Such was the subject of an essay delivered by the Rev. J. Blankespoor at a ministers’ conference held recently in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and published in Concordia of Dec. 2, 1954.
Rev. J. Howerzyl, who has been filling the editorial space iii this paper of late, introduces this essay with “a word of explanation.” He tells us that “a few weeks ago a ministers’ conference was held in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Present were most of our ministers, except those hindered by distance and pressing work. At this meeting several fine papers were read, dealing with the situation in our churches and our course for the future. Since this fits in very well with that which we have been writing in Concordia, and since the subjects treated were of vital interest not only to the ministers but to all our people, it was decided to ask Concordiafor its editorial space to print these papers. Herewith we present the essay by Rev. J. Blankespoor.”
Why this conference was held and why this particular subject for the conference was chosen, we can only guess. One informant told me that a bulletin published in one of their churches signified that the conference was very urgent. Perhaps there are ministers and not a few laymen who went along with the schismatics who are not a little alarmed with the present situation in these churches, and they are still more alarmed about their future, and therefore demanded such a conference. At any rate, the conference was held, and if Rev. Blankespoor’s essay is a sample of all the “fine” papers that were delivered there, we can also know the mind of the conference both as to their present situation as well as to their course of action for the future. They are perfectly justified in their own mind as to their past conduct. They are perfectly satisfied as to the present situation. The alarmists among them must be stilled: And as for the future, they are as free as a bird escaped from its cage, all their former denominational straight-jackets have been removed. So with their doctrine and ecumenical aspirations they are really going to go places.
The essay of Rev. Blankespoor is too long to quote in its entirety in one issue of this department. So, the Lord willing, I hope to use two or three issues of theStandard Bearer if necessary to quote and disprove his paper. The introduction to his paper is rather long, at least long enough to fill all my space for this time, allowing for a little comment of my own. He makes some remarks in it that should not go unchallenged. Here follows his introduction:
“This question, (What really happened in our churches?—M.S.) no doubt is a good one. Even though we all have, undoubtedly, asked ourselves this question many, many times, it is always good to reminisce on a matter as important as this one. And self-examination is always proper.
“Just what is the deepest meaning of our recent church struggle? What is its real significance for us and for our future generations? This question must be answered in the light of Scripture but also in connection with our history of the past, the history for example of our churches in Canada, the history we made with the Declaration of Principles and last but not least with the discussion on the subject of conditions.
“The question becomes a still more important one in the light of a few pertinent observations. We were a small denomination, we needed each other, but why then a split? Few men exerted as much influence on a group of people as did the Rev. H. Hoeksema with his powerful personality. There was a time when all practically sat at his feet in re all the things he wrote and spoke. The Standard Bearer was virtually the last word on any given matter. For many years the machinery of our churches seemed to run very smoothly, with only a few interruptions, at least externally. Think, for example, of the time when Rev. Hoeksema was sick. How almost the entire denomination was deeply affected by it with a feeling of depression and discouragement. Besides all this the history of 1924 was still rather fresh in the minds of many. And now in so short a time another split in our small ranks? Surely there must have been a very good reason on the part of the majority of our people to be ready for such a step. True, we did not foster nor actually bring about a split. They became schismatic. But even then why did our people and we with them so maintain the principals which we defended that we chose a split instead of remaining one? In view of all these things one must come to the conclusion that there must have been in the minds of our leaders and people not only a very necessary reason for taking such a stand, but also a God-given duty to defend our principles, regardless of consequences.
“The answer to the question, What really happened in our churches? must be found only in the Scriptures. We surely might not in any sense be directed by what a small element of radicals said or thought, on either side. One can always find some malcontents in the church, with their own opinions of things. Therefore we must also be very careful lest we characterize the “other side” in the light of what a few radical individuals may say or think. But, it is a good practice to take into consideration, always, what the common people think. Since they also have the anointing of the Spirit they, too, can help us interpret history and the Scriptures. Remember that it was an old, gray-haired lady that first showed Dr. A. Kuyper Sr. the error of his way in the Hervormde Kerk. And remember above all that the multitudes gladly heard Jesus. No, they didn’t know the details of the law as did the doctors of theology among the scribes. Nevertheless they were a good criterion in those days. And they still are, and also-were and are such for us. Our history surely teaches us that the common people were convinced that something was wrong in our churches, and the majority of them maintained their principles and convictions even to the extent that it cost us a split in our churches. What then really happened and why did we follow this course? For this time, so far Blankespoor.
I wish to remark, first of all, that the entire essay and therefore also this introduction is typical Blankespoorian. Very piously and impressively and, because he is dead wrong, therefore very deceptively, he talks about proper self-examination, about solving the question of what happened in our churches “in the light of Scripture.” Of course, self-examination is always proper. Of course, all our questions, also the one concerning what happened in our churches, should be solved in the light of Scripture and the Confessions. All very piously said. But does Rev. Blankespoor do this? O, no! As far as that self-examination is concerned, does Rev. Blankespoor also suggest that he might be wrong? Does he mention one sin his self-examination produced? He does not. There was not examination of self, but of the other whom he calls “schismatic.” Does Rev. Blankespoor refer to any Scripture in his entire article to prove that he is walking in its light? He does not. He prates about the Standards of the church, but never once referred to them as the grounds for their schismatic action. I claim this is all pious talk, the purpose of which is to deceive the “common people,” concerning whom he has much to say in this introduction, to which I call attention again presently.
In the second place, I refer the reader to paragraph two of the introduction where Blankespoor makes two very noticeable omissions as he recalls the history in the light of which the question concerning what happened in our churches must be answered. He omitted to tell us how much he and his colleagues fell in love with the Liberated and their doctrine. That is also history. Secondly, he omitted to say in connection with the discussion on conditions anything about the two statements of the Rev. De Wolf, which also happened in our churches and were the immediate cause of the so-called split. Why did he do this? Why fail to mention these important facts? I am sure that Blankespoor has now proved what we have always said was a fact, that way back in our history even before the Canadian debacle there was ill-feeling among some of their ministers and even some of their laymen. But, when our associations with the Liberated began to jell, and voices of objection to those associations began to arise, that ill-feeling also began to express itself most vehemently. Then it was that they came out of their corner, who had previously worked in the dark. I can produce witnesses that will sustain this judgment. Blankespoