Book Reviews

Ready To Give an Answer: A Catechism of Reformed Distinctives, by Herman Hoeksema and Herman Hanko. Grandville Michigan: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1997. 238 pages. $24.95 (hardcover). [Reviewed by Rev. Arie denHartog.]

We commend the Reformed Free Publishing Association for the publication of this book and thank Prof. Herman Hanko for his contribution to this work. The largest part of the book is a reprint of materials found in a long out-of-print book by Rev. Hoeksema, titled The Protestant Reformed Churches in America. This part of the book presents the doctrinal issues of the common grace controversy, which in the Lord’s providence led to the beginning of the Protestant Reformed Churches. It is written in an interesting catechism format of questions and answers.

We believe that it is valuable to have this material available in a new book. It is of value for the members of the Protestant Reformed denomination. It is also of value for those outside of these churches who are interested in reading what we believe is an excellent defense of doctrinal issues that continue to be of great importance for the Reformed churches and the preservation of the truths of God’s Word which should be the basis of these churches.

Reading this material refreshed my appreciation of what a great theologian Rev. Hoeksema was. He was outstanding in his ability to reason carefully and sharply in defense of the truth. Above all, his reasoning was based on extensive, penetrating, and careful exposition of the Word of God. We do not believe that the common grace controversy should be ignored. It is our hope that, after years have gone by, and some of the emotionalism and subjective criticism have cooled down, a more objective evaluation of the position set forth by Rev. Hoekesma and others who loved the truth which he stood for can be made, for the benefit of the cause of the truth and the truly Reformed church. It cannot be denied that Rev. Hoeksema gave his life for the defense of the central and most glorious truth of the gospel, namely the truth of God’s wonderful, sovereign, and particular grace in saving His people in Christ Jesus.

Prof. Hanko follows this same catechism format to detail the doctrinal issues involved in the controversy of 1953 that very seriously affected the Protestant Reformed Churches. Prof. Hanko does an excellent job in showing how this controversy involved basically the same issues of sovereign grace as the history of 1924. Whatever may be said about what took place in the turbulent years of controversy in the Protestant Reformed Churches in the early 1950s, it is clear that at stake were the precious doctrines of sovereign grace. We are not ashamed of these doctrines. I had the great privilege of being a student for my seminary years in the church history classes of Prof. Hanko. I have no doubt that the excellence of Prof. Hanko in teaching New Testament Greek exegesis was equal to his outstanding ability in teaching church history. The greatest virtue and wisdom of his church history instruction was his ability to trace the history of the church of Jesus Christ as it was bound up with the clear, bold, and courageous defense and maintaining of the great truths of what today is called the Reformed faith.

The last part of the book is an appendix. It is a reprint of the “Declaration of Principles” drawn up by the Protestant Reformed Churches in the midst of the 1953 controversy. This declaration was made in connection with missionary policy for the work of home missions being done at the time among immigrants, especially those coming to Canada from the Liberated Churches in Holland. The declaration has often been criticized for being some sort of additional confession appended to the three forms of unity, which are the confessional basis of many continental Reformed churches. The Protestant Reformed Churches were and are criticized for doing something which they had no right to do when they adopted this declaration. May this part of the book also help, after the dust of historical controversy has settled, so that some, hopefully many, will be able better to judge whether the declaration is a new creed or nothing more than a clear and necessary setting forth of the truly Reformed doctrine of the creeds. We believe the latter is definitely the case. The copious recitation of references from the creeds proves this.