Rev. H. Hoeksema

Dear Editor:

In reading the Schedule for 1943 and 1944: I felt that there would be much valuable reading material for the Standard Bearer reader.

This is especially true when we are to have debates on such vital subjects as mentioned. Others could be added such as: Have Elders the right to serve in office without a general knowledge of the Three Forms of Unity, in accordance with God’s Word; as also a fair to good knowledge of the church order.

I am excluding the Ministers here. To me it is self-evident that they have this knowledge, since they received this at school.

I sometimes fear that our elders rely altogether too much on the pastor. This to my mind is a grievous error. The office of elder is very particular. It is the office of the Holy Spirit in the Church. And I believe that each and every elder is responsible to God for what he does and says, as he fills that holy office.

But all are not agreed with me on that point. As I heard a brother relate some time ago: “The church order is becoming too much a law of the Persians and the Medes.” And there are more that view matters in this same way. Thus a good ground for not knowing the church order.

Thus: Is it essential; or none essential; to know, and strictly maintain the church order; and why?

However, I have a remark which I feel constrained to make. I love a good debate. Especially when the question is vital. But at the end of this schedule you as Editor state: “That the views are not necessarily that of the debaters; and that each side will marshal all the arguments to prove his point.”

Now I cannot see debate in this light. For how can anyone marshal material which he himself disbelieves to be the truth? Can he take part of the LIE? How could I honestly debate on the question that the CHR. REF. CHURCH is right; and that we are wrong when I am convinced that the Common Grace Error touches the honor and glory of my God? Would I not become a deceiver, and a liar? May we play with the untruth; to establish the truth? I question this very seriously. In doing so (defending the Chr. Ref. Church) would I not be killing myself, and acting what I am not if I took the negative part of such a debate?

Possibly you can enlighten me how these debates can be carried on differently than I surmise. Awaiting your answer, I remain,

Yours in Christ,

H.A. Van Putten


In answer to the objection of Mr. Van Putten, the following may suffice:

  1. Such debates as the brother likes are not formal debates that are assigned to the debating parties, but actual controversies, in which each of the debating parties is convinced of the truth of his own position. In debates that are assigned the parties may or may not be convinced of the truth of the position they take in the debate. And since the debates announced in the Standard Bearer are assigned to the parties by undersigned, it was but fair to me to state that the views defended by them are not necessarily theirs.
  2. I believe that such debates are possible if both the affirmative and the negative mean to serve the ultimate purpose to bring out the truth of the matter one cannot, of course, conscientiously serve the lie, even in a debate. But one can certainly purpose to marshal all the arguments that are and may be brought up in support of a wrong view in order to give the opponent an opportunity to refute them, and thus to edify the readers and sharpen their wits.
  3. The brother must remember that the subjects assigned to the debaters must be considered debatable. Mr. Van Putten has in mind the questions that are not debatable among us, so that the one party of the debate must take the side of what is absolutely considered to be the LIE, and would have to make an attack upon the honor and glory of God to defend his position. The brother will admit that this is not the case with the subjects I assigned to the different parties. They are debatable among us.