In my report, in the last two numbers of our paper, of the conference that was recently held of some Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed brethren, I promised that I would write a few words about the objections which were urged by the Rev. Mr. Hendriksen against my essay, read at the conference.
The reader will remember that I stated how that the brother in the noon-hour had hastily written down some objections, read them in the afternoon session, and when asked by undersigned to motivate them, refused on the ground that he had to leave the meeting.
Since then the brother explained himself in a personal letter which in fairness to him and to myself I here publish in full:
For the sake of fairness I enclose a copy of “my reaction to your address.” Here it is:
With due respect for the excellent, systematic presentation of the theological views held by Rev. Hoeksema, for the clear manner in which these ideas were set forth, I am nevertheless of the opinion that, for the time being, efforts at reunion with the Protestant Reformed group appear doomed to failure.
I base this opinion upon the fact that Rev. Hoeksema has told us that we would either have to retract the three points and confess that we erred or would have to convince the Protestant Reformed Church of its error in rejecting them.
I also demur to the statement made at the close of the historical review of the common grace controversy, namely, that with this summary we can all agree. On the contrary, I regard that review as being a biased presentation of what happened during the years preceding, let us say, 1926. I feel convinced that the review of an impartial observer would tell a somewhat different story.
Again, nothing in the paper of Rev. Hoeksema—with much of which we can, of course, heartily agree—has in any way convinced me that there is no common grace (Point I of the Three Points). Statements of the character “wij meenen” and “wij houden staande” mean little to me unless the ideas to which they refer are based upon a careful analysis and synthesis of pertinent Scripture passages. A careful exegesis of Matt. 5:43 and following verses in connection with Luke 6:27 and following verses (especially verses 35 and 36), and of many similar Scripture-passages which clearly support the idea of common grace, would have been profitable. After all, this question, as well as all other fundamental questions, will have to be decided upon the basis, chiefly, of Holy Writ! I say all this not in the spirit of rancor but of love!
I also object to the statement that the Synod of Kalamazoo officially adopted the views of Dr. A. Kuyper Sr. as expressed in his work De Gemeene Gratie.
In conclusion, if there is ever to be another conference between the two groups I hope it will be of an official character.
I twice stated that I would have to leave after reading the paper: the reason being an urgent call to the hospital and a catechism class at 4 o’clock. You will recall that I referred to this already in the morning when someone suggested my name as secretary. I stated it again, more definitely, before reading “my reaction to your paper.” Hence, I was not in a position to start a discussion with you after reading my paper as you seemed to desire. I had to leave.
Hence, I take this opportunity to answer your question with respect to what impressed me as the biased character of your historical review. In this connection there were several things that impressed me but I shall mention only two, especially seeing that I do not have a copy of your paper.
First of all, then, why did you present the common grace controversy as just an aftermath of the Janssen controversy? Is that a true presentation of the case? Is it not true that some of the chief opponents of Dr. Janssen also opposed your views in writing? I refer to such men as Prof. L. Berkhof, Rev. H. J. Kuyper, Dr. Y. P. De Jong, etc.
Secondly, in giving the statistics of your group, why did you not mention the manner in which these congregations were established: the way in which your group conducts its missionary activity within the churches of our denomination? See the article by Rev. H. J. Kuiper in a recent issue of The Banner,—As long as this continues, how can we unite?
I do not care to enter into a lengthy controversy. Hence, this will be all. Let us from both sides seek a real, true reconciliation. Be assured of the fact that the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners unto His glory is dear to us all. Let us quit calling each other names, whether Anabaptists or Arminians. Let us consider one another as brethren in Christ, forgiving and forgetting past grievances and earnestly endeavoring to seek each other’s welfare. As far as we are personally concerned, come and see us at any time. You are welcome.
Most sincerely your brother in Christ,
I reply as follows:
Above this article I wrote: “No Biased Presentation,” because this is the sole point in the objections of the Rev. Mr. Hendriksen to which I wish to reply.
The other objections I consider of minor importance. It would, for instance, have been quite out of place to treat Matt. 5:45 in a paper that merely meant to be an introduction, to draw general lines, and in which no texts were treated at all. Why I should have treated the one text mentioned by the brother, I fail to see.
