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On Nailed Tent Pegs

In the April 15 SB Rev. Koole questions why a like-minded son or daughter of Father Abraham would even think of not participating fully in PR communal schools and would choose to homeschool instead.

By its very nature, faith leads a man to where God wants him to be, not necessarily to where other men think he ought to be. This is what truly makes a man a son of Abraham.

Consequently, what appears to be folly to man may, in fact, be the wisdom of God.

Much faith and even greater love, however, is required to fully accept differentiated sons of Abraham.

Faith’s vision is always to conquer the land, not to nail tent pegs in so soundly that one’s tent will not be enlarged.

This vision is what our Lord Christ graciously gives to men and then uses to bring His gospel to the ends of the earth.

May we be so used.

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” is a promise that we can count on.

I believe it. By faith.

Mrs. Scott Kunst

Hudsonville, Michigan


Common Grace in the SB?

I am an avid reader of the Standard Bearer, and also hold to the truths of the Reformed faith (as taught in the Reformed confessions, the Three Forms of Unity), and as interpreted by the PRC. In a day and age where those who call themselves “Reformed” are often compromised and have gone after the “mainstream lie,” I find it refreshing to read materials from the PRC, and of course Reformed Dogmatics by Rev. Herman Hoeksema.

I am perturbed, however, about an article that was printed in the last issue of the Standard Bearer (April 15th) on page 329. First of all, I do not quite understand why you would print an article by Abraham Kuyper (who is the inventor of the “Theory of Common Grace”). Hoeksema condemns his teaching in hisDogmatics as “unbiblical.” Does this mean Kuyper has a lot of other good things to say? This is the same with men like John Wesley. Even though he was Arminian, a lot of Calvinists still liked him. To me, this is contradictory. To promote heresy is sin. I believe this is the case with Abraham Kuyper.

Also, in the article entitled “Forget it not,” on page 329, he is quoted as saying, “Also the sinful weakness of forgetting stands under the healing influence of grace. And in common grace, which is the portion of all men, as well as in particular grace, which is bestowed upon all God’s elect, a means is offered us by which to remove this forgetfulness from ourselves and from our children, if not all together, at least considerably to temper it.”

Can you please explain why such an article that promotes the idea of two different “graces” has appeared in the Protestant Reformed Standard Bearer?

Also, why would the PRC publish any of Abraham Kuyper’s articles?

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. May the Lord really bless your efforts.

James H. East III

Ione, California

In the April 15 issue of the Standard Bearer, under the rubric “When Thou Sittest in Thine House,” Abraham Kuyper’s article entitled “Forget It Not” has a paragraph that reads in part as follows:

Also the sinful weakness of forgetting stands under the healing influence of grace. And in common grace, which is the portion of all men, as well as particular grace, which is bestowed on all God’s elect, a means is offered….

It disturbed me to read that in the Standard Bearer. It is an affront to the very essence of our thoroughly Reformed publication. If the article was deemed worthy of print, a disclaimer should have appeared at the bottom of the page. Someone who is not knowledgeable about our doctrine would be left with the impression that we are in agreement. This cannot be further from the truth.

Edward Ophoff, Sr.

Caledonia, Michigan

RESPONSE:

The Standard Bearer regrets not having any disclaimer regarding the reference to “common grace” in Abraham Kuyper’s reprinted article. There ought to have been a notice especially, although not only, for those who do not know the PRC. We apologize for the offense.

The question of reprinting Kuyper’s articles at all is another matter. Abraham Kuyper was Reformed. Although in our judgment he was not consistently so, especially later in his life, his theology was the theology of sovereign grace. He rejected the well-meant offer of the gospel. To equate reprinting Kuyper with reprinting John Wesley is inappropriate. Wesley was thoroughly and essentially Arminian, Reformed not at all, whose theology at core is a foe of the true gospel of grace. The Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (Donald K. McKim, ed.) does not consider the Wesleys as even worthy of listing. Abraham Kuyper had flaws in his theology—damaging flaws. But Reformed believers, Herman Hoeksema included, are indebted to him. The RFPA, publisher of this magazine, has translated and published Kuyper’s Particular Grace. Some of the chapters in the recently published Our Worship(Eerdmans, 2009), a translation of Kuyper’s old work on liturgy, may well find their way onto the pages of theStandard Bearer. His chapters from When Thou Sittest in Thine House are edifying. In our judgment.

—Ed.


