Our readers will recall that some two years ago at an anniversary celebration a fund was started for a “Hoeksema Memorial Library.” This fund was given to the Theological School Committee which appointed a sub-committee to administer the fund. The purpose of the fund is to set up, within the present library of the Theological School, another library in memory of Rev. H. Hoeksema who labored for many years as professor in New Testament and Theology.
This fund has gradually been building up itself. None of the money has as yet been spent, although the Theological School Committee has approved of the idea of limiting this library for the time being, to works on “Dogmatics” since this was the main interest of Rev. Hoeksema.
The following proceeds have been received:
Hull Protestant Reformed Church—$23.00
Kalamazoo Protestant Reformed Church—$18.90
First Protestant Reformed Church—$121.12
Ladies’ Aid, Hudsonville—$35.00
Pella Protestant Reformed Church—$10.00
Loveland Protestant Reformed Church—$14.57
Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church—$68.95
Grand Haven Protestant Reformed Church—$9.10
Two individual outside our Churches—$15.00
Interest on savings account—$12.07
This, plus the money collected at the anniversary picnic brings the total to $588.60.
Besides, an individual contributed to the fund a set of bound volumes of The Standard Bearer. This set was given to the Memorial Library with two conditions: 1) that the donor would remain anonymous; 2) that if the Committee should decide to sell them, they be sold for not less than $200.00. Since a bound set of The Standard Bearer is already included in the library of the Theological School, the Committee decided to offer this bound set for sale. It is complete except that Volumes 1 and 2 are combined because a few issues are missing. If anyone is interested in these books, they should contact Prof. H.C. Hoeksema, 1218 Griggs, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan.
CHRIST FOR ALL?
In a Banner article dated January 19, 1962, Rev. Rolf L. Veenstra wrote in his column “Word A Week”: “We do not hesitate to say to an unbeliever ‘Christ died for you,’ for Christ is in a real sense the Savior of all men.” This statement was challenged by a reader from Orange City, Iowa, who wondered how it was possible to harmonize a statement of this sort with the truths of divine election and limited atonement. The reader quoted from Romans 9: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated . . . So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy . . . So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Besides the reader also quoted question and answer 20 from the Heidelberg Catechism: “Are all men, then saved by Christ as they perished through Adam?” “No, but only those who by a true faith are engrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.” He then added the comment of his own, “And faith is a gift of God.”
To this pointed letter, Rev. Veenstra replied:
Those of us who contribute to the Banner are grateful for readers like Mr. . . . . who remind us of the Bereans of yesteryear, searching the Scriptures carefully to check the truth of what they read and hear. Such people are the heart of the church.
I regret that I am unable to reconcile the verses that Mr. quotes with such others as
“Love your enemies . . . and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.” Essentially our “quarrel” is the age-old problem of predestination versus human responsibility, and no one has ever solved that paradox. There are many passages in Scripture that baffle my understanding such as Jesus’ lament, “How often would I have gathered thy children together . . . and ye would not!'”
But we are duty-bound to preach the whole counsel of God, whether it seems to do violence to our particular theology or not.
The answer of Rev. Veenstra is evasive. It is true that people who uphold the truth of Scripture are the “heart of the church.” But it is equally true that people who deny that truth are the cancer of the Church. The texts referred to are not relevant. They may have problems of their own as far as exegesis is concerned; but they have nothing to do with the question of whether Christ died for all men. Nor is this really the “problem of predestination versus human responsibility.” It is true that the problem of God’s sovereign will and man’s accountability before God is difficult and, in fact, impossible of solution while we live here upon earth. But this has nothing to do with the question of whether God loves all men.
Besides, as the reader pointed out in his letter, this is a creedal matter. Our confessions settle the issue of whether God loves all men or not, and whether Christ died for all men or not. This is pure evasion on the part of Rev. Veenstra, and an attempt to justify his Arminian views of universal atonement by refusing to answer the thoroughly Scriptural and Confessional arguments that were raised.
This is also irresponsible.
FREEDOM TO PRAY?
Our readers will recall that this column reported some time ago on a case pending with the Supreme Court that dealt with prayers in the public schools. The New York State Board of Regents recommended the following prayer for recital by public school classes at the start of each school day:
Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.
Parents of ten pupils in New Hyde, New York, protested that this prayer was unconstitutional even though the pupils did not have to participate in its recitation if they chose not to. Their reason was the First Amendment of the Constitution, the well-known Bill of Rights, the relevant part of which reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .
