Yes, there is also such a thing as denominational wisdom. (First italics mine; second the Rev. G. Hoeksema’s. See The Banner, April 27, 1939, page 391.)
And I would add the softly spoken wish: would that you promoted and followed it with a view to the matter in question.
Wisdom, divine wisdom, is the choosing of the best means and the best ways to arrive at the most wonderful end, namely, the glorification of the Triune God who is blessed forever!
This wisdom does not consist in returning to the “precious calm” as the above-mentioned minister of Christ puts it. That calm refers to the history of the Christian Reformed Churches of 1924-1939. That “calm” is dangerous, inimically dangerous, for your churches, while on the contrary, the “disturbing a church that was at rest on the matter,” (i.e., Common Grace) is wisdom indeed, Reverend!
We have finally arrived at a stage in the history of the Reformed Churches where it can be easily proven to the constituency of the Christian Reformed Churches that there is something radically wrong with both the declarations of the Synod of 1924 and the history of the deposition of the three ministers and their consistories.
This is clear on the very surface of things.
First: Prof. Dr. K. Schilder’s actions. These actions may be summarized as follows: 1) He has investigated the writings of our side. He, and quite a few other leaders in the Netherlands Reformed Churches with him, have carefully followed all that the Rev. H. Hoeksema has written in the Standard Bearer on the Reformed truth generally and the truth with regard to so-called Common Grace and our history of Protestant Reformed Churches in particular. We know this to be a fact. 2) He has reacted favorably in that he gave the columns of the “Reformatie” for the voice of the Standard Bearer also. And at more than one occasion he exegeted texts, used to bolster a so-called Common Grace, in harmony with our view. I would like to recall one striking instance. And in this connection I would say that I am aware of the fact that the matter I have in mind only concerned the exegesis of one text (Isaiah 26:10); still, the expression of the learned Doctor when also he exegeted this text is striking. He said, when speaking of the Rev. Hoeksema’s interpretation: “Ds. Hoeksema heeft gelijk.” (That means in English: “Rev. Hoeksema is right”). You know, when you have heard for 15 or more years nothing else but: Rev. Hoeksema is wrong, it gives you a profound shock when reading the very opposite. Remember also his exegesis of Rom. 2:14, 15. 3) He was willing to have a conference with Rev. Hoeksema and all our ministers who could attend while the subject of discussion was Common Grace. I assure you that this is wonderful. You must remember that from the viewpoint of the Christian Reformed Churches we lie in the gutter. Well, he was willing to join us there (?) and listen to our grievances. 4) He voiced the hope that we might again unite with the Christian Reformed Churches. And was willing to be present at a conference of various leaders of both church-groups in order to use his influence for such proposed reunion. And he did attend that conference.
I ask you with a view to this first matter: Does all this action not show that there is something radically wrong with the Common Grace points and our deposition? Remember, on the one hand, that Dr. Schilder is one of the foremost, if not the foremost, of Reformed theologians that are living today, so that he was appointed to the important chair of Dogmatics by a Reformed Synod without one dissenting vote; and remember, on the other hand, that he would like to see us returned in the bosom of the Reformed Churches.
Second: the action of the nine ministers of the Christian Reformed Churches who attended the conference. And remember that they attended this conference even though the Rev. H. J. Kuiper had written his infamous article in The Banner of March 23. In that article he enumerated four reasons why we should never unite. And yet they came. Also here I would say that I am fully aware of the fact that some of them are sorry they attended and that perhaps all of them still think in terms of “Kalamazoo 1924,” but that is not the point here. I want to emphasize this: their coming to this conference is an admission on their part, and that in spite of themselves, that all is not as it should be with regard to the common grace issue and its history of 1924-1939. And men like the Revs. H. J. Kuiper and G. Hoeksema have felt this. The one says: “The meeting of March 29 would also have been in order if our Church(es) had not yet expressed itself (themselves) on the common grace issue. In such a case an attempt to see whether a formulation of certain points in dispute can be found which may satisfy the leaders of both groups’ would not have been out of place. But we have a formulation of the points in dispute.” (Rev. H. J. Kuiper italicizes). And the other (Rev. G. Hoeksema) writes succinctly but with biting sarcasm: “There is also such a thing as denominational wisdom.” (His italics). The biting sarcasm is to be found in the word wisdom as well as in its italicized form. He has judged that the action of the “nine” of March 29 is crowned folly.
