It is not the purpose of this department to give a review of books recently published. We can leave this safely in the hands of the editor of the Standard Bearer. But since the books reviews we refer to are those relative to an Exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism, written by his own hand, we feel we know him well enough to say he would not blow his own horn. So we take this opportunity to call attention to what others are saying about Rev. H. Hoeksema’s most recent publications.
The editor of Blue Banner Faith and Life, the Rev. J.G. Vos, writes the following regarding Baptized Into Christ in Vol. 7, No. 2, page 105 of his periodical: “The present volume is the sixth in a series on the Heidelberg Catechism by a well-known minister and theological leader of the Protestant Reformed Church. It discusses the means of grace, preaching, regeneration, the idea of the sacraments, baptism, the covenant relation between God and man, the ground of infant baptism. For the most part of its contents, the book follows the recognized highway of the Reformed Faith. The teaching is sound, clear and helpful.” He then quotes from the chapter on Preaching as a Means of Grace (p. 29) to give an example of what he means by the last statement. The review continues: “A considerable portion of the book is devoted to a discussion of different views of the covenant relation between God and man. The author refers to the Westminster Confession of Faith 7. 1-3 (evidently an error for 7. 1-3) and says: ‘Here we meet with the idea of the covenant as … a means to an end.’—an idea which the author rejects, among other reasons because Scripture speaks of it as an ‘everlasting’ covenant.” He then quotes Hoeksema: ‘A means is not eternal: when the thing to be effected by it has been attained, the means has served its purpose. An everlasting covenant, therefore, is not a way or a means, but is the destination, the end itself.’ (pp. 142-3). Rev. Vos continues: “The text cited is Jer. 32:40 where the word for ‘everlasting’ is the Hebrew OLAM, a word translated 20 times in the King James Version as ‘perpetual’, which need not have the strict meaning of absolute eternity. Thus in Gen. 9:16 the covenant made ‘between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth’ after the Flood is called ‘the everlasting (OLAM) covenant’, yet it can hardly be regarded as eternal in the strict sense; compare Gen. 8:22, ‘while the earth remaineth’.” Referring to page 140 of the book, the Rev. Vos deems Hoeksema’s remark “a rash assertion” when he “rejects as ‘pure fiction’ the idea that God promised Adam eternal life as the reward for obedience to the command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” He asserts “Surely the promise of eternal life as the reward for obedience in the covenant of works was implied by the presence of the tree of life in the garden of Eden.” The reviewer ‘ likes the interpretation of his father, the late Geerhardus Vos, better, as he quotes from his Biblical Theology p. 38. He closes his review with the remark: “It is clear that though much of the teaching of this book is acceptable, it needs to be read with some discrimination.”
Interesting it was to read another review of this same book in the latest issue of Torch and Trumpet (Vol. 2 No. 6) by the hand of the Rev. Frederick W. Van Houten. This reviewer offers his comment and criticism in a chapter by chapter review. Regarding chapter 2, the Rev. Van Houten says: “Preaching as a Means of Grace—impressed us as one of the best in the book. We heartily recommend its reading to every thinking Christian. The argument is clear, the thesis worthy of careful consideration—even if one may not agree with its conclusion.” A little further on the reviewer continues “with unkindly severity the writer denounces the revival type of meeting characteristic of current Fundamentalist groups- No doubt much of this type of activity is justifiably criticized, but nevertheless the author has missed an excellent opportunity to bind upon the heart of the church the urgency of the Great Commission. Such a call would have given fine balance to this otherwise most excellent chapter.” Commenting on the references which the author expounds to establish the immediacy of regeneration the reviewer continues: “Very little is said, however, concerning those who are externally called, that is, who come under the hearing of the gospel. We believe that this omission was not intentional, but this reviewer wishes that an explanation of Romans 10:14, 15 and especially verse 17 … would have been included.” At this point we noticed an asterisk referring to a footnote by the Editorial Committee which reads as follows: “In fairness to the Rev. Mr. Hoeksema it ought to be stated that these passages are treated in his collection of sermons on Romans 9-11, privately published some years ago.” Perhaps the author of this footnote would be so kind as to let the Rev. Van Houten and others of his colleagues read that book of sermons. It would be most enlightening to them. Respecting Hoeksema’s conception of the covenant, the reviewer remarks: it “is rigidly one-sided, with very little emphasis on the responsibility of the second ‘part’ as described in the formula for baptism as used in the Christian Reformed Churches.” And after making a few comments on the chapters dealing with Baptism and Infant Baptism in which the reviewer contends that in respect to the latter (Infant Baptism) the author’s “argument would have been more complete, we feel, had the writer explicated the passage which calls covenant children ‘holy’ children (I Cor. 7:14)”, the Rev. Van Houten concludes with the following paragraph: “The reviewer recommends this book highly. This does not mean, of course, that he agrees with the author at every point, as we have indicated above. However, the sound and clear emphasis upon the sovereignty of God and the preciousness of Reformed truth is needed today! It is our prayer that the author may be allowed to complete this series of thorough expositions of the Heidelberg Catechism.”
