Questioner: Rev. H.C. Hoeksema
Answers by: Rev. H. Hoeksema
Question: You state in one of your letters to the members of First Church: “Be not deceived by those who say that the difference between those that are opposed and us is a mere matter of words. It is a matter of the whole Prot. Ref. truth. The Prot. Ref. truth is that the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect alone. The error which they preach and support is that the promise is general and conditional. Prot. Ref. truth is that God translates us into His kingdom unconditionally. The error they preach and sustain is that our act of conversion is a condition for entering into the kingdom of God.” Rev. De Wolf states in his letter to the consistory members of the Prot. Ref. Churches he has never taught that God promises salvation to all men, and that it depends on man’s own will whether or not he will be saved. Neither does he teach that natural man must convert himself while he is in the power of darkness, outside of the kingdom of God. He states: “This is contrary to anything that I have ever preached.” My question is: how do you harmonize the two conflicting statements of these two letters, and which one is true?
Answer: I can answer that very briefly. If the Rev. De Wolf actually had not preached, had not meant to preach, had not intended to preach what he nevertheless said in those two sermons, he could have easily retracted it, and apologized. He didn’t. He still maintains the statement that God promises to everyone salvation if you believe. He still maintains that our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of God. He never retracted. He never apologized,—which would have been very easy. He didn’t. That’s his own fault. He preaches, . . . he preached what was in those two statements of April 15, 1951 and September 21, ,1952.
Question: When in 1922 Prof. Jansen was deposed, was he not present because no one informed him of said meeting, or did he refuse to come?
Answer: He was called to come and defend himself. He refused to defend himself. But he was not again officially notified of his deposition. That was the question. Certainly, Prof. Jansen was called again and again. In June 22 the elders were present, and they were asked to apologize, and they refused. But when Prof. Jansen was deposed, that’s true, then he wasn’t there. He wasn’t asked to be there. He was deposed by the Synod. But it’s true that he was asked to come and defend himself and be present at the Synod in his case.
Question: It is proper to form a society for Prot. Ref. Action without the knowledge of pastors and consistories?
Answer: Certainly is. That would be indeed hierarchy, if we had to ask the consistory to form a society. How do you thi& The Standard Bearer was formed in 1923?The Standard Bearer, when we were still in the Christian Reformed Churches? The RFPA, the association for The Standard Bearer, was formed by a group of men. And The Standard Bearer was propagandized throughout the Christian Reformed Churches. To that no one ever objected in the Chr. Ref. Churches. And I assure you: no one will ever object, not successfully anyway,—to any of the consistories. We are at least a free people organically. We are not under the thumb of any consistory. Not in our free action.
Question: Does not suspension and deposition ultimately imply excommunication from the Christian church?
Answerer: I think it does. Although, perhaps, not always. But if you think of the grounds which are mentioned in the Church Order in Art. 79 and 80, it seems as if suspension from office, and deposition from office, necessarily implies ultimately excommunication. I cannot see how they can be separated. The only trouble is that usually deposed office bearers, that do not want to apologize, separate themselves from the churches. That’s the case here too. We cannot take action anymore against the Rev. De Wolf and the deposed elders, because they separated themselves. They are not under our jurisdiction anymore. But I think if you consider the list of sins that are mentioned in Art. 79 and so, yes, I think deposition from office usually must,—unless, unless there is deposition and at the same time apology. That is possible too. A minister, for instance, can be worthy of deposition, and apologize without ever entering the office again. In that case he remains member because of his apology.—But if a minister is deposed from office, or an elder, and does not apologize for his sin, naturally the excommunication must necessarily follow.
Question: From the same questioner: The word repent means to turn around. Why turn around when one is already in the kingdom by regeneration?
Answer: That’s quite a question. That’s really a very interesting question. Regeneration is first. Regeneration in the narrower sense is first. Regeneration . . . by regeneration in the narrower sense I mean the implanting of the life of grace through His Holy Spirit into the heart of a sinner, even without his knowledge and without any activity on his part. That work of regeneration is continued by God: without the activity or the work of God, the operation of God, even that seed of regeneration would never come to consciousness. But through the Word and by the Spirit,—I mean through the Word in the efficacious sense, the calling of the Son of God,—and thru the Holy Spirit that work of regeneration is called to consciousness. Christ says to the sinner: “Arise, thou sleeper; awake, thou sleeper, and arise from the dead.” That is the voice of Christ. Following upon that comes the act of repentance. Now you can consider that whole work, the whole work of regeneration and repentance the entering into the kingdom of God. And even that is not conditioned upon anything, but is the work of God. Or you can consider the work of regeneration the entering in of the kingdom of God in the narrower sense. And even there is no prerequisite. And so the act of conversion is never a prerequisite to enter the kingdom of God.
(To be continued)