Hoeksema on Homeschooling

In the February 15, 2009 Standard Bearer editorial Rev. Koole decries a perceived movement of confessing Christians away from creedal formulations of doctrine. He sees behind this ‘movement’ a deeply rooted spirit of independentism that smacks of individualism; an unbiblical spirit. In a parenthetical discussion he describes much of the home-school movement today as being infected with this same spirit. The conflict centers on the organic nature of the covenant and the meaning of C.O. Article 21. Herman Hoeksema in an editorial in the Standard Bearer (vol. 20, p. 392) shares his insights into this controversy.

I take it for granted that all our readers, even those that thus far have revealed little or no enthusiasm for a school of our own, and among these even those who definitely opposed it especially by the “moral obligation” argument, will have to agree with me, that our obligation to the existing schools and school societies can be none other than, and is rooted in, the obligation of the parents with regard to the education of their children. 

These school societies are, with respect to the instruction of our children, only a means to an end. If parents were in a position to give their children all the education they need, personally and at home, there would be no need of these societies. In fact, in that case it would be their sacred calling to provide such instruction themselves. Apart from the Church, to which the ministry of the Word is entrusted, they are the only responsible party before God with respect to this instruction. 

Or even, if all could afford to employ a private tutor to educate their children, the school society might be discarded.

Clearly, in Hoeksema’s view, neither the organic view of the covenant nor C.O. Article 21 (revised only 30 years previously) precludes homeschooling, and in fact it recommends it when possible.

Roy T. Slice, M.D.

Hull, Iowa

In his April 15 editorial, Rev. Koole characterized the Christian homeschooling movement as led by an “anabaptistic spirit.” Does homeschooling byReformed believers also deserve this judgment? Many of them homeschool for a biblical reason: they are “in duty bound to instruct their children.”

But Rev. Koole thinks that “harbor[ing] great fears and suspicion” prompts Christians to homeschool. In his judgment, only foolish parents would make that choice.

How different was the view of the SB sixty years ago! Editor Hoeksema wrote in 1944: “If parents were in a position to give their children all the education they need, personally at home, there would be no need of [school] societies. In fact, in that case it would be their sacred calling to provide such instruction themselves.” Rev. Hoeksema was zealous for Christian day schools. But he understood them as a ministry for those that needed them; not as an obligation for all who could possibly use them.

According to Rev. Koole, our unity requires that our children spend the day with other children of the congregation. Never mind that God placed them in a community of parents and siblings. Never mind that God commanded that children be taught by the example of parents, not peers.

If the organic unity of the church indeed required this, we should be consistent. We should have day cares where the babies of the congregation are watched by others on behalf of the parents. We should live in communes, where church membership governs everyday life.

Look at the Amish communities to see where the reasoning of Rev. Koole leads us: straight into theAnabaptist camp! Misconceptions about the spheres of family, church, and society can lead to two extremes: individualism and communism. We should not, for fear of one extreme, plunge ourselves into the other.

Arjen Vreugdenhil

Jenison, Michigan

RESPONSE:

Since the burden of both letters is a quote from an article by Rev. H. Hoeksema (vol. 20), we will answer the letters together.

First, we wondered when a quote or two from Hoeksema on this matter would appear. We had thought perhaps it would come from a sermon onDeuteronomy 6:7 (reprinted in the SB, volume 71, pp. 483-8) in which HH states things in much the same way as found in the quotes lifted from volume 20. Interested readers who have the bound volumes can peruse the whole sermon at their leisure and for their edification. (All issues of the SB, back now to 1958, are online at rfpa.org.) Interestingly, the sermon found in volume 71 (Sept. 1, 1995) is the reprint of a sermon preached in 1916, early in Hoeksema’s ministry, while he was yet in the CRC, just 30 years old.

In his 1916 sermon Hoeksema underscores the education of one’s children as the primary responsibility of the parents in much the same manner as he does in the quote given us by the two respondents.

Notice, in the second place, that all this time the parent is held responsible for the training of his children. Moses does not at all address the congregation of the people God in general, but emphatically he speaks in the singular. He addresses the individual parent. Thou shalt teach them unto thy children. Thou shalt talk of them, etc. Education is, therefore, the duty of the parent and of no one else. This stands to reason. In the first place, there is no one that has more right, more God-given right to the child than the parent. Education determines to a large extent what the child shall be in the future, how he shall think and act. And surely there is no one that has more right to determine this than the parent (p. 485, 2nd col.).