But the objection that I gave a biased presentation of the historic facts I must answer. In the first place, it was on this point that I asked the brother to state his reasons at the conference and to which he refused to reply. In the second place, I consider the objection of a biased presentation of historic facts more or less of an accusation, which I cannot allow to go unchallenged. And in the third place, I consider the accusation so far from the truth, that I here state: if the presentation were biased, it certainly was in favor of the Christian Reformed brethren. Much of what I might have mentioned I purposely omitted, in order not to divert the attention from the main issue at the conference. I assure the brother objector that I can write a very black page (black for the Christian Reformed Church and its leaders) about that history, without being biased in the sense that in any way I distort the facts.
I was very much surprised when I heard the brother’s objections.
And I am still more surprised now I know the reasons for his objection on this point.
The first objection is, that I present the common grace controversy as “just an aftermath of the Janssen controversy.”
This objection is not true at all. Fact is that I plainly state in my essay, that I wrote about “common grace” in connection with an increasing manifestation of the spirit of worldly mindedness in the churches, long before there was a Janssen controversy, or, at least, the undersigned had any part in it. I took no active interest in the Janssen controversy until after the Synod of 1920. It was long before that time that I wrote about “common grace” and stated my objections against the current view.
I also stated in my paper before the conference, that before 1920 no one opposed my views on common grace. Can brother Hendriksen gainsay this? He cannot.
I further stated that opposition broke loose in connection with the Janssen controversy. Can the brother deny this? He cannot.
I could have stated more. I could, without fear of contradiction and without distorting facts, have stated that Dr. Janssen and his friends led the attack upon me.
Brother Hendriksen asks me: “Is it not true that some of the chief opponents of Dr. Janssen also opposed your views in writing? I refer to such men as Prof. L. Berkhof, Rev. H. J. Kuiper, Dr. Y. P. De Jong, etc.”
I answer: Yes, brother Hendriksen, that is true, but 1. This does not in the least detract from the truth of my statement that the opposition against my views on “common grace,” though these were published long before, did not break loose until the time of the Janssen controversy and was led merely by Janssen-men. This was in 1920. 2. The brother must not forget that while I was being attacked by these men I was co-editor of “The Witness” of which Prof. L. Berkhof was editor-in-chief, and also such men as Dr. Volbeda, Dr. Y. P. De Jong and Rev. H. J. Kuiper were editors. I remained editor with them of the same publication until after the synod of 1922, where Dr. Janssen was deposed. 3. The brother must not forget that during those years Dr. Janssen accused not only the undersigned, but also the very men whom the brother mentions as having written against me, of deviating, unreformed views on the matter of “common grace.” If he has need of refreshing his memory on this point, let him read the brochure: “Waar het in de zaak Janssen om gaat,” signed by the four professors, Berkhof, Heyns, Ten Hoor and Volbeda, and by the four ministers, Danhof, De Jong, Kuiper and Hoeksema. 4. I must remind the brother that in those days the same men wrote in the brochure mentioned above: “Dr. Janssen kan het weten, dat al de mannen, die hij daar op het oog heeft, staan op den bodem der confessie, ook degenen onder den, die verschillen van de gangbare opvatting der Gemeene gratie.” Thus wrote Prof. Berkhof, Prof. Volbeda, Dr. De Jong, the Rev. H. J. Kuiper in 1922! At the conference Dr. De Jong stated that he really intended to protest on the floor of the synod of 1924 against the statement that the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema were fundamentally reformed. Prof. Berkhof took a very active part in our condemnation. Prof. Volbeda had no objection against it. But two years before, though the brethren Danhof and Hoeksema had not changed their views one whit in those two years, these same brethren wrote that Danhof and Hoeksema stood on the very bottom of the confession!
I could have mentioned these facts in my paper at the conference.
I could also, perhaps, have attempted to answer the question: why did these brethren change their attitude towards us after the Janssen case was settled? It would not have looked very nice, I assure brother Hendriksen.
But I did none of these things.
And so I would advise the brother to regard my review of the history of the “common grace” controversy as being very favorable to the Christian Reformed brethren, and not to provoke me to tell everything I know.
The second objection to my review of the history is that I did not describe the manner in which our Protestant Reformed churches were established.
In as far as this objection contains the insinuation that the manner in which our congregations were established cannot stand the light of day, I deny this most emphatically. Let the brother but mention a single fact in this connection, and I will answer him.
But as to the question itself the answer is very plain: because such a detailed report would have no place in an introductory paper as I delivered at the conference. Justly I would have been accused of having no sense of proportion, had I attempted to give a description of the history of the origin of each of our churches.
Finally, let the brother read my “History of the Protestant Reformed Churches.” He will find all the desired information.
Brother Hendriksen has, of course, the perfect right to space in our paper, if he should have further objections.
For the present, let the above suffice.