The Supreme Court, by a majority of five to one, ruled in favor of the parents and concluded that this official prayer was indeed unconstitutional even though the prayer was nondenominational in character and participation was not required by the students. They argued that such an official prayer was surely an attempt to violate the First Amendment, and should not therefore be introduced into the schools.
Justice Hugo L. Black, who wrote the majority opinion, added a footnote:
There is of course nothing in the decision reached here that is inconsistent with the fact that school children and others are officially encouraged to express love for our country by reciting historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence which contain references to the Deity . . . or with the fact that there are many manifestations in our public life of belief in God. Such patriotic or ceremonial occasions bear no true resemblance to the unquestioned religious exercise that the State of New York has sponsored in this instance.
The result of this decision is that there is all kinds of confusion. Some of the questions that are being asked are: Are Americans now to be barred from any kind of religious observance in schools and other public institutions? Does this affect the aid which the government is now giving to Church schools or colleges? May not Congress any longer open with prayer, as has been its custom? May not the court crier of the United States Supreme Court begin each session with the traditional cry: “God save the United States and this Honorable Court? Must any references to God be stricken from our national anthem? from the Pledge of Allegiance? from the oath of office that elected government officials make? Is the motto “In God We Trust” unconstitutional?
Some of the congressmen have already introduced bills into both House and the Senate to add an amendment to the Constitution in an attempt to overrule this latest decision of the Supreme Court. Some of the remarks made by Congressmen and other national leaders are interesting:
The Court has again by judicial fiat amended our Constitution.
The upshot (of the Court’s decisions) seems to be: Obscenity, yes; craver, no.
I suggest if something is wrong it is wrong with the Supreme Court. On the same day that the Court struck down this simple prayer, it asserted the rights of sex-offenders to receive magazines about their common interests through the mails, saying such magazines were not patently offensive.
If the Supreme Court were openly in league with the cause of Communism, they could scarcely advance it more.
They put the Negroes in the schools, and now they’ve driven God out.
I always thought this nation was essentially a religious one. —Eisenhower.
This is another step toward the secularization of the United States. . . . The framers of the Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion—not freedom from religion. —Billy Graham.
I am shocked and frightened that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional a simple and voluntary declaration of belief in God by public-school children. —Francis Cardinal Spellman.
Once again this issue brings to the fore the dilemma in which our country repeatedly finds itself. There is a certain logic to the Court’s arguments. Certainly the First Amendment means that the government of the country or of any state may not promote any type of religion. And then it follows that a prayer which, however vaguely, recognizes the existence of God, is necessarily forbidden. The trouble is, and this is the dilemma, that then the Court whether intentionally or not promotes the denial of God; for to refuse to mention the name of God is the same as to deny Him. But this too is a religion however false. And so the Courts promote religion after all—only now a false religion. They claim to be assuming a position of neutrality; but there is no such thing as neutrality when one speaks of God. One confesses Him or denies Him; there is no third alternative.
This same dilemma was vividly demonstrated in a speech which Justice Hugo Black made several weeks ago. This Justice Black is the same one who wrote the majority opinion referred to above. He spoke on another part of the First Amendment which deals with freedom of speech. “Congress,” the amendment reads, “shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Among other things, Justice Black said in this speech and in an answer to his questioners: “I have no doubt myself that the provision intended that there should be no libel or defamation law in the United States Government, just absolutely none.” “My view is, without deviation, without exception, without any ifs, buts or whereases, that freedom of speech means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they have or the views they express or the words they speak or write.”
Usually the courts have maintained the position that freedom of speech is limited by the Government’s right to protect itself and the individual’s right to claim and collect damages from a slanderous or libelous attack. But this is not the position of Justice Black. He would maintain that a publisher may peddle filth through the mails; a Communist may advocate publicly the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government; a federal employee may babble security secrets; a newspaper may recommend hanging for a man that has not yet been tried. This is surely freedom of speech. There is a certain logic to this position. But under that freedom a man can sin as much as he pleases.
But this freedom has to be circumscribed. How shall it be circumscribed? The courts have said, It is to be circumscribed by what is good for the country and for the individual. If a person tries to destroy the country or the individual, he is abusing his freedom and must be punished. But who is to decide what is good for the country and what is good for the individual? To make any sense at all, one would have to answer: What is in harmony with the law of God, for it is the law of God which limits freedom. But this brings us back to the question of freedom of religion, for there are those who say that there is no law of God that demands conformity to itself. There is no real solution.
Except the solution of Scripture. True freedom is to be found only in the keeping of God’s law. Freedom of speech is speech in conformity to that law. Freedom of religion, in like manner, is the religion of the truth of Scripture: All else is the worst form of bondage, for it is the bondage of sin.