It was to be expected that the religious press would take note of the death of our beloved Reverend Herman Hoeksema and that in connection with our bereavement there would be not only expressions of condolence but also evaluations expressed. It surely is not my intention to take note of or to reply to all such expressions. But since one such expression comes from a quarter historically close to us, The Banner of the Christian Reformed Church, and since, further, it goes beyond a mere expression of condolence, and since, moreover, it also addresses a word to our Protestant Reformed Churches, I feel impelled to reply.
Ignoring what seems to be at least a hint of innuendo in his remarks about the “mantle of charity” being thrown “over what some may have deplored and resented in him,” let it be noted, first of all, that the editor of The Banner writes many complimentary words about Herman Hoeksema, the man. He was a crusader, a man with a mission, a man of a brilliant mind and a facile pen, a man of a strong constitution, a dynamic leader, a theologian of no mean ability, a rather prolific author, a man of exceptional scholarship, a fearless editor, and a man with an astounding capacity for work. All these we recognized in him also. But he and we always insisted that these were God-given talents for which God alone was to be acknowledged, not the man Herman Hoeksema.
In the second place, The Banner approaches a little closer to the point, but nevertheless misses it, when it refers to Rev. Hoeksema’s insistence on the truth that God is GOD, to his tireless guarding of divine sovereignty, of predestination, and of the antithesis, to his lifelong emphasis on divine sovereignty and his conviction that we must be antithetical in our thinking, and to his warnings against the error of Arminianism. Surely, the loss of such an one is proper occasion for condolences in the church. Nevertheless, for The Banner and for the Christian Reformed Church, this is also aside from the point.
Well, what is the point?
The point is that, by the grace of God, Herman Hoeksema was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, without compromise faithful to Scripture and to our Reformed confessions.
The point is that to its shame, and also to its own continued detriment, the Christian Reformed Church cast out that faithful servant of Jesus Christ as a heretic and a schismatic, and that in that light The Banner’s posthumous “honor to whom honor is due” is but faint praise,—in fact, no praise at all.
The point is that The Banner is guilty of a serious distortion of history when it states that “Things came to a head when Rev. Hoeksema and others insisted that the teaching of common grace is unscriptural, Arminian, and not to be tolerated in the body of Reformed theology.” The truth is,—and the records will bear this out,—that “things came to a head” when, after the Jansen case, and at the instigation of supporters of Jansen, common grace was elevated to the status of church dogma in the Three Points of 1924 as an occasion to seek the ouster of Rev. Hoeksema and those others. The truth is that the Synod of 1924 having refused to discipline or to advise discipline, and, in fact, having given Rev. Hoeksema the testimony that he was “Reformed in the fundamentals,” Classis Grand Rapids East proceeded with hierarchical and unjust discipline.
The point is that Rev. Herman Hoeksema always, in all his preaching and teaching and writing, came with Scripture and the confessions in hand. That cliché about Rev. Hoeksema’s view failing to do justice to the whole of Scripture and being more in keeping with human logic, is a tired old horse that has been ridden ever since 1924. All that Herman Hoeksema has ever written gives the lie to that cliché. His soon-to-be-published dogmatics will reveal plainly that he cherished the exposition of Scripture as nothing else.
And why,—why, if the strength of Hoeksema’s position was mere, weak, human logic; why, if the Christian Reformed Church was right in 1924 and thereafter; why, if it is proper to spare no effort to convince “erring brethren;” why, if you are genuinely interested in reconciliation;—why, pray, do you twice emphasize, Editor Vander Ploeg, that it seemed the better part of wisdom not to engage in continued controversy with him while he was still alive? And another question presses itself to the fore: why have the Christian Reformed Churches repeatedly refused, both officially and unofficially, to discuss the issues that separate us? That this is the case is not to be denied!
In conclusion, let me remind The Banner:
1. That a mere prayer for reconciliation is not sufficient. Such prayer must arise out of a genuine concern for reconciliation; and such genuine concern must be evinced in honest efforts toward reconciliation.
2. That reconciliation is not the same as compromise. A “reconciliation” that is based on the idea that “what we have in common is so much greater than that which is keeping us apart” is not reconciliation at all, but compromise.
3. That the issues which separate the Protestant Reformed Churches from the Christian Reformed Church are not minor but strike at the very heart of the Reformed faith. It is certainly true that the Christian Reformed Churches do well to take to heart Rev. Hoeksema’s (and our) warnings against Arminianism and opposition against the evil practices and teachings that are inherent in common grace. But then let them go back to the root of these evils: the Three Points of 1924.
4. That genuine efforts at reconciliation must honestly look at the causes of the breach and remove them. For such reconciliation the Protestant Reformed Churches have always been, and are today, ready. For we love the Reformed faith, and we stand opposed to any departure there from!