Most interesting of all is the review appearing in the same issue of Torch and Trumpet by the hand of the Rev. Leonard Greenway on the latest of Rev. Hoeksema’s books, entitled: Eating and Drinking Christ.
Rev. Greenway remarks: “In this exposition of the Catechism (Lord’s Day 28-31) the author lives up to his enviable reputation for solid, substantial treatment of Scripture truth. I have yet to read something from his pen that might be described as ‘light’ or superficial. He is an exegete of unusual ability, a theologian par excellence, and certainly a lover of the Reformed Faith.”
“There have been in the past unfortunate developments in connection with certain emphases in his preaching and teaching which led to situations where animosities prevailed in place of brotherly discussion. Had the Rev. Herman Hoeksema been willing to remain in the Christian Reformed Church, where his theological scholarliness is still admired by many, and to submit his views to a more prolonged discussion and examination, it is quite possible that the Protestant Reformed Church would never have come into existence, and the Christian Reformed Church would be the stronger for having him and his fine people in her constituency. It is not unreasonable to cherish the hope that a reunion may be some day effected.”
We could not escape the question when we read this last paragraph: What does this have to do with the review of Hoeksema’s book? It seemed to us that the reviewer forgot for a moment his task, and became so overwhelmed with the thought of the evil treatment the author received by the hands of his Church leaders that he could wish they would sincerely repent and pray for the return into their fold of “him and his fine people.” Was not the reviewer not a little conscience smitten when he penned these words? And will not his colleagues be a little aggravated by the boldness he evinced when he also accuses them of animosities they allowed to prevail in place of brotherly discussion? One who is a little acquainted with the history asks himself a lot of questions when he reads a paragraph like this.
But brother Green way appears not to be too well acquainted with the history. Does he not know that Hoeksema and others were allowed no brotherly discussion? Does he not know that Hoeksema was not even consulted by the committee of pre-advice that had his case, nor by the Synod that finally followed their advice? Does he not know that only once was Hoeksema allowed to speak in his defense, and that after he had pleaded for just one opportunity? Does he not know that Hoeksema appealed to the Synod of 1926 and that that Synod plainly ignored him? Has brother Greenway forgotten the Pantlind Conference where Hoeksema challenged his fellow ministers to continue brotherly discussion and that in the presence of the late Dr. Schilder who came to this country to seek for such a reunion? Does not Rev. Greenway know that as far as Hoeksema is concerned, it was not a question of being willing or unwilling to abide in the Chr. Ref. Churches, but that he was ruthlessly cast out?, Does the Rev. Greenway not know that under no considerations could the Rev. Hoeksema and “his fine people” have remained in the Christian Reformed Churches as long as the unscriptural and confessional Three Points of Common Grace were maintained? And does he not know that in view of the spiritual condition of the Church in 1924 the split was unavoidable because it was a reformation? And finally, does not brother Greenway have a wrong understanding of reformations to “cherish the hope that a reunion” by our returning to the Christian Reformed Churches “may someday be effected”? Yes, we too hope for a reunion, but it must be one in which Rev. Greenway and his people will come to us in sorrow and repentance and walk with us in the way of truth. In our opinion he must do more than deplore the past conduct of his Churches, he should protest against it until his Churches repent, or cast him out also as they did the author of the book he was reviewing, whom he describes as “an exegete of unusual ability … a lover of the Reformed Faith”.
Besides the complimentary aspects of his review, the Rev. Greenway has especially two criticisms to offer. He notes that Rev. Hoeksema’s presentation of the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation is “a bit out-of-date”, since according to the information the reviewer has “the term ‘consubstantiation’ … is no longer in vogue”. And, “more emphasis is being placed” in the Lutheran Church “on spiritual eating.” A more serious criticism, however, the Rev. Greenway gives to Hoeksema’s discussion of the question: What is the promise of the gospel? Rev. Greenway, it appears, is not yet ready to accept Hoeksema’s presentation of an ‘unconditional’ promise. Hoeksema “from his rigid standpoint” has created for the reviewer a problem, and that problem appears to be this: What to do with man’s responsibility! The same problem which his colleague the Rev. Van Houten has. It seems to us that their ‘problem’ will dissolve as soon as they look at the truth without the colored glasses of the First Point of the Synod of 1924.
We also have a problem. Briefly it is this: What would the editor of the Banner say if he received some book reviews like the two appearing in Torch and Trumpet to be published in the Banner?