We and Our Children, first published by the RFPA in 1981, was a compilation of a series of articles in the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. In those articles, Professor Herman Hanko answered a book entitled Children of Abraham? by David Kingdon. Kingdon rejected infant baptism from the standpoint of a Reformed Baptist. We and Our Childrenanalyzed and refuted the arguments of Kingdon’s book, and then set forth the Reformed position.
This second edition of We and Our Children is an extensive revision of the first. As the author informs us, entire sections of the book have been rewritten. In my judgment, the first edition was a powerful defense of the Reformed doctrine of infant baptism. The revision is even better.
Although this second edition does not focus exclusively on Kingdon’s book, the main focus is still the position of the Reformed Baptist. A major strength of the book, therefore, is that it refutes the strongest case that can be made for the Baptist position. The strongest position is not the premil-dispensational view that posits that the old and new covenants are two entirely different covenants, established with two different peoples, and thus having two different signs. That children of Abraham are included in the old covenant as indicated by the circumcision of babies means nothing for the new covenant, according to them, because the new covenant is radically different from the old.
The Reformed Baptists agree with the Reformed that the covenants of the old and new dispensation are essentially the same covenant. In some ways this position is, therefore, much more credible, because it embraces the unity of God’s covenant of grace. Nonetheless, Hanko’s purpose is to demonstrate that this position of the Reformed Baptist is inconsistent, and ultimately untenable.
The major revisions came in the first two chapters of the first edition (“An Implicit Dispensationalism,” and, “The Unity of Dispensations”). In the new edition, this was expanded to five chapters (“The Intermediate Position of the Reformed Baptist,” “Two Dispensations?,” “One Church,” “One Covenant,” and, “One Sign”). This distinct treatment of the various elements in the argument is an improvement over the first edition. The presentation is clear and the arguments well grounded in Scripture.
A major part of the argument concerns the place of children in the covenant. This book is crystal clear on that issue. It is exceedingly helpful in discussing the organic element of the covenant. With this biblical presentation of the covenant as eternal, as unconditional, and as established by God only with those who are in Christ (the elect), it lays to rest the arguments of the Baptists. It is Hanko’s position that any other view of the covenant will not consistently and effectively defend the Reformed doctrine of infant baptism. In my judgment, he has made his case.
The book is clear and well written, and thus profitable for theologian and layman alike.
Hylke Speerstra, himself a Frisian, has given us a collection of stories, told by emigrants themselves, of their departure from Friesland to seek a new life in another country. Whether one is himself a Frisian, or of Dutch ancestry, or of any other nationality, he will find these stories so absorbing that he will have difficulty laying the book down before finishing it.
The story involves mostly, though not entirely, Post-World War II emigrants who left their mother country and their own province in the north of Netherlands to seek their fortunes elsewhere. They left their homes, their families, their churches, and their familiar surroundings in which their ancestors had lived, sometimes for centuries, for the sake of building a new life in another country. They traveled (and their stories are told here) by boat to the United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.
The stories are told, for the most part, by the ones who themselves made the trip. Though most are not intended to boast of their exploits, what comes through strongly is their courage through suffering, their hardship and pain, their hard work and sacrifice in establishing themselves in a new land. The stories will make one sometimes laugh uproariously and other times weep copious tears as one lives with them through their experiences. Settling in a new land was not easy.
Most of the stories told here in the book are success stories in financial terms. One observer of the lives of the emigrants estimated that 90% were financially successful. In most cases, it was not like the immigration to America in the nineteenth century: most of these immigrants never enjoyed financial success, but built a foundation on which the next generation could build. These people could themselves enjoy the fruit of their labors. Some became owners of vast business enterprises and attained enormous wealth.
Yet, not all are success stories. Some failed in their efforts, even on occasion returned to their home country, and left behind financial disaster and destroyed marriages.
This emphasis on financial success is the troubling part of the stories. The immigrants who came to this country or other countries prior to World War II, though they too found life financially difficult in the Netherlands, were frequently motivated by religious reasons. They sought a land where they could worship their God in peace, train their children in schools where the Reformed heritage was taught their children, and walk an antithetical life without harassment. They built their church first, their schools second, and made their homes decent and really livable only when their religious needs could be satisfied.
Things changed religiously and morally after World War II. From what one reads of postwar years, and from what one observes today, the war fatally damaged the people of the Netherlands ecclesiastically, religiously, and morally. This was reflected in the people who sought other lands in which to live. The book tells a great deal about their motives for leaving their homeland, and, in fact, emphasizes the financial aspect of their stories. There is little about religion and a great deal about becoming wealthy. There is little about seeking a Reformed church or establishing one, but much about establishing a flourishing business—often at the expense of a Reformed church home. Granted that after the great war, Netherlands was finding it difficult and very costly to rebuild a ruined economy; it still remains a fact that material considerations drove most people to go elsewhere. This in itself would not be something for which the immigrants could be criticized, but even in other lands, wealth came first; church a poor second.
Another theme that runs through the book and makes the book extremely interesting is that these Frisian emigrants never really were able completely to pull up their roots sunk so deeply in Frisian soil. Their ties to their province remained strong all their lives. They could not shake free completely from the country out of which they had come. They returned frequently and in a few instances permanently to the land of their forefathers. It was as if they lived in two lands: their bodies and souls in their adopted country, their hearts in Friesland.
The book is most enjoyable and adds an important chapter to the history of the Dutch people.