Dear Reformed Journal:
Rather ironically there appears in your department “As We See It” (Reformed Journal, January, 1966) an article entitled “Herman Hoeksema 1886-1965,” which certainly betrays lack of twenty-twenty vision, and in fact, which in more than one respect cannot be the product of sight whatsoever.
Worse than that, however, the article is at least in two respects contrary to factual honesty and Christian journalistic ethics. For this reason I am addressing you in this “open letter” and admonishing you to make apology and correction.
My reference is, in the first place, to the following passage from Dr. Daane’s article:
He (Herman Hoeksema) twice told this writer, who has often publicly disagreed with his theology, that had he seen in 1924 all the factors that were at work, “I probably would not have done what I did.” He seemed to recognize, what this writer thinks is true, that he could have retained his theology and remained in the Christian Reformed Church had he played his role differently.
Personally, I am not very interested in Dr. Daane’s evaluation, either favorable or unfavorable, of Herman Hoeksema; and I have more than one reason for this lack of interest. For one thing, I believe that we all stand far too close to the scene to make a true and a ripe evaluation. For another, Dr. Daane has always revealed himself as lacking completely in any sympathy toward, if not lacking completely in understanding of, Herman Hoeksema’s theology. I mean this. I sometimes very seriously doubt whether Daane understands Hoeksema’s theology; for he has seldom, if ever, presented it correctly. But he has never revealed any sympathy toward it. And therefore one could hardly expect any kind of accurate and unbiased evaluation from Daane. For still another, personally I am simply not interested in all these human evaluations. And I will not take the trouble to acknowledge them or reply to them. I knew Herman Hoeksema, I dare to say, more intimately than any living man. I knew him as a father and as a man, as a teacher and as a preacher, as a theologian and as a spiritual father, as a friend and as a colleague. I knew him and I loved him. And I knew him in all the above respects as being characterized by this: by the grace of God he loved and was valiant for the truth of God according to Scripture and our Reformed confessions. That is my evaluation. But I do not doubt but that you would say that I am biased because I am his son. So of what value are these evaluations by men? Mine, I am sure, is of little consequence to you; and yours is of still less weight with me.
But I am concerned about your unethical conduct as revealed in the above quotation, and that for the following reasons:
1. I consider it totally unethical to cite a dead man in an unfavorable light when he can no longer reply. This purported statement was made at the latest, mind you, in mid-1964. And now, after a man is dead, it is brought up.
2. I consider it highly unethical to make a partialpurported quotation of this kind. Dr. Daane supplies the context and the condition of this purportedly quoted conclusion. Even If the quotation itself is true, it reminds me somewhat of a news conference in which a quoted answer is paired with an altogether different question from the original one.
3. I consider it highly unethical to quote from a private, personal (to the best of my recollection, unwitnessed) conversation, especially when the purported quotation is contrary to every public utterance and every written word which a person has ever made. I could quote from many a personal conversation with the deceased. I could also quote from the deceased’s report to me of his conversation with Dr. Daane. I could also quote the deceased’s opinion of Daane from private conversation. But I will not do so. It cannot be verified.
4. Finally, I make bold to say that the statement which Daane purportedly quotes was never made, not in the context in which Daane claims to cite it. If Daane is referring by Hoeksema’s “playing of his role” to ecclesiastical politicking and strategy, then I reply: he was utterly naive when it came to “politics” in the church. If he is referring to Hoeksema’s theological stand, then I reply: that is surely one thing on which he would never change. Hoeksema did not “play a role,” nor did he leave the church, nor did he have the choice of remaining in the church. He was cast out! And those who were instrumental in casting him out themselves testified, “Met de belijdenis kan het niet.” Personally, I could conceive of only one context in which he ever would have made this purported statement; and that is this, that if he had foreseen all the struggle and all the grief and the long hours of interminable labor and the thanklessness of many who received their instruction from him, he probably would not have had the courage to go on. But as far as his stand and his actions circa 1924 and thereafter were concerned, Herman Hoeksema never had any regrets. And all that he ever said and wrote bears witness to this.
Hence, I would characterize the above quotation from Daane’s article as a “low blow.” He should apologize and make correction. Such journalistic ethics reflect poorly upon the Reformed Journal.
