Commemorating the Life and Work of Herman Hoeksema

Mr. VanUffelen is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan and retired secretary of the RFPA.

One hundred years ago this month, on September 16, 1915, Herman Hoeksema was ordained into the gospel ministry at Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. Fifty years later—and fifty years ago this month, on September 2, 1965, the Lord took him to glory after an astonishingly productive life as an eloquent preacher, profound theologian, magnetic teacher, prolific author, and loving family man. Throughout those fifty years, God used Herman Hoeksema as the principal founder of the Protestant Reformed Churches and as a leader of those churches for their first forty years. It should also be noted that our association, the Reformed Free Publishing Association, and its Standard Bearer magazine originated ninety-one years ago in order to give him a voice. So, in the year of our Lord 2015, on the occasion of the twin September anniversaries of Herman Hoeksema’s ordination and glorification, the RFPA gives thanks to God as it commemorates the life and work of this beloved saint.

In order to celebrate the life and work of Herman Hoeksema this fiscal year, the RFPA has been busy with two important book projects. The first project, Just Dad: Stories of Herman Hoeksema by Lois E. Kregel, is an intimate biography as only a member of Hoeksema’s family could tell it. The blurb on the back cover says it all: Many people are familiar with the public persona of Herman Hoeksema. As one of the leading theologians of the twentieth century, a seminary professor, the pastor of a large congregation, and a prolific writer, he was well-known in ecclesiastical circles, as well as in the world in general. But to his family he was “just Dad.” This anecdotal biography written by his youngest child records many stories about him, some perhaps familiar but others never before told.

Complete with an engaging story, family pictures, and personal letters, this little book has been enthusiastically received by both old and young and by many around the globe. One Protestant Reformed reader states, “It is good for us to see that [Hoeksema] was a husband and father—a normal and fallible man, doing the work of the Lord placed before him.” A reader from New Jersey writes, “I am halfway through and enjoying it so.” Another from Wisconsin exclaims, “Delightful! Thank you, Mrs. Kregel.” The RFPA thanks Mrs. Kregel too, for her invaluable work on this beautiful, timely reminiscence.

The second book project highlighting this month’s anniversaries is a gorgeous update of Herman Hoeksema’s magnificent, ten-volume Triple Knowledge series—his most exhaustive literary work and the most extensive commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism in English. While Just Dad gives us a unique glimpse into Hoeksema’s life, the Triple Knowledge is a testament to his greatest work—that of preaching. Hoeksema loved the Heidelberger; and this series is the fruit of decades of his preaching the fifty-two Lord’s Days and echoing their warm, personal style. After many years of work, the RFPA is honored to finally present this comprehensive masterpiece as it was originally published beginning in 1943 by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Putting this series back from three volumes [its previous RFPA form] into ten, beginning with volume 1, In the Midst of Death, and ending with volume 10, The Perfect Prayer, the way Hoeksema originally organized the series, brings us closer to the Catechism’s three themes of man’s sin and misery, deliverance through Jesus Christ, and thankfulness to God.

In addition to Just Dad and the Triple Knowledge series, the RFPA has published three other books this fiscal year as well, including a second edition of Homer C. Hoeksema’s 1966 book In the Beginning God, a defense of the doctrine of Scripture over against evolutionism; Herman Hanko’s Faith Made Perfect, a fresh and penetrating commentary on the book of James; and Connie L. Meyer’s Gottschalk: Servant of God, A Story of Courage, Faith, and Love for the Truth, an exciting, illustrated young adult biography illuminating the life of a medieval saint who sacrificed everything for the truths of sovereign grace. We thank the returning authors, Prof. Herman Hanko and Mrs. Connie Meyer, for their tireless efforts and their wonderful work!

With the release of Gottschalk: Servant of God as a pilot project, the RFPA takes another step into the uncharted territory of literature for children and youth. Significantly, this book marks our first book targeting a younger audience since Gertrude Hoeksema’s 1983 Bible storybook Come, Ye Children. The RFPA book committee and the office staff continue to investigate the possibility of organizing a children’s book division. In our winter RFPA Update, we asked for distinctively Reformed authors and illustrators to step forward with ideas. The response was encouraging and overwhelming, including art samples as well as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry selections. Clearly, there are many gifted artists eager to use their talents to foster among children a love for the truth. But do we have a reading constituency eager for children’s literature? As we continue to investigate the opportunities and challenges of publishing literature for Reformed young people, it is our hope that the reception of Gottschalk will give us clearer direction. We covet your feedback.