What Hoeksema is emphasizing here is what we have always emphasized, namely, that the parent (and in particular the head of the home) has the God-given responsibility to see to the instruction of his child in every sphere of life, not only in formal education, but even and especially in his spiritual instruction and the knowledge of God’s Word. No matter whom a believing parent uses to instruct his children (if he uses anyone else at all), never may he abdicate his own responsibility and simply turn it over to others. He, you, I must stay personally involved. As Hoeksema put it,

From this it follows in the second place that you are responsible for all that your child is taught. It is not thus, that you are responsible for what the child learns directly in the home, and someone else for what he learns in the catechism and in the Sunday School. You are responsible always and everywhere. Not as if these other persons that teach your children have no responsibility. Surely, they do. But their responsibility is entirely different from yours. You are responsible for all that your child is taught, responsible before God (p. 485, 3rd col.).

What is interesting and significant is what Hoeksema then goes on to state. And keep in mind that young Hoeksema is preaching at a time when the modern, scientific age was just dawning and when the Christian school movement in the CRC was still in its infancy. The need for Christian, covenantal, communal schooling was being seen as more and more necessary in an increasingly anti-biblical society and scientific age. Immediately following the above quote, Hoeksema declares,

Of course, we realize that this [namely, tending personally to all the educational needs of one’s children—kk] was far easier in the time of Moses and the children of Israel than in our modern times. Life was so much more simple. The parent was not so busy from morning till night that he could find no time personally to instruct his children in the precepts of God. And life was not so complicated, not so exacting, the child did not have to learn so much, all things were more simple than they are today. And for that reason the education in the home was either the only or the main education the child received. The parent could realize directly his responsibility for the instruction of his children. But this is entirely different today (emphasis ours). The parent, at least the father, is not at home from the time he rises up till the time that he lies down, the mother is too busy or at least often makes herself too busy if she is not, and time for direct instruction by the parent is actually insufficient. Besides, if the parent did have just as much time as the Israelite of old, he would not be able to instruct his children in all the necessary branches of education (emphasis ours). And the result is that we have now the school, the catechism, the Sunday School, where one person systematically instructs many of our children at the same time (pp. 485-6, 3rd col. ff.).

There are at least two points worth making in connection with the above quote.

First, Hoeksema clearly saw, as did the revisers of Article 21 of the CO (which revision occurred just prior to the time the sermon was preached), that the dawning of the modern, scientific age made communal education (based on Reformed principles) the wise and best choice for covenantal parents—the many branches of knowledge and explosion of information, to say nothing of the State’s increasingly rigorous educational standards, made that increasingly necessary.

And second, it is noteworthy that what Hoeksema includes in the primary responsibility of the believing parent is not only formal education, but also catechism. In Moses’ time, when, according to Hoeksema, parents took care of all facets of their children’s education, such instruction included what we call “catechism”—instruction in biblical history and the doctrines of God. What are we to conclude from his observation? That Hoeksema was of the mind, therefore, that today it would be all right, maybe even best (the ideal), that catechism be taught solely by the parents, without the involvement of the elders? That certainly would be the logical conclusion following the respondents’ arguments. And if that had been the young Hoeksema’s conclusion, should we all agree with him?

Obviously, such a conclusion is unwarranted.

The church through history has recognized that, though the truth does not change, nor principles, methods of instruction may. For the church and believers what was once the common and best way of doing things may be so no longer. In a different age, faced by new challenges, threats, and requirements, a different way may be wisest and best for believers and their seed. Young Hoeksema obviously was not oblivious to that. His remarks indicate that he plainly saw that such a time was upon the church and what the need of the hour was for covenantal-minded believers.

A reading of the entire editorial in Volume 20 of the SB(1944) referred to by the brothers makes it plain his perspective had not changed since 1916.

But this matter of Catechism instruction raises an interesting consideration, doesn’t it!

We say again, the same arguments that are made for homeschooling (really, home-education) over against the primacy of the use the good Christian schools available to one could be used for the practice of home-catechizing, leaving such decision to each Reformed believer’s preference. The point could be made: Show me one biblical text that requires teaching catechism as we Reformed have taught catechism for the last few centuries, namely, all our children divided according to age groups coming together Saturday mornings or Monday evenings to be taught together by a teaching elder. One looks in vain.

One could argue: I acknowledge that God’s Word does say that the church is to be involved in my children’s religious education. I suppose Deuteronomy 6:7ff. could be extended to include that (despite the singular pronoun ‘thou’ that refers first and primarily to the parent), and New Testament passages do call the elders to feed the flock—which includes the lambs and youth. But since when does that require catechism classes?

