For Thy Truth’s Sake, Herman C. Hanko, Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2000. 541 pages. $39.95 (hard-cover). [Reviewed by Rev. Charles Terpstra.]
With a great deal of excitement we heartily welcome and recommend to our readers a beautiful new volume, For Thy Truth’s Sake, published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. Written by Prof. Herman Hanko, the resident historian from the Protestant Reformed Seminary, this book was commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC) in this year of our Lord 2000. The book records and celebrates the mighty work of Jehovah God in giving, preserving, developing, and proclaiming the truth of His absolute sovereignty and particular grace in Jesus Christ. Sounded throughout the book is this theme: “God alone is worthy to be thanked and praised for all that the PRC are and have”!
For Thy Truth’s Sake is a significant book. It covers the seventy-five years of PRC history from a doctrinal perspective. The focus is on the two major controversies in her history, the first of which led to her origin (the common grace controversy of 1924), the second to her further distinctiveness in the Reformed church world (the conditional covenant controversy of the 1950s). Special attention is given to the major doctrines inherited and developed by the PRC—especially sovereign, particular grace and the unconditional covenant of grace—as God used her to contribute to the richness and strengthening of the Reformed faith. Along the way the joys and the sorrows, the temptations and the triumphs, the struggles and the sins are revealed with simple forthrightness.
In many areas the book breaks new ground. This is especially true of the mid-section of the book (Part Three). It brings together material previously scattered throughout other PRC sources (e.g., the doctrine of the antithesis). It introduces doctrines heretofore not treated systematically (e.g., the doctrine of miracles and the organic conception in PR doctrine). Besides, the book goes into historical detail not found elsewhere in PRC literature. All of this makes the book itself historic—and invaluable.
The author is well qualified to write such a doctrinal history of the PRC. Not only has he taught the history of dogma in the PRC Seminary, but he has also lived through and been a part of much of PRC history. He was born and raised Protestant Reformed. He was catechized in the truths of which he writes. He lived through the controversy of 1953. He has witnessed the churches’ development in the truth of God’s Word. He has taught these doctrines in the seminary and preached them in the churches. He has defended the truths of sovereign grace personally. These truths have been the “air” he has “breathed” and the “food” he has “digested.” The faith once delivered to the saints which he presents is his faith.
This also means the author is “biased” in favor of the history and doctrines of which he writes. Prof. Hanko writes with a sympathetic pen. That will be evident to all who read this volume. He writes with genuine love for the PRC and with fervor for the doctrines she holds dear. He believes these truths with all his heart and has zeal for their defense and preservation. It is his conviction that the history of the PRC is part of the great history of God’s truth throughout the ages. At the same time he has a passion to see these truths acknowledged and accepted by all who read this book. These things too are portrayed in this work of history.
With these things in mind, it should also be evident that this volume ought not be of interest only to PRC members. In recording this history the author also pays tribute to the work of God through His church in the past. The truths the PRC hold dear are shown to be those of the great fathers of previous ages of church history. All who love the truths of sovereign grace will have an interest in this history.
The reader therefore is urged to give this book his careful attention. It is not an “easy” read as books go today. You will have to put your “thinking cap” on, as Herman Hoeksema used to say. But if you read it in humble faith, desiring to be reminded of God’s amazing grace and covenant faithfulness, longing to grow in the knowledge of church history and of the truth, you will be richly rewarded. Let PRC members read it and grow in appreciation for their denomination and her doctrines. Let non-PRC readers give this book a fair hearing, evaluating it in the light of the history, and, of course, Scripture and the confessions.
May the Lord of the church be pleased to use this writing for the humble and thankful celebration of the PRC. And may He be pleased to bless it for the continued maintaining, developing, and promoting of the truth of His sovereign, particular grace!