An Open Letter to Rev. J. Blankespoor

I am addressing this letter to you as a reply to the article you wrote in the Reformed Guardian of Jan, 25, 1958. I will not quote it in its entirety. This I consider unnecessary. However, if I have in any way misquoted or misrepresented you I will gladly be corrected. My first observation concerns your remarks about personal theological opinions. You state that “mere theological opinions may never be used as criterions for membership in Christ’s Church.” And you also write that “it is very characteristic of sects that they are based on and adhere to certain opinions of leaders.” And although you mention the movements of the Jehovah Witnesses and of Christian Science and Mormonism, you do not particularly refer to them. Of course not! I am assuming that you refer to us. I assume this because you are writing about the Declaration of Principles and your synod’s decision to discard this Declaration. The Declaration was not composed to bar Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, and Mormons. And the reason why you discarded it was because you did not need it in the organization of churches. The Three Forms of Unity you regard as wholly adequate in this organization of churches. Personal theological opinions may never serve as criteria for membership in Christ’s Church. 

Now concerning your remarks along this line I wish to observe the following: This is not the first time that remarks such as these have appeared in the writings of your magazine. Never, however, has anyone of you ever made an attempt to name a single one of these personal theological opinions. It is about time that you do so. Secondly, in these words you charge us with a very grievous sin. You accuse our churches, if you please, of the sin of regarding personal opinions above the growth, expansion, and development of the Church of Christ. It is your opinion that such is characteristic of a Sect. And we are surely, in your opinion, a Sect. Hence, when we must choose between the Church’s development and adherence to the opinion or opinions of certain leaders we choose the latter. I request of you, Rev. Blankespoor, that you prove this. In the meantime, I will show you that you are deliberately speaking an untruth. Your article was not hastily written. According to “Where To Look” of your Reformed Guardian your article represents an investigation of the matter (Italics mine). And now permit me to refresh your memory on a little history which has a vital bearing on this matter. You will recall that I was minister in Hamilton, Canada. You know all about the matter I am about to mention for two reasons. First, I revealed the entire history of what happened in Hamilton in The Standard Bearer at the time. Secondly, you were a member of the committee which came to Hamilton and conducted a thorough investigation of the entire matter. How Rev. Blankespoor, did the undersigned labor in Hamilton? Did I place personal opinions of men above church membership? Now I am going to assume that one of these theological opinions is Rev. H. Hoeksema’s covenant conception. Did I try to “force this down the throats of the Liberated?” Did I tell them that they must agree to our conception or definition of the covenant as a requirement for admittance into our fellowship? I told them, Rev. Blankespoor, and you know this, that it made no difference to the undersigned whether they preferred Rev. Hoeksema’s definition of “covenant” or Prof. Schilder’s. We define the covenant as a relationship of friendship; Schilder defined it as the regulation of friendship. I told the Liberated immigrants that their preference for Schilder’s definition would certainly not bar them from membership. But I also told them that I would insist on this: the friendship of God with His people is sovereignly particular. Does this smack, Rev. Blankespoor, of maintaining personal opinions at the cost of the welfare and growth of the Church? How well I remember Rev. Hoeksema’s warning, in my installation sermon in Hamilton, to the effect that we must not make of the “covenant een stokpaardje.” I am sure that the missionaries, Revs. A. Cammenga and W. Hofman, did not maintain personal opinions at the cost of the growth of the Church. I certainly was not guilty of this in my labors in Hamilton. Rev. Blankespoor, you are speaking an untruth. 

My second observation, Rev. Blankespoor, concerns your statement, and I quote: “Hasn’t it been said more than once that we are bound by the Confessions and our own peculiar historical position which must be explained in the light of 1924? What this latter means has always puzzled me, and still does.”—end of quote. I am not surprised that this has always puzzled you. I begin to understand that you have never understood that the interpretations of the Confessions by the Protestant Reformed Churches is very distinctive in the light of our historical position of 1924. Surely, Rev. Blankespoor, you will not feel offended if I remind you, very briefly, of this distinctive position. After all, the Supreme Court of Michigan has awarded to you and to your congregation the name, “Protestant Reformed.” But, how will you use this name if you do not even understand it? And that you do not understand it appears from your entire article. There is, according to your article, absolutely no reason why the Protestant Reformed Churches, the Christian Reformed Church, and the Liberated Churches should lead a separate existence. You have never understood 1924. You have never understood the name, “Protestant Reformed.” But you have the name. You are stuck with it. It has been awarded to you. And, it has been taken away from others who do understand it, love it, and will sacrifice for it. So, because you have the name, I will tell you what it means. First, we must never forget the history of 1924. God has not forgotten it. And we should forget it? Secondly, the grace and salvation of God are not only particular, but sovereignly particular. The Arminian also believes that salvation is particular. But he does not believe that it is sovereignly particular. And because the grace and love of God are sovereignly particular God is therefore the living God of the antithesis, and we must therefore walk antithetically. This, Rev. Blankespoor, is the meaning, the implication of the name that has been entrusted to you. And, you have my sincere sympathy if you are not faithful to it. 