Surely a man could argue: I bring my family to church every Lord’s Day to be indoctrinated unto godliness by the Word of God directed to me and to my children. And in my own home as we sit around the table, in accordance with Deuteronomy 6:7, I fulfill my calling towards my children by instructing them in what the sermon was about, applying it to them. What the church attempts to do in communal catechism is nice and evidently good for many. But surely, the church’s right over my children does not supersede my own rights and responsibility towards them. And so, as for me and my house, we will opt out. By coming every Lord’s Day to hear God’s Word, we are doing what Scripture requires of us. And the church, by preaching to me and my children, has taken care of its responsibility as well. Let the elders keep their ‘extra-biblical’ wisdom to themselves.

So now we all have the right to become home-catechizers, if that’s what we prefer?

After all, as Hoeksema points out (to say nothing of Moses), catechism instruction is first of all a parental responsibility. Evidently it was how things were done throughout much of the Old Testament. And, as stated, one looks in vain for specific Bible texts that require that we must have our children catechized together, other than gathering together in church with their families on the Lord’s Day.

And the officebearers are to be mute in the face of such arguments?

Brethren, let us consider our arguments with care and understand where simple insistence on parental rights above all considerations may lead us one of these days.

All that, first of all.

Second, what we set forth in our April 15 letter was, to borrow a phrase from HH, Niet Dooperisch (Anabaptist) Maar Gereformeerd. It is an educational perspective wholly in keeping with what is expressed in Psalm 119:63: “I am a companion of all them that fear thee.” Significantly, Psalm 119 was written from the perspective of a youthful believer and for covenantal youth. It is exactly in the good Christian schools that these friendships of youth develop and carry over into the church for a lifetime. To raise our children all but isolated from the others of the congregation is simply not going to have the same benefit for the fabric of our churches and lives. And remember, little Jew boys of Old Testament Israel, even if educated at home, grew up surrounded by other little Jew boys, living cheek and jowl in their communities. They grew up together, having contact with each other every day.

Third, the phrase “need not harbor the same fears and suspicions” was warranted. How else should parents view schools that have swept away the antithesis and where all the educational disciplines are permeated with the principles of evolution (man steadily improving—and the instructors speaking like the three little monkeys, [I] Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil! Good reason to view such education with suspicion. Exactly what our good Christian schools were established to combat. Fourth, the key sentence to which both brothers direct our attention is worded “If parents were in a position to give their children all the education they needed, personally and at home, there would be no need of these societies.” Notice the little word “if.” “If parents were….” The question is, was Hoeksema convinced parents of the modern age were? Or that parents educating their children at home was the need of the hour—either back then, or today?

The 1916 sermon sheds light on those questions.

But really, so does the 1944 editorial when read in full.

For that reason we have decided to reprint the opening section of Hoeksema’s editorial from which the quotes by the brothers are taken.

But before we do that, three things, and then a fourth.

First, keep in mind that Hoeksema wrote what he did in his 1944 editorial prior to the establishment of Protestant Reformed schools, meaning prior to the establishment of schools that he and his consistory could without reservation promote.

Second, we note that, having made the statement quoted in the letters sent, HH (almost in the next breath) states, “However, this is impossible.” And this in the context of “the demands of modern life.”

Third, we point the reader’s attention to a couple of recurring phrases, namely, the calling of parents tocooperate in fulfilling their baptism vows, tying that in with establishing school societies, and he speaks of all this in terms of our “moral obligation“— a phrase found in the very title itself.

And then this—is it not possible that there has been, even since HH, development in understanding exactly how important for our day and age covenantal education is in covenantally based day schools, or maybe better, has increasingly become? In that connection, consider the benefit to those congregations and its families where such schools have been established through great cost and sacrifice. Its members will tell you.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

That said, we leave it to the reader to assess Hoeksema’s remarks in their fuller context below.

—Rev. Kenneth Koole


As to Our Moral Obligation

Herman Hoeksema (SB, June 15, 1944 (vol. 20, pp. 392-394)

I take it for granted that all our readers, even those that thus far have revealed little or no enthusiasm for a school of our own, and among these even those who definitely opposed it especially by the “moral obligation” argument, will have to agree with me, that our obligation to the existing schools and school societies can be none other than, and is rooted in, the obligation of the parents with regard to the education of their children.

These school societies are, with respect to the instruction of our children, only a means to an end.

If parents were in a position to give their children all the education they need, personally and at home, there would be no need of these societies. In fact, in that case it would be their sacred calling to provide such instruction themselves. Apart from the Church, to which the ministry of the Word is entrusted, they are the only responsible party before God with respect to this instruction.

Or even, if all could afford to employ a private tutor to educate their children, the school society might be discarded.

