. 3:10-18 which, from its very nature, must become rather dry verse; and, since it is a pointed argument for the total depravity of man, a rather one-sided hymn at that! I believe that the hymn in The Standard Bearer, “based on Rom. 3:10-18” is dry verse!
When I read the “Song of Moses” I hear more than a versified, rhymed expression of how Israel crossed the Red Sea. It is poetry! And when Deborah sings her mighty song, it is more than poor verse, a mere versification of the dogmatical implication of this victory over Sisera; it sings of Jehovah. It is mighty poetry, “They fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”
It is one thing to write a verse; it is quite another to write a spiritual lyric, which will, in the spiritual taste of the Church, be the fit vehicle for bringing the fruit of the lips to God as a continual thank-offering.
There is also in this sense a difference between “Contribution” and what actually contributes to the treasures on the altar of praise!