Under this apparently learned title Concordia, through the Rev. Kok, again strikes a very discordant note, which I cannot and may not pass without comment.
In the first place, I must express it as my opinion that the article violates the rules of ethics, or, if you please, of Christian love.
In other words, it is dishonest.
For this I offer the following reasons.
1. The article contains a quotation from the Rev. Ophoff without giving the reference. We surmised that it was purported to be a quotation from an article in The Standard Bearer by the above mentioned brother, but we had no means of knowing it except by searching all the Standard Bearers from the beginning, simply because Concordia did not supply us with any reference. We must, however, find it in order to be able to check whether the quotation was correctly given, and that, too, in its context. It was the Rev. Vos that finally, after searching deep into the night, found that it was, indeed, a quotation from an article in The Standard Bearer written about twenty-one years ago. The Rev. Kok, I am glad to say, felt himself that it was “unethical” to withhold the name of the author, but he did not discern the reason why it was so. Let me enlighten him. The reason is that, by withholding the reference, the original author of the quotation could not check its correctness.
2. The quotation misrepresents the meaning of the Rev. Ophoff. The Rev. Kok makes the quotation to prove that the Rev. Ophoff “emphasized that there are conditions in the Covenant of Grace over against those that erroneously maintained that Grace was unconditional.” But the Rev. Ophoff never said or intimated anything of the kind. The latter did not speak of conditions at all but wrote: “that the kind of phrase the Lord availed Himself of in formulating those duties was often the CONDITIONAL sentence.” Thus the Rev. Kok quotes. But even this the Rev. Ophoff never wrote. He did not write “CONDITIONAL” in capital letters, as the Rev. Kok makes him do. Nor did the Rev. Ophoff mean to write it this way. What he, evidently, meant to write was that the Lord availed Himself of “conditional SENTENCES”. This is evident from the entire article of the Rev. Ophoff. And to emphasize a word in a quotation, without even indicating that the emphasis is not by the original author of the quotation but by him that quotes it, is dishonest and ethically incorrect.
But it is much worse.
The Rev. Kok quotes Ophoff as follows:
“Also to the Covenant of Grace God has attached the following conditional clauses” . . .
I challenge the Rev. Kok to point out where, in the entire article of the Rev. Ophoff, this quotation can be found. It is nowhere. The Rev. Kok simply fabricates words, boldly, and very dishonestly puts them in quotation marks, and thus ascribes them to the Rev. Ophoff. This I call corrupt.
But there is more.
If the quotation was given correctly it would have been clear to the reader that, in it, the Rev. Ophoff does not present his own view, but criticizes Dr. De Haan. I here offer the entire quotation literally and in its uncorrupted form.
“Dr De Haan then discovers in Scripture covenants of works: the Adamic covenant and the covenant of Sinai. In distinction from the covenant of grace, these covenants, according to De Haan, repose upon the condition that man keeps its requirements.
“What is De Haan’s proof that the Lord instituted with His people of old a covenant of this kind? And the answer is ready: the command with which this covenant was interwoven, to wit, the command to obey and to keep covenant fidelity; further, such conditional clauses as: ‘If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to keep his covenant . . .” ‘If thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . . ‘If ye will obey my voice indeed’.”
Is it not clear to every reader, and was it not clear to the Rev. Kok, that the above are not the words of the Rev. Ophoff but that the latter here presents and criticizes the view of Dr. De Haan? How, then, has the Rev. Kok the audacity to introduce this quotation by the sentence: “Also to the Covenant of Grace God has attached the following conditional clauses”, words which the Rev. Ophoff never wrote at all, and by which the Rev. Kok, moreover, put the whole paragraph in the pen of the Rev. Ophoff by leaving out the name of Dr. De Haan?
If the cause of “conditions” must be supported by such tactics, it stands condemned on the very face of it.
3. Even if the article of the Rev. Ophoff made mention of conditions in the Covenant (which it does not, and certainly not in the sense in which the Rev. Kok uses the term, and by which he, evidently, means to throw open the doors of our churches to the liberated theology), fact is that the Rev. Ophoff openly and publicly repudiated all that he ever wrote in this vein. Nevertheless, Kok writes that he expresses his “wholehearted agreement” with the article by the Rev. Ophoff, as corrupted, of course, by the Rev. Kok. This also is contrary to Christian love.
Any writer certainly has the right to repudiate his former publications, and when he does so openly it is ethically unsound to still quote him and declare agreement with sentiments with which he himself does no longer agree.
For the rest, I may refer the reader to the article from which the Rev. Kok so dishonestly quotes. It is found in the Standard Bearer, Vol. VII, p. 369 ff.
I assure the reader that in that article the Rev. Ophoff teaches quite the opposite from a “conditional covenant”.
In the second place, I certainly think it very strange that a Reformed man can be so enthusiastic about “conditions”, a term which, to say the least, has an Arminian smell, which, in our Reformed Confessions is always put into the mouth of the Arminians, and which, for that very reason, the best Reformed theologians avoided. But the Rev. Kok, evidently, cannot live or teach or preach without using that evilly smelling term.
Finally, it seems to me that it is high time that the Rev. Kok tells the churches plainly what he means, and that he give us a clear cut definition of the term condition.