In the year ahead, the RFPA is pleased to announce that its Book Club members can expect to receive four new titles, including The Rock Whence We Are Hewn, a compilation of documents surrounding the early history of the Protestant Reformed Churches; Christianizing the World, David J. Engelsma’s defense of the Reformed faith against Abraham Kuyper’s common grace theory as it continues to develop in churches and Christian colleges today; Dr. B. Wielinga’s commentary on the Reformed churches’ “Baptism Form,” an edifying nineteenth-century work recently translated from the Dutch and made available to English readers for the first time; and Less than the Least, the updated memoirs of charter member and longtime pastor of the PRC, Cornelius Hanko (1907—2005). This autobiographical tour of Protestant Reformed history has been meticulously edited by his granddaughter, Karen VanBaren, and will be generously sprinkled with maps, pictures, historical documents, and helpful appendices.

In addition to the publishing of books, the RFPA also publishes the Standard Bearer, North America’s oldest continuously published subscriber-based Reformed magazine. The Board continues to work with the Editorial Staff to produce a magazine that is, according to our Constitution, “a witness to the truth contained in the Word of God and expressed in the Three Forms of Unity and to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant thereto.” One reader recently wrote, “I am deeply grateful for the carefully done, studied writings in your publication.” Another proclaims, “I thank God for your teachable hearts and for giving you a desire to be entrenched in his Word.” The RFPA thanks the SB editors, Prof. Russell Dykstra, Prof. Barrett Gritters, and Rev. Kenneth Koole; the managing editor, Mr. Charles Terpstra; and the entire Editorial Staff for their continued labors on behalf of our magazine. We give thanks to God that the SB continues to sound the trumpet blast of the truth, as it has since the days of the magazine’s first editor, Herman Hoeksema.

Although our Standard Bearer subscribers are down from last year’s 2,211 to 2,187 and our Book Club members are down from last year’s 1,172 members to 1,138, we remain confident that God will continue to work in the hearts of His people a deep love for Reformed literature. There are indeed many positive signs. In addition to the glowing reviews our association continues to receive in response to its books and magazine, the RFPA website continues to be a harbinger of good news and one of our most important tools. The site can be used to order books and the SB, to download ebooks, to pay invoices, to listen to historic sermons, and to access the theological wealth contained in the SB archives. Another popular website feature is the RFPA blog, hosted by Rev. Clayton Spronk, which has generated a great deal of interest and additional website traffic. In the last year alone, our website has had over 107,000 visits, and 73% of these were first-time visitors from fifty-five different countries.

In the year gone by, we have distributed our Reformed literature to many of these countries, including places as far removed as Ireland, Korea, and the Philippines. In Northern Ireland, Covenant Protestant Reformed Church continues to order our books in bulk quantities to share with its contacts in the British Isles and beyond. In South Korea, after approving a request to translate Come, Ye Children into the Korean language four years ago, we sold 443 copies this past year and 521 the year before that. In the Philippines, the Protestant Reformed churches there sold 403 RFPA books this past year, including 270 copies of The Sixteenth Century Reformation of the Church and The Reformed Faith of John Calvin at a Reformation conference featuring RFPA author Prof. David J. Engelsma as speaker. Thanks be to God, the rich theological legacy of Herman Hoeksema is still finding an audience around the world fifty years after his death.

On another note, the RFPA building in Jenison, Michigan continues to meet our growing needs. Thanks to improvements paid for by the Snyder estate, a lighted sign and beautiful landscaping now complement the facility, which serves as our headquarters and includes office space, a bookstore, and a warehouse. It is here that our indispensable office staff, consisting of Evelyn Langerak, Tim Pipe, Paula Kamps, and Rachel Maatman conduct their work. We express heartfelt thanks to them for their diligence and sacrifice on behalf of the association, for without them, the RFPA could not successfully conduct its business. The attached warehouse, measuring 48 feet square and 20 feet from floor to ceiling, contains 95 titles and a total of 62,520 volumes of precious Reformed literature with a combined value of approximately $340,000. In the mezzanine above the warehouse, Standard Bearer issues dating back to 1924 are stored, including complete sets, loose issues, and bound volumes for each of the ninety-one years of publication. Although this inventory has a value of $18,000, it is, in fact, priceless.

Meeting monthly at the RFPA headquarters, the Board’s standing committees, the Book and Standard Bearer Committee, the Finance and Operations Committee, and the Membership and Marketing Committee, have labored long and hard to make our publishing house run smoothly this year. As we look to the future, the Board is pleased to inform the association that it has organized a Long Range Planning Committee to review our current plans and to develop new ones. This committee has recently met with a professional consultant and is currently generating some exciting operational and budgeting strategies that we hope to implement in the coming years.

Members and friends of the RFPA, on this one hundredth anniversary of Herman Hoeksema’s ordination and entrance into the gospel ministry and on this fiftieth anniversary of his death and entrance into his eternal reward, the RFPA looks back and gives thanks to God for graciously preserving the Protestant Reformed Churches, the Reformed Free Publishing Association, and the precious truths of sovereign grace. It is our prayer that by God’s grace, in His strength, and for His glory, the RFPA will continue to publish, promote, and distribute the distinctive truths of the Reformed faith, as we have since the origin of this association—since the days of Herman Hoeksema.