There is another statement in the same article of James Daane which is factually dishonest. It should also be corrected. The statement is this: “. . . .and he lived long enough to know the painful years when his churches crumbled and the cause to which he gave his life lost its force.”
Now Daane certainly must not write untrue things like this, and especially not under the heading “AS We See It.” For Daane has never seen this, for the simple reason that it never took place. And if Daane nevertheless claims that he has seen this, he is suffering from editorial hallucinations. I will be charitable and grant that Dr. Daane is not being deliberately dishonest. But he is certainly playing fast and loose with the truth when he so facilely writes this.
Daane is referring, of course, to “the painful years” of 1953. And they were indeed painful to all of us. But when you read this statement, you certainly get the impression that the Protestant Reformed Churches fell into ruins and that they are no longer in existence and that the Protestant Reformed “cause” completely lost its vitality and its power to live and to act as a denomination of churches.
But certainly Dr. Daane knows better than this.
He knows, of course, that we lost considerably in numbers; his denomination has swallowed up those numbers since 1953. He could figure out that we lost considerably in financial power, with the result that our people are contributing, both locally and denominationally, more than formerly. And let me tell him in parentheses: they are doing so cheerfully, so that we have more than we need! Dr. Daane knows, too, that we lost an element among our ministers and members who were not Protestant Reformed. I am sure that. I need not remind Daane that he himself gave them the testimony that their “conditional theology” was not consistent with the historic Protestant Reformed position. I am also fairly certain that Dr. Daane knows that these “De Wolf churches” after 1953 completely crumbled as separate churches and capitulated to the Christian Reformed Churches, who welcomed them without changing the binding character of the Three Points.
But, lest Daane is not aware of it,—though I cannot imagine that this is possible,—let me remind him:
1. That though we are small in membership and number of churches, we are a complete denomination with a complete ecclesiastical structure. We have even added three congregations to our number since the split.
2. Though we suffered great financial loss through litigation and by reason of the fact that we were unrighteously deprived of our synodical funds, yet the Lord has provided abundantly also in this respect. Since the time of the split, at least six of our congregations have obtained new church properties; of these six, there are two who have completely new buildings. In addition, a seventh is in the process of building a spacious and beautiful new structure to accommodate a growing flock. You see, neither our buildings nor our congregations have crumbled.
3. Although we have no magnificent campus, our churches have continued to operate a seminary, where our future ministers receive a complete theological training for the ministry and a thoroughly Reformed course of instruction. Moreover, in recent years our churches have demonstrated their vitality and devotion tangibly by calling two of our men to full-time duties in the seminary in spite of a severe minister shortage.
4. Our churches have continued to be obedient to their mission calling, both at home and beyond the borders of our country. For a time we had a full-time missionary in the field; at present we perform our mission labors without one. Besides, we have maintained a strong radio witness over several stations.
5. In several localities our Protestant Reformed people operate and support, sometimes at great sacrifice, our own Christian elementary and junior high schools, so that our children may be trained consistently with “the doctrine taught in this Christian church.” In the Grand Rapids area, moreover, where we have the greatest numerical strength, we are also in the planning stages for our own high school.
6. We have continued to publish the Standard Bearer. In fact, in terms of subscriptions it is on the upgrade. Moreover, our magazine is self-sustaining financially, being supported solely by subscriptions and gifts. In addition, our young people publish their own magazine, Beacon Lights.
7. Above all, the Lord has preserved us in the same Reformed truth that we have always maintained and proclaimed. Our people grow in grace. They reveal their zeal in many ways. There is a vital interest in the cause of the truth.
All this I write, not in order to boast: for we have nothing to boast in ourselves. But I write it in order to remind you, Dr. Daane, that our Protestant Reformed Churches did not crumble in 1953, have not crumbled since, and are not by any means on the point of crumbling.
In fact, I would strongly urge you to look to your own ecclesiastical household. When, among other things, it takes a Reformed denomination years to declare itself on a flagrant denial of the Reformed truth of limited atonement, I would say that there are at least some indications of crumbling and loss of force.
Once more, therefore, I admonish you to make correction in the pages of the Reformed Journal.
Yours for the truth,