My third observation, Rev. Blankespoor, concerns your dishonest camouflage of the doctrinal position of the Protestant Reformed Churches. You speak in your article of the “Three Points of Common Grace.” I assume that you did this “deliberately. It agrees with your entire article. Of course, I have no criticism of the expression, “Three Points of Common Grace,” as such. My objection concerns what you have deliberately omitted. I realize that the Three Points of 1924 constitute the elevation by the Christian Reformed Church of the theory of Common Grace to a church dogma. But, why did you not also speak of the Three Points as the Three Points of Arminianism? These Points also teach Arminianism, do they not? Or, has it also always been “accepted as reformed” that God wants all men to be saved? Of course, this is essentially the same as what your churches have adopted in the first statement of Rev. De Wolf. It would have been more honest on your part, especially in the light of the fact that you were conducting a thorough investigation of the matter, had you called the attention of your readers to the fact that the Three Points of 1924 are thoroughly Arminian and Pelagian. Anyone, mind you, who expresses agreement with the Three Forms of Unity (Rev. Blankespoor, I do not believe you understand the Three Forms of Unity), although endorsing the Three Points of 1924, would be received by you into your midst with open arms. This you have written in your article. 

My fourth observation, Rev. Blankespoor, concerns your repudiation of the very name that has been awarded to you. I now quote from your article: “This we have always maintained regarding the binding issues of the Three Points of ‘Common Grace’.” We’ve said in them past that they are not confessional. Besides, we have refused for conscience sake to be bound by them, to consider them settled and binding. And correctly so, I think. For two or three centuries, so we spoke, there were in the Reformed Church opinions on “Common Grace,” also some that denied it. There were free discussions on the subject. Those who believed in it were considered to be Reformed, nevertheless. But, what would we do today if someone believing in “Common Grace” desired to join our congregation i I’m afraid that some of us would want to set up another unwritten declaration, and set up another church wall within the Confessions. Remember, we are dealing with membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. And with unwritten declarations we would refuse people such membership . . . What would we do today if this man (Ursinus—H.V.) would seek entrance into the Protestant Reformed Churches? Would we apply some unwritten declaration about “Common Grace,” which, by the way, he doesn’t mention in this statement? Surely, there would be room for discussion on this opinion which he here holds. But; when it would be a question of membership in our Churches, I for one would welcome him into our midst with open arms, on the basis of the Three Standards with no strings attached.” This means that there is in your opinion no reason why the Protestant Reformed, Christian Reformed, and Liberated Churches should lead a separate existence. All that is required for membership is agreement with the Three Forms of Unity. And, you understand, all these churches profess agreement with these Forms of Unity. It is true that you write, and I quote: “We are not some kind of club, some kind of society or religious organization with various requirements for membership. No, we believe that we are Christ’s Church. This is what we must always be able to say, and also that we are the best manifestation of Christ’s Church.” But, here you write nonsense. Must we insist that we are the best manifestation of Christ’s Church? Must we insist on this also over against the Christian Reformed Church and the Liberated Churches? But, we must remember that these churches insist on the same thing. And, we should welcome people with open arms who believe in the Three Points of 1924? What would happen to our churches, Rev. Blankespoor, if and when the majority believe in the “Three Points of Common Grace”? There are certainly the Three Points of 1924, are they not? I now recall that Rev. A. Cammenga said to us once (my wife and me) when the Revs. Cammenga and W. Hofman were in Hamilton, Canada, in 1950 at the time of Labor Day. I told them that I did not expect the Liberated to understand our doctrine fully (take note of this, Rev. Blankespoor; you knew all about this). I also told them that we had decided, as the consistory of Hamilton, that they must not agitate, and also that they must express the desire to be instructed in our doctrine. Hereupon Rev. A. Cammenga replied that this was the least we could demand of them, and that anyone who adhered to the Heynsian view of the covenant could never be received into our fellowship. And a man as W. Huisken of Edgerton complained about Revs. De Jong and B. Kok at the same time, lamenting that these men wanted to lower the church walls of our churches and expose our churches to ruin. And you now repudiate the very name that has been awarded to you! Who, Rev. Blankespoor, elevated the theory of Common Grace to a church dogma? Did we not declare in 1924 that the matter of Common Grace should be discussed? Was it not the Christian Reformed Church that always and consistently refused such discussion? Did they not formulate Three Points, a pernicious mixture of Common Grace and Arminianism? Did they not cast us out of their fellowship because we could not subscribe to them? And now you welcome all adherents to the Three Points of Common Grace into your fellowship? You quote Ursinus and John Calvin. Tell me, please: were the writings you quote of these men condemned by the Synod of Dordt and its Canons? The doctrine of Total Depravity certainly constitutes one of the fundamental and vital teachings of these Canons, does it not? And you write as follows: “Does that mean that everybody must agree with everybody else in our church? O yes, on the fundamentals of the Church of Christ this is necessary. Those fundamentals of the Scriptures are declared in our Three Standards.” The doctrine of Total Depravity is one of these fundamentals, is it not? And you would welcome Ursinus into your fellowship? Do you know, Rev. Blankespoor, what you are writing about? Does it occur to you that Ursinus and John Calvin, if living today, would undoubtedly not subscribe to the Three Points of 1924? 

Finally, to you has been awarded the name of “Protestant Reformed.” You are Protestant Reformed? The whole church world knows who are Protestant Reformed. You know it also. I am sure that you know that you are not Protestant Reformed. Anyone who sees no reason why the Protestant Reformed Churches and the Christian Reformed Church should lead a separate existence is surely not Protestant Reformed. Such a man is Christian Reformed, as eventually he will also become Christian Reformed. Humanly speaking, I often wonder what the sequence of events would have been in 1951 had the opposition to the Declaration of Principles revealed at that time the real reason for their opposition to that document. And, unless you repent, the Lord will judge between you and us. 

H.V.