...

From two Michigan readers I received letters about an expression which I used in my reply to a letter concerning organizing small churches (March 15 issue, p. 272). The expression occurs in the following sentence: “When I think back to the time of our synodical meetings in 1954 when our synodical fund amounted to a big fat ZERO because our enemies had run off with our synodical funds, and when I consider how the Lord had prospered us and provided for us abundantly, then I can’t think in terms of burdens, only of blessings.” 

The first letter, from Holland, is as follows: 

“Prof. Hoeksema, 

“I was reading your article, page 272, Mar. 15 issue, under item 6, when I stopped suddenly. Your word “enemies” leaves me with some questions. Do you call them enemies because you consider them God’s enemies? Does this mean that the people who left the PRC in 1954 are hell bound? Please do not feel that I am asking this in a sarcastic tone. I really want to know what prompted your use of this word. 

(w.s.) Harv Nyhof” 

The second letter, from a Hudsonville address, is as follows: 

“Dear Prof. Hoeksema, 

“Greetings in the Name of our Lord. 

“Before I address the issue which concerns me, please let me take a moment to express my appreciation for the Standard Bearer and to you, for your dedicated and faithful role in this publication. Indeed, this magazine is a bright lamp in the darkness of the present ecclesiastical and even ‘Reformed’ world. 

“I as a layman also humbly acknowledge your high office and responsible calling; and by God’s grace your qualifications to such. But let me nevertheless bring to your attention a point that somewhat troubles me. I refer to your article of “Correspondence and Reply” in the March 15 issue of the Standard Bearer, specifically to the ‘enemies’ who ran off with the synodical funds. My question is: why must this sin be brought up in this article and why must one go so far as to call them our enemies? Are they allies of Satan? Do they not confess Christ? Do not misunderstand; I do not minimize their sin or their responsibility in their role of the 1954 controversy. But does not this statement feed the fire of bitter hatred and enmity? I cannot see where I am edified by this, or for that matter see any advantage or purpose in making this statement in the context of your article. What constructive purpose can there be in bringing out this particular sin of these people in the public foreground now? Furthermore, what of those brethren who left us in ’54 and now are in our midst again? Enemies? Please, let the Lord alone be the judge of the hearts of these men. I believe, sir, we must be strong and stand up, and be counted for who we are and what we believe. But also, we must always be humble. Thank you for your time. 

Respectfully, 

Your humble brother in Christ, 

(w.s.) Howard C. Pastoor, Jr.” 

Reply 

First of all, thanks to both of these correspondents for their letters. It is good to know that one is not only read, but read carefully. Frankly, I was a bit surprised to learn that my use of the term “enemies” attracted their attention. While I certainly did not use the word thoughtlessly, but purposely, I used it with a particular purpose in mind. When I think the matter over, perhaps part of the difference between me and my correspondents is due to the fact that I lived through the history under discussion and, in fact, had an active role in it and, along with others, experienced firsthand some of their enmity. Add to that the fact that recently I have been deeply involved in research concerning that period of our history in connection with the book which I am writing; and perhaps this will help our readers to understand a little “where I was coming from.”

Secondly, I will stand by the term. My Webster’s Unabridged gives the following definition: “One hostile to another; one who hates, and desires or attempts the injury of another; a foe; an adversary; as, an enemy of or to a person; an enemy to truth. . . .” This definition is applicable. The schismatic group who left us post-1953 were enemies of the truth which we as Protestant Reformed Churches maintained and still do maintain. First they sought to import their heresies into our churches, the very heresies which we had denied in 1924. Then, after they were expelled or left, they themselves publicly embraced those heresies, having repudiated the Declaration of Principles, and found their way back into the Christian Reformed Church. Along with this, in numerous instances they sought to deprive our churches of name and goods and property, let alone the fact that they destroyed several congregations or converted them into Christian Reformed congregations. Were they our enemies? Without a doubt! 

Thirdly, I make and I made no judgment as to whether they were or are God’s enemies; and I certainly make no judgment as to their final destiny. This is not my prerogative, and it is outside my competence. God is Judge! This does not change the fact, however, that they manifested themselves as enemies of our Protestant Reformed Churches—and in some instances still do so—and that this is indeed sin. 

Finally, let me call the attention of both of my correspondents to the context in which I made the reference and to my purpose in doing so. I was emphasizing in the paragraph in question the fact that the Lord has abundantly blessed us as Protestant Reformed Churches. It was in this context that I made the reference to enemies. My purpose was to stress this blessing of the Lord. Precisely at the time when our enemies sought our destruction by making it financially difficult, if not impossible, for us to continue as a denomination, the Lord provided for us abundantly; and He has done so ever since. That work of the Lord is enhanced by the fact that it stands in contrast with the purpose of those who sought our destruction. In other words, I did not use the term to be abrasive.