However, this is impossible.

Parents lack time and ability to give their children a complete education according to the requirements and demands of modern life. And they lack the means to employ private teachers. Hence, they band together, organize societies, in order that together and with united efforts they may accomplish what individually they are not able to do. And these societies establish schools, determine the character of the education their children shall receive, and employ the teachers that shall furnish such education as the parents determine that their children shall have.

It should be plain then, that the moral obligation of these societies can be none other than that of the parents individually.

Nor can the obligation of the parent to the society of which he is a member be any other than to cooperate and put forth all his efforts to fulfill his obligation with respect to the education of his children.

That obligation, as we have seen, is that he shall instruct them “in the aforesaid” doctrine to “the utmost of his power,” or “help or cause them to be instructed therein.”

This latter phrase includes the instruction they receive in the school.

This part of his obligation he fulfills through the means of the school society.

For the parent that is Protestant Reformed this obligation, which he solemnly and very definitely assumes by covenant-vow before God and the Church, means that he will work to the utmost of his power, also through the school society, to provide for his children an education that is in harmony with Protestant Reformed doctrine and principles.

It follows, then, that this is his moral obligation with respect to the society of which he is a member. He must seek the good of that society.

That surely is his moral obligation.

And because the society exists for the purpose of so serious a matter as the education of covenant children, he certainly has the moral obligation to seek the very best for it.

Hence, he must work to the utmost of his power to make the society an efficient means unto the end of providing a Protestant Reformed education for his children and the children of his fellow members.

Other obligations he may have toward the society and toward the school certainly follow from and are subservient to this one fundamental obligation. With a view to this great calling he pays his dues and school tuition, he takes part in the activities of the society, watches over the school and over the appointment of teachers.

All his effort must be directed to that one end: that the society may be a means to help him to instruct his children in “the aforesaid doctrine to the utmost of his power.”


Is it possible for the Protestant Reformed parent to do this through the existing schools and school societies?

Yes, if there is no opportunity for him to send his children to a school of Protestant Reformed parents, or to organize a society for the establishment of such a school. In that case he meets his assumed obligation with a view to the education of his children in the “aforesaid doctrine” to the utmost of his power, by sending his children to one of the existing Christian schools, or to a Lutheran school if necessary, to the best school he can find, and by supplementing and correcting such instruction at home in as far as it may be necessary.

No parent dare send his children to the public school on the pretext that the existing schools are not Protestant Reformed.

And in that case he has the moral obligation to work to the utmost of his power for the good of the society to which he belongs, and of the school to which he sends his children. And as far as cooperation on the basis of the constitution of such a society permits him, he will try to make that society and school a means to instruct his children according to Protestant Reformed principles.

But the above question must be answered with an unqualified No if he is strong enough, has the means and the opportunity, to establish a school of his own choice in cooperation with other Protestant Reformed parents.

For in that case he does not “help or cause them to be instructed in the aforesaid doctrine to the utmost of his power.”

He is satisfied with the line of least resistance.

For he knows very well that, whatever efforts he may put forth to improve the school to which he sends his children, it is a foregone conclusion that he can never make it the means to instruct his children according to the Protestant Reformed conception of the truth.

He may remove certain evils, protest against the presentation of all kinds of dramas and moving pictures in the schools, against the singing of a few Arminian hymns, or even against the direct inculcation of the theory of common grace, perhaps; but he will never be able to make the school a means for the instruction of the children along Protestant Reformed lines. This is impossible, first of all, because his influence is very limited. The Christian Reformed parents control the existing schools. They permit the Protestant Reformed parent to send his children to their schools, and to support their cause financially; but for the rest they pay very little attention to him as soon as he insists on positive, Reformed principles. This I could easily prove, if it should be required.

But this is impossible especially because of the very principle of cooperation. By joining an existing society he waives the right to insist on positive, Protestant Reformed education. He has no right to demand such education of the existing schools.

And if he had the right it would be physically impossible to realize it, even in any local school where he might be represented in substantial numbers of members, for the simple reason that the whole school system, as to teachers, books, propaganda, etc. is under Christian Reformed control.

Nor can an instance be mentioned where this was ever at tempted, even by those who insist that it is our moral obligation to cooperate with the existing schools as long as possible.

Hence, I maintain that in such cases, i.e., wherever there are a sufficient number of Protestant Reformed parents, and they have the means and power, their sacred moral obligation with respect to the existing societies is to leave them, and to establish societies and schools of their own, where they may instruct their children “in the aforesaid doctrine to the utmost of their power.”