[Note: This is the continuation of my answers to questions submitted at the question period last spring following my lecture on “Why Are We Protestant Reformed?” The first installment appeared in the June issue. HCH]
In what way is the radio ministry mission work? Is it not by preaching, according to Romans 10:13-17?
My answer to this question may be very brief.
First of all, I certainly agree that mission work is accomplished by preaching of the Word. The latter is central to all proper mission work.
In the second place, our radio ministry is properly classified as a form of preaching of the Word. The form and the means are different from the preaching of the Word in our regular church services; but in our Reformed Witness Hour broadcasts we proclaim the Word of God. In fact, our radio preaching is also done under the supervision of a consistory, the consistory of First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.
In the third place, the preaching on our Reformed Witness Hour goes out to those outside the pale of our Protestant Reformed Churches. Hence, to that degree it can rightly be classified as a form of home mission endeavor.
Finally, however, I believe that our radio ministry is a very limited form and means of mission work. This stands to reason. It is evident, for example, that radio ministry all by itself cannot serve as a means in the gathering and organizing of congregations. It can serve only as an auxiliary means, a means, perhaps, of first contact with people of God who hear our radio preaching. And I fully recognize the fact that contacts established through radio preaching are not numerous. This does not mean, however, that we do not reach people with the preaching of the Word through our broadcasts. And as long as we reach people with the preaching of the Word, we may rest assured that the Lord our God will use that preaching as He sees fit and for His purpose.
How can God ordain sin and still remain a perfect God?
This is a large question, on which much could be written. I will try to make a few pertinent remarks.
In the first place, let us remember that neither of the two truths mentioned in the question—that God ordained sin and that God is the eternally perfect God—is dependent upon our understanding of the relation between them for their truth. If Scripture teaches both—and it does—then we bow in childlike faith before the Scriptures, whether we can fathom the possibility of both truths or not.
In the second place, I wish to emphasize that it is not a pet Protestant Reformed doctrine that God ordained sin. That is simply the age-old truth which our Reformed confessions maintain. Thus we read, for example, in Article XIII of the Confession of Faith: “. . . so that nothing happens in this world without his appointment: nevertheless, God neither is the author of, nor can be charged with, the sins which are committed. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that he orders and executes his work in the most excellent and just manner, even then, when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And, as to what he doth surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into, farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgments of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in his Word, without transgressing these limits.”
In the third place, notice that the truth that God ordains sin is a Scriptural doctrine. There are several classic examples of this in Scripture; but let me mention just one outstanding. example, the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 2:23: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Notice that the most heinous sin in history is indeed the responsibility of wicked men, not of God, Who is perfect; yet it takes place according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.
In the fourth place, bear in mind that the alternative to the doctrine that God sovereignly ordains sin is the denial of the sovereignty of God: for then sin comes about without God and apart from God and His control. And from a practical, spiritual point of view, where would you rather have sin controlled—by the devil, or by our sovereign heavenly Father? To ask this question, it seems to me, is to answer it. Our Confession of Faith puts it aptly when it says in Article XIII: “This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly Father; . . . being persuaded, that he so restrains (bridles, HCH) the devil and all our enemies, that without his will and permission, they cannot hurt us.”
In the fifth place, let me submit the following statements in answer more specifically to the “how” of your question:
1) God ordains sin without Himself becoming the author of sin.
2) God ordains sin perfectly, that is, holily—in a holy manner and for a holy purpose.
3) Part of the purpose for which God ordains sin is, certainly, that He may reveal His own perfect and infinite holiness over against it.
Do you believe we should invite parents of other denominations to send their children to our Christian parental elementary and high schools?
First of all, as far as I know, none of our school societies makes it a point to invite parents of other denominations to send their children to our schools. At least some of our schools accept children of parents from other denominations.
In the second place, I believe this practice is all right, provided: 1) The acceptance of such pupils does not work a hardship on the school. In a case where, for example, a school might already be over-crowded, I think it would be foolish, practically speaking, to accept outside pupils. 2) Such parents are given clearly to understand—and agree to this—that their children will be given a distinctively Protestant Reformed education, and that when the Protestant Reformed character of that education comes to the fore, they have no right of protest against it. I also happen to believe that it is only fair that such parents be required to pay the full cost of education per pupil, seeing that they do not belong to a supporting church.
In the third place, however, if the motivation of such acceptance of non-Protestant Reformed pupils is “mission work,” then I am flatly opposed. Our schools are not, mission stations, but educational institutions.