Still, Rev. G. Hoeksema is wrong. The attendance of the nine ministers springs from better motives. There is the influence of Dr. Schilder first of all. He has stressed reunion and denominated continued separation as sinful. Also there are the voices in the Netherlands press. As far back as the thoughts of Dr. Impeta, and even before his kindly evaluation of the Rev. Hoeksema’s brochures, there have appeared statements in the Netherlands religious, or rather, Reformed periodicals that hinted at such a conference as was finally held. Remember in this connection the advice of Dr. Greydanus. He also proposed a rediscussion of the whole common grace matter, with a view to possible reunion of those who belonged together. And very recently we read the ebullition of the Rev. Vreugdenhil: “beautiful perspectives”! I would like to ask the Christian Reformed leaders to please exegete that phrase and see if they can so explain these “beautiful perspectives” that we continue to walk around with the inscription hung around our neck: Heretics! Schismatics!
Therefore I would explain the attendance of the “nine,” first of all, to the influence that is brought to bear upon them by Dr. Schilder, c.s.
Neither is that all. I still believe in love of these “nine,” as well as of all the ministers of the Christian Reformed Churches, that they are children of God, that they are renewed men, that they have the testimony of God’s truth in their heart, that their consciences are enlightened by the Word of God and the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that of them, even though they have sinned against that truth as well as against us. And, God, Who never leaves Himself without witness, must have often witnessed regarding His truth of marvelous grace in the hearts of the erring brethren. I cannot believe of them that they not often have felt the sting of an accusing voice of God in their conscience regarding their dealings with the truth of grace and with us: their brethren, their Reformed brethren.
And I would ask you to unite this second argument with the first: the voice of conscience together with the voice of the Netherlands Reformed Churches; and then it is not difficult to see that Rev. Van Baalen writes the letter and the other eight come to the meeting.
Therefore I would say in all kindliness that Rev. G. Hoeksema must refrain from bitter sarcasm and Rev. H. J. Kuiper must not place too severe a strain on his conscience. It would be well for the latter to grow calm and stare at that famous quotation in the “Reformatie” where also his words are quoted, words that have gathered the dust of sixteen long years. The same Kuiper who now multiplies words to keep his churches from confessing sin, the sin of the “Three Points,” once sent in substance the following testimony to his churches: “Although the Revs. H. Danhof and Hoeksema differ from the current view on common grace, they nevertheless stand squarely on the Reformed Confessions.” You must consider this in the light of the fact that the Rev. Hoeksema at that time already developed the line of the Biblical conception of grace which we still hold to. And published it abroad in The Banner.
You see, dear reader, that on the very surface of things it has become clear that there is something very fundamentally wrong with the Three Points and the history of our deposition. Of course, I admit that those who lived through the history of the Common Grace controversy have known this right along. But I write this with a view to those that either did not make the history with us or who simply accepted the declarations of the Christian Reformed ministers that Hoeksema was wrong. This latter attitude is almost universally expressed by the constituency of the Christian Reformed membership. Now they can see before their very eyes, even without the bothersome (?) task of delving into the record of all that has been written, that after all the Protestant Reformed Churches are not as completely heretical as they were taught to believe. Everyone can now clearly see that: 1) the Netherlands Reformed Churches, even if not officially, still through representative leaders, take commendable recognizance of us; and 2) some of the very representative leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches were willing to come to a meeting whose purpose was to talk reunion with the Protestant Reformed Churches.
This is seen by the laymen (thus the Rev. H. J. Kuiper styles his members); and they remember that the Protestant Reformed leaders were cast out on the basis of Article 80 of the Church Order.
Nothing positive in the matter of reunion may come of all these currents and cross-currents; I would be surprised if there would; nevertheless I am glad all this happened.
The reasons for my gladness are: 1) that much heralded “rest” and period of “calm” in the Christian Reformed Churches is disturbed. Glad, because we are convinced that this calm and rest is the rest of stagnation; 2) that from this disturbance much good may come and under God’s blessing much good will come for the Christian Reformed Churches. It may lead to conviction of sin and a better insight into the marvelous grace of God; 3) and it has already led to the enjoyment by us of closer fellowship with those who are Reformed, both in the Netherlands and here; 4) and, finally, our influence is extended in ever widening circles among those who love Reformed truth.
I know that we are bidden to be patient; that we must wait for that blessed time when all darkness and error shall have been expelled and all God’s children shall walk in the light of God’s countenance. I know all that; and still we would like to see more of it here; we would like to see Ephraim and Judah united in their stand against Philistia and Edom. And on the basis of Truth. It is also our duty to seek such blessed union as much as in us lies.
Therefore we wrote this. And we would consider it kindness on the part of those who read this to judge me in the light of that motive.