A Word About This Special Issue
As you will soon discover when you page through this issue, it is a special one, devoted this time to the subject of our distinctively Reformed publications. In the main, we aim in this issue to acquaint you, or to acquaint you more thoroughly, first, with the publication of our Standard Bearer, and, second, with the publication of our R.F.P.A. books—the two main branches of the work of the R.F.P.A. But when we were planning this issue several months ago, we were mindful of the fact that there are a good many other publications efforts in the circle of our Protestant Reformed Churches. We have in mind particularly the various efforts of the local evangelism committees in many of our churches, committees which in many instances not only distribute appropriate literature but also prepare and publish it. And we decided to ask Prof. Decker to gather material and information in that area and to write about it. He soon discovered that there was an abundance of information—more than enough for one article; and so only the first of his articles on that subject will appear in this issue.
The reason for this special issue is not merely to inform you as to how our various publications come to see the light of day and reach your hands and are read by your eyes. But it is our hope that a better understanding of these things will enhance your appreciation of these publications, your use of them and your support of them. It is not our intention to brag. But there is a tremendous amount of time and effort expanded in order to bring the Standard Bearer to your mail-box twenty-one times per year, as well as to make our attractively published books available to you. And most of that time and effort is strictly volunteer and unremunerated. There is also a large amount of money involved in paying for the production of these publications. We feel that a better understanding of what is involved should serve to induce your continued and increased support. And I am not referring merely to financial support; that, too. But I am thinking first of your support of those involved before the throne of grace, and, secondly, of your support by reading and making faithful and avid use of the literature which we make available.
We hope you enjoy this special issue.
The Reformed Free Publishing Association and the Standard Bearer
Do you know that the Standard Bearer is older than the Protestant Reformed Churches by a few months?
And do you know that the R.F.P.A. is about a half year older than the Standard Bearer?
And do you know that not the Standard Bearer was the very first publication of the R.F.P.A., but a Dutch booklet entitled Langs Zuivere Banan (Along Straight Paths)?
And do you know that the Reformed Free Publishing Association was begun by a group of just fifteen men from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo who constituted themselves a Publishing Committee, collected $425.00 at their first meeting, and decided to underwrite the publishing of the booklet mentioned above?
Such was the beginning of the Reformed Free Publishing Association and of our Standard Bearer.
It was the time of the common grace controversy in the Christian Reformed Church. The columns of De Wachter and The Banner had been closed to the Revs. H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, so that they could not defend their views and reply to those who promoted the common grace theory among the churches. Mind you, this was months before the Synod of 1924 and still more months before the ousting of Danhof and Hoeksema and of the Rev. George M. Ophoff, who, before the end of the year, had cast his lot with the opponents of the common grace theory. And in the Foreword of the booklet mentioned above, the officers of the newly formed R.F.P.A. explain that they organized this new organization to offer the two ministers, Danhof and Hoeksema, “support in their battle for the truth with every honorable means.”
At the same time they announced that the first brochure would soon be followed by a second, because they wanted “to enlighten and inform as fully as possible all who love the truth, love purity of doctrine, and seek the good of the church, concerning the weighty doctrinal points at issue among us.”
In that same foreword they announced their intention to publish in the near future a monthly magazine. This would be “a periodical which would in a simple and understandable manner instruct and assist all those interested in the development of the truths of Holy Scripture according to firm, genuinely Reformed lines, without desire for all kinds of erring sidetracks.”
And so it came to pass that in October of 1924 theStandard Bearer was born. First it appeared once per month, but soon it became a semi-monthly magazine. In those early years, the language was mostly Dutch. The twenty-four—and for a while, thirty-two—pages were filled by just a few men, whose numbers were reduced even further when the Danhofs defected from our movement. But it was that Standard Bearerespecially which played a large part in the origin of our Protestant Reformed Churches. First of all, theStandard Bearer was to no little degree the “straw that broke the camel’s back” as far as the deposition of Danhof, Hoeksema, Ophoff, and their consistories was concerned. When it became plain that these men would not be silenced with respect to the Three Points of Common Grace, but would even publish their convictions abroad, the determination to oust them became final. And, secondly, the Standard Bearerlifted up the standard of the truth throughout the denomination, with the result that many in other places were attracted to the truth of sovereign, particular grace and joined hearts and hand with those who soon were to become the Protestant Reformed Churches.
From the outset the Standard Bearer was faithful to the purpose which the Publishing Committee announced and which I quoted above. To be sure, especially in those early years there was a large amount of attention paid to the common grace controversy; and there was a large part of the magazine devoted to polemics. That was in the nature of the case. Common grace and the Three Points was the issue of the hour. It was thesubject of discussion, not only among the clergy, but among the membership at large. This was the issue which went to the very survival of the purely Reformed faith and a sound world-and-life view. And it was on this matter that instruction and explanation were sorely needed at that time. It was small wonder, therefore, that the Standard Bearer was controversial. (Cf. also what Prof. Hanko writes in this issue on the subject of “The Standard Bearer and Polemics.”) But it is striking, nevertheless, that in those early volumes of our magazine our first leaders were broad in a healthy sense. They certainly saw that the church could not be fed and instructed on mere negatives. They discerned that there was a great need for positive development of the truths of sovereign grace and God’s eternal covenant of grace, that there was need for positive development of the truths of our confessions, for positive and sound instruction in Scripture, and for correct perspectives as to our Reformed world-and-life view. And so you will discover a wealth of instruction in that positive sense already in the early volumes of our magazine. Besides, from the outset the Standard Bearer interested itself in the Reformed scene the world over. Its outlook was never narrowly parochial, limited to the Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed scene. American Presbyterianism, the English scene, ecclesiastical affairs in the Netherlands—all these received attention in our magazine.
Of course, there were changes. English gradually became the prevailing language and finally the only language. More writers joined the staff. Later still, our magazine began to become departmentalized, as it is today. And, as you know, in the 1960s our original editors died and had to be replaced.
But over the years the purpose and the character of our magazine, thanks be to God, have remained the same. Basically, that purpose as stated by the publishing committee in 1924: “a periodical which would in a simple and understandable manner instruct and assist all those interested in the development of the truths of Holy Scripture according to firm, genuinely Reformed lines, without desire for all kinds of erring sidetracks.” True to that purpose, we of the Staff seek to inform, to instruct and guide, to warn and to call to reformation.
The Standard Bearer, however, is also unique in its structure and organization. Permit me to mention a few items.
First in importance is the fact that it is published by the Reformed FREE Publishing Association. People have often asked me about the meaning of that “Free.” Historically, it refers to the fact that our magazine is completely free from any ecclesiastical control. I know, frequently the Standard Bearer is referred to as the Protestant Reformed paper, and even as the magazine of the Protestant Reformed Churches. This is understandable, in the light of the fact that it has always been closely associated with our Protestant Reformed cause; and it will be, too, as long as both theStandard Bearer and the Protestant Reformed Churches remain devoted to the Reformed faith. Nevertheless, legally and formally the Standard Beareris not the paper of the Protestant Reformed Churches. No Protestant Reformed consistory, classis, synod, or synodical board or committee has any say-so over theStandard Bearer. A church paper must serve an ecclesiastical structure, and it must bow to the demands of the church which owns and operates it. That was what led to the stifling of discussion and the attempted muzzling of Hoeksema and Danhof in 1924. The Standard Bearer, however, bows to no church authority.
Still more. The Standard Bearer is unique, too, in that it is completely free from any domination by its supporting organization; the Reformed Free Publishing Association, or its Board. True, we could not publish without the R.F.P.A.: and if they decided not to publish the Standard Bearer, that would be the end of it. But as far as actual operations are concerned, the Staff and the Board operate in complete independence. The Staff controls and decides upon the contents of the Standard Bearer and is responsible to take care that there is a magazine to publish. The Board controls and decides upon everything connected with publication and distribution and is responsible to see that the magazine gets published.
Still more. Every department editor is free. Once per year the Staff meets, makes its decisions concerning the contents, and appoints staff members. But from that point on, each department editor is free to write for his department. That means, of course, too, that each editor is also responsible individually for what he writes. If, for example, he writes heresy, he himself must answer for that heresy, not the editor-in-chief or the staff as a whole.
Finally, let me also point out that the Standard Beareris free in another sense, though that has nothing to do with the name R.F.P.A. I refer to the fact that the Standard Bearer is published strictly through volunteer labor. The hours and hours of labor by the Staff are free. And let me assure you that hundreds and thousands of hours have been devoted by many of our men over the years to insure that your magazine reaches you twenty-one times per year. Do you know—to speak of quantity alone—that it requires between 50 and 60 pages of typewritten copy for every issue? And there have been hundreds of hours of volunteer labor by Board members, by my editorial assistant, Mr. D. Doezema, and by our faithful Business Manager, Mr. Henry Vander Wal.
A question: do you value and faithfully read ourStandard Bearer?