A Word of Thanks to HCH…
For the past 24 years, editorials in The Standard Bearer have appeared over the initials, HCH—the initials of Professor Homer C. Hoeksema. With this issue comes a change. Having informed the Staff last year that he would not accept a new appointment as Editor-in-Chief in 1988, Professor Hoeksema now steps down as editor of the magazine.
We take this opportunity, on behalf both of the Staff and of the readers, to express our thanks to him for nearly a quarter-century’s work as editor. Perhaps only those who write can appreciate the demands put upon him in that position. But all can recognize that for a third of the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches, .he has given direction to these churches and played a leading role in sounding forth their witness to others, by his editorial writing. And all can recognize that he has faithfully labored to carry out the purpose of The Standard Bearer, as laid down in the “Constitution of the Editorial Staff of The Standard Bearer,” namely, “the maintenance, development, and promulgation of our distinctively Protestant Reformed principles by means of the printed word.”
This, he has done while carrying out his other duties as Professor of Theology in our Seminary; and he has done the work of The Standard Bearerwithout any financial remuneration. For him, as for our other contributors, writing for this magazine has always been a labor of love.
We are indebted to him. Gladly we pay the debt with our thanks, as publicly expressed on the cover of this issue.
… and an Interview
Soon after the last meeting of the Staff of The Standard Bearer over which he presided, in June of this year, Professor Hoeksema consented to an interview, in his comfortable office, with the newly elected Editor-in-Chief. Pipe in hand, HCH responded to questions put to him. The conversation follows.
DJE: When and under what circumstances did you become Editor-in-Chief of The SB?
HCH: De facto, in September of 1964, because of my father’s second stroke in August. I did all the editorial work from this time on. I was elected editor in June of 1965.
DJE: Had you been writing for The SB previously?
HCH: I started writing in the 1950s while in Doon, Iowa. My rubric was “In His Fear.” Later, I switched to “Voice of Our Fathers.” At the time of my appointment as editor, I was writing a commentary on the Belgic Confession. I never finished this series. I may still pick it up.
DJE: Looking back over your writing, what editorials do you remember as of special interest to yourself, or of special significance?
HCH: The editorials I wrote in connection with the Dekker Case. (In the 1960s Harold Dekker, professor of missions at Calvin Seminary, wrote a series of articles propounding the universal atonement of Christ—DJE.) They were of special interest because the issues involved (God’s redemptive love of all men, and Christ’s atonement for all) were so clearly related to the fundamental issues of 1924, when our Protestant Reformed Churches had their origin. No one on either side in the Christian Reformed Church could write or speak on the subject without reference to 1924. An interesting sidelight at that time was the fact that Prof. Dekker and I met each other during recess at one of the synod meetings dealing with his case, and he said, “Homer, I know you and I don’t agree on these issues. But I want to tell you that of all who have written on this case, you have treated it the most thoroughly and the most fairly.”
DJE: What have been the joys of serving as Editor-in-Chief of The SB?
HCH: The joys have been connected with the opportunity to teach and to maintain the truth, to guard against error, and to let our testimony go forth. This last has been substantial, I believe. It is my conviction that we have continued in our true Protestant Reformed tradition. As regards the Christian Reformed Church, their present development is related to their doctrine of common grace. Elsewhere, too, the “offer-theology” popular in Reformed circles, e.g., in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and in the writings of a man like Erroll Hulse (a representative of the “Calvinistic Baptists”—DJE), is related to common grace. DJE: What have been the disappointments?
HCH: Of course, there have been the problems that men have not met their deadlines and the like, but my main grief is that people have not listened to us. We are a “lone voice.”
DJE: What to your mind is the purpose of The SB?
HCH: To develop everything along the line of sovereign, particular grace in every aspect and area of life. You can find this stated in an early editorial, perhaps by Henry Danhof (a cofounder of The SB—DJE). The SB has been true to this, although there have been some significant changes in the format. Once, Herman Hoeksema was made virtually a “dictator” of The SB, determining every article of every issue of the magazine. He himself did not want this, but his colleagues insisted on it.
DJE: The criticism is sometimes raised that The SBgives too much attention to the Christian Reformed Church and its faults—what about this?
HCH: I don’t think that this is a legitimate criticism. It is proper to maintain a negative, critical approach, as long as there is positive development at the same time. The truth must be presented antithetically, in The SB as well as in preaching. My early series on Protestant Reformed Christian education and my series on the Canons of Dordt did this, as did your own series some time ago on Karl Barth’s doctrine of Scripture.
DJE: What did you think of Kuyvenhoven’s featuring the PRC in The Banner a while back, and of having your picture on the cover of the magazine?
HCH: I was somewhat amused by it. I will say that Kuyvenhoven’s treatment of us was fair and accurate. This was not true of all that was said about us in that issue; but it was true of his article. My picture was “an accident.” Kuyvenhoven happened to wander into the Seminary. He saw the painting (of Luther, Calvin, and Herman Hoeksema—DJE) on the wall and suggested the picture that then appeared on the cover of The Banner.
DJE: What effect is The SB having?
HCH: It has been the occasion for requests for mission work by our churches, although this happened more in our early days than is the case today. The SB was distributed widely in those days. Recently, the contact that led to our Norristown, PA mission came through my book, Voice of Our Fathers, which is the substance of my articles inThe SB. We still get responses from all over the world. CR men do read and pay attention to the writing in The SB, although I think this is true more of the liberals than of the conservatives.
DJE: What purpose can you envision The SBserving in the future? HCH: The purpose should be the same as it always has been—maintaining antithetically the Reformed line in every area, within the sphere of the PRC and with regard to those without. I am troubled that I perceive that our people do not read enough, that they do not read The SBenough.
DJE: The SB is a free paper in the sense that it is not church controlled—is this preferable to its being an official church-paper of the PRC?
HCH: It is, and should be, a free paper. A denominationally controlled paper must hew to the denominational line. If need be, a free paper can criticize the denominational line. This, after all, was the origin of The SB. The Banner closed its columns to Herman Hoeksema when he was criticizing the doctrine of common grace.
DJE: The SB, then, functions in the PRC in a way similar to the free press in the United States?
DJE: What problems beset the magazine?
HCH: It is not read enough by our people. It is not even in all our homes. Elders used to inquire about subscription to The SB on family visitation. The R.F.P.A. has been dealing with this problem. It recognizes that the fault may not be all on one side. Questionnaires were sent out, asking what departments are read. Some changes were made. One lack is that not enough effort is put forth to increase our subscriptions. The present number of subscribers is 1,800 or 1,900. We should aim at 3,000. Then the magazine would be self-supporting. Henry VanderWal, by the way, has been an excellent Business Manager and has done a lot to promote the magazine.
DJE: Maybe, we should do a little feature on Henry when he retires.
HCH: This would be in order.
DJE: Why did you decide to resign?
HCH: There were two main reasons. First, I wanted to see an orderly transition to the editor who would succeed me. The transition in my own case was traumatic. A second reason was that I might have time for writing of a more permanent nature than editorials. The stress of coming up with editorials makes it very difficult to find time for other writing.
DJE: What writing do you have in mind?
HCH: I hope to see my work on the Old Testament published in book form; I am working on the new edition of the history of the PRC; I would like to publish a commentary on Isaiah in the style ofBehold He Cometh; my colleagues have urged me to work on the doctrine of Scripture as a supplement to “Introduction to Dogmatics.”
DJE: Are you willing to do any writing for The SB?
HCH: I would like to take a regular department, after I return from Tasmania.
DJE: What advice do you have for your successor?
HCH: Hew to the line, and be on time!