Finally, I want to add that I am opposed to admitting non-Protestant Reformed parents to our school societies. If they are not Protestant Reformed, they cannot subscribe to the constitutions of our school societies. If they can indeed subscribe, then they ought also to be Protestant Reformed. And, by the way, it isour prerogative, not theirs, to decide whether they can and do subscribe to the constitution. We have struggled to obtain Protestant Reformed schools. I, for one, believe we should be very careful to keep our schools Protestant Reformed and to keep the control of them strictly in the hands of Protestant Reformed parents. With all respect and love to Christian Reformed and American Reformed and other parents, the fact is that they cannot and do not subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity (which are in the basis of our school constitutions) as we Protestant Reformed understand and maintain them.
Scripture is subject to many interpretations. How can you say your interpretation is right and there is no place for varying beliefs? The Bible teaches us we are to encourage our brother and not be concerned in varying beliefs. The differences in the CR and PR are hard to understand. What about the simple minded Christian?
First of all, I do not believe that Scripture is subject to many interpretations. It is, indeed, subjected to many interpretations by men. But there is only one meaning of Scripture and of any given part of Scripture. That is the meaning of the Spirit. And that interpretation is to be gotten from Scripture itself: Scripture is its own interpreter.
Secondly, I can only say that my interpretation is right when it is the interpretation furnished by Scripture itself. Moreover, the Scriptures are clear, so that any child of God can understand them—as I emphasized in my graduation address, published in our July issue. Before those Scriptures we must bow, therefore; and before those Scriptures there is no place for “varying beliefs.”
In the third place, the Bible does not teach us “not to be concerned in varying beliefs.” It teaches us to beware of false prophets and false doctrine, and it teaches us to seek and love and maintain and speak the truth, “to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.” And we are indeed to encourage our brother, but encourage him in the truth.
In the fourth place, the differences between the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed Churches are not hard to understand. This does not mean that there are no difficult questions connected with these differences; nor does it mean that we must not think and study matters in the light of Scripture. But the fundamental differences are very simple, and in 1924, and ever since, there have been many “simple minded Christians” who have seen through those differences. Is God’s grace for all men, or is it only for the elect? Is the gospel a general, well-meant offer of God to all men, or is the church called to preach generally a particular promise? Is man totally depraved by nature, or is sin restrained by virtue of common grace, so that man is not really totally depraved? Is the natural man capable only of sin, or is he able to do good works? These are fundamental questions, but they are fundamentally very simple. It does not require a theologian to understand and to answer them.
Is not the word Protestant derived from the wordProtest? Prior to adopting the name Protestant Reformed Churches, were we not known as Protesting Christian Reformed?
The answer to both of the above questions is affirmative. This does not change the fact, however, that, as I said in my lecture, our name does not refer to that protesting status over against the Christian Reformed Church. The name refers to the fact that we stand on the basis of the Protestant reformation of the sixteenth century, and particularly represent the Reformed line of that Protestant reformation. References: Why Protestant Reformed? by Rev. Herman Hoeksema, page 10; The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, by Herman Hoeksema, page 276.
Can infralapsarianism ever be right? Why or why not?
That depends on what you mean by “right.” The question of infra- and supra-, as you probably know, concerns the logical order of the various “moments” of God’s decree. According to infralapsarianism, the decree of predestination comes after the decree of the fall, while according to traditional supralapsarianism the decree of predestination logically precedes the decree of the fall. In other words, infra- practically introduces the order of historical events into the decree, while supra- presents the order of the decrees as the reverse of the order of history, so that what is last in historical realization is first and is the purpose of all things in God’s decree.
Now I believe that the presentation of Scripture in passages like Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1:15, ff. is that of supra-. Only, I would like to stress that the important question here is not merely that of the order of the decrees, but the question what is purpose and what is means in the work of God. In this sense, I say supra- is right.
But when it comes to the broader and fundamental question of being Reformed, and particularly of maintaining the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God in predestination and in all the work of salvation, as over against all Arminianism, then, certainly, true infralapsarianism is just as “right” as supralapsarianism. Our Canons of Dordrecht are infralapsarian, although there were several supralapsarians at the Synod of Dordt. And historically, in Reformed churches the question of supra- or infra- has never been a test of one’s being Reformed. From that point of view I have said more than once, “Give me a good infralapsarian any day!”
Does the Living Bible, or other translations, have a place in our homes, even as a commentary?
This question takes in a large territory when it says “other translations.” Personally, I have a good many different translations on my library shelves. And I surely derive some benefit from them as commentaries. And although I have no use for the Living Bible or for other contemporary translations like it, I see no harm in having them in our homes strictly as commentaries and reference works. However, just like many commentaries, their value is very limited. And like all commentaries, they must be used with discretion.
I definitely do NOT recommend the Living Bible for family worship. But let me be positive: I definitely DO recommend the King James Version for our homes, for personal reading and study, and for our schools.
By the way, the RFPA recently prepared three sets of reprints of Standard Bearer articles on Bible translations. Those interested may write to our Business Office for copies of these for themselves or for distribution. They are free for the asking while the supply of one thousand lasts.