Questioner: Rev. H. C. Hoeksema
Answers by: Rev. H. Hoeksema
Question: Acts 19:39 speaks of “it shall be determined by a lawful assembly.” Can an unannounced consistory meeting, which suspended Rev. De Wolf, stand the acid test of this passage?
Answer: Certainly. Consistory meetings do not always have to be announced. I should say not. All consistory meetings are not announced. There are plenty consistory meetings that are not announced. And if it’s necessary that a meeting must be held, and that, for instance, as in this case, a meeting must be held immediately, that meeting does not have to be announced to the congregation. All consistory meetings do not have to be announced.
Question: Is it correct that a minority of 10 elders depose the majority of 11 elders? That same principle being applied, is it not also true that 2 elders could depose 19 elders?
Answer: Of course they can. Sure. One elder can depose 20 elders. How otherwise could you ever depose a consistory that’s heretical? Certainly, one elder can depose 20 elders, or 24 elders, or 30 elders, with the help of the classis. But they do it. They do it. Certainly do. Suppose that a whole consistory becomes corrupt, the whole consistory without any exception becomes corrupt, who must then depose it? Who must depose a consistory that is entirely corrupt? What’s your answer? I say: the congregation. The congregation can depose the consistory. The congregation called the consistory. And the congregation can depose it, and can with the help of the Classis call a new consistory. That’s certainly church order. That was always the church order which the Rev. van Lonkhuizen in former years defended. He did not want any hierarchy. But that’s certainly true. The congregation is called by the consistory,—I mean the consistory is called by the congregation, installed by the congregation; and the consistory can be deposed by the congregation. And if there’s only one elder in the whole consistory, that elder can certainly depose the consistory. He must have help, of course, but he does it. Certainly can.
Question: Would you say that any person who doesn’t agree with you in ,this matter, but takes the side of Rev. De Wolf, is not Prot. Ref.?
Answer: I’ve already answered that question, I think. If you will formulate that question again, as it should be: if any person is not agreed with the Prot. Ref. truth, expressed in the Three Forms of Unity, as interpreted in the Prot. Ref. church, then he is not Protestant Reformed. I do not count. You do not have to agree with me. If you think I’m wrong, protest. But don’t talk.
Question: If you people were convinced that Rev. De Wolf and his supporting elders were in the wrong, why did you separate instead of appealing to Classis?
Answer: I did not separate. They separated. We deposed them. I did not separate. We appeal to Classis? The Classis decided ‘to advise us to suspend and depose. That was already decided. You think we must appeal to Classis again? We must not appeal to Classis. We simply carried out the decision of Classis, the advice of Classis. That’s all. Nothing more. No, they had to appeal to Classis, not we. But they didn’t. They separated themselves. We didn’t.
Question: Is the letter signed by Rev. De Wolf and Mr. S. De Young, of which we understand all our consistory members received a copy factually the truth, or are there lies in that letter?
Answer: I don’t know what you mean by that letter. I didn’t receive a letter like that. I don’t know what letter you refer to. O, I think I do in a way. I don’t have the letter with me, otherwise I would read it. But I don’t have it. But I think there is one statement in that letter which I recall. I think that’s the letter you refer to. That letter states I think, that in the June 1st meeting, where the decision was made to suspend De Wolf and depose the consistory unless they apologized, that decision was taken under duress. That’s not true. There was no duress. I explained to you all that happened at that consistory meeting. Nothing more. I explained to you the whole thing. Duress? Besides, the elders that were present, the opposing elders that were present certainly did not show any duress. They did not show any strain. They simply stayed where they were. They were not affected. So I think that’s a story. No duress. Except, of course, we had the advice of the Classis. No more. We could not have influence, exert any duress, any stress upon any of the other consistory members. We didn’t either.
Question: Why was this mass meeting necessary, and why not wait with any mass meetings here out West till the. churches have spoken in their broader gatherings?
Answer: I already have answered that I think. This mass meeting was not called by me. I was asked to speak here. And the reason is also plain. We cannot, we cannot have a thing like this in our churches without doing harm to our Prot. Ref. cause. Unless the people are informed . . . . they must be informed . . . And they are informed here, without any question. They have a right to know. Has nothing to do with the broader gatherings. The classis has spoken already. The only meeting that has to speak yet is synod. In the meantime, we have a right to tell you exactly what’s happening. And you have a right to know.
Question: Is it not premature, and entirely out of order, if a local consistory at this stage expresses itself officially on the question as to which is the legal consistory of Fuller Avenue?
Answer: Of course not. That stands to reason. That’s not only not premature, but that’s necessary. How can you work otherwise? If there is no legal consistory at all, there’s no congregation. Now, for the present the others claim too that they’re a legal consistory, but they know better. I assure you that they know that they aren’t. And I assure you, at any rate, that the classis will determine that they are not. The classis has spoken. But you cannot do anything else. What else can you do? You cannot wait to determine what’s the legal consistory. We decide that for ourselves.
Question: We understand you claim that the Classis will justify your action of suspension and deposition. How do you know that the classis will not be satisfied with the apology which Rev. De Wolf tendered?
Answer: Because the Classis already has spoken. The Classis said as to the statements that they are literally heretical, regardless of how the Rev. De Wolf explains them. On that basis he was deposed or suspended.
Question: Doesn’t suspension and deposition principally imply that you excommunicate these men from the church of Christ in case they do not confess what you claim to be their sin?
Answer: I’ve answered that already.
Question: What do you think? Should the local consistories take an official stand at this time, and express themselves on the question as to what they consider to be the legal consistory of First Church in Grand Rapids?
Answer: That’s a nice question. That may very well become necessary. Suppose that you stand before the question to allow the Rev. De Wolf to your pulpit? Then you have to take a stand. You have to take a stand. At least, you will have to take a stand, whether you judge right away or not, you will have to take a stand that until Classis has decided, you cannot allow him on the pulpit. You can do the same thing with me, if you want to. That stands to reason. Of course, I’m not suspended, and I’m not deposed. He was according to the decision of Classis. That’s the difference. But in thus far the Classis will have to take a stand, not only in regard to Rev. De Wolf, but also in regard to other ministers in our churches that have already separated themselves from us. You have to know that, and you have to take a stand. That’s all.
Question: How could Classis East advise the entire course of action which the consistory was to follow in said case? De Wolf and his men claim in their letter that the course of action had not been requested by the consistory neither by the Protestants. Is that correct?
Answer: It’s not correct. We certainly asked advice in regard to the whole business. Besides, not only is that true. But the Classis certainly can give advice. The Classis didn’t decide anything for the consistory. The Classis advised. And since the matter was important, the Classis had to advise. But I think if you read the whole business, you will find that nevertheless that was true: the Classis had to decide not only in regard to the doctrine, but also in regard to the action.
Question: Why was not the apology of De Wolf received by the Consistory? Who determines the form of a man’s apology?
Answer: I’ve already answered that, I think.
Question: What is the difference between statement of De Wolf and Canons II, 5? Answer: That’s a nice question. Canons II, 5 states: The promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth in Christ shall be saved, which, with the command to repent—and that gospel must be preached with the command to repent and believe: to all to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel. I think that is almost literally the Canons. Canons II, 5, therefore, teach that the promise of the gospel is for the believers. The promise of the gospel is that whosoever believeth shall have eternal life, shall be saved. The statement of the Rev. De Wolf was: “God promises to everyone of you that if you believe you shall be saved.” The statement of Canons II, 5 is the particular promise to the believers, that is, the elect. The statement of the Rev. De Wolf is the general promise to all on condition of faith. That’s the difference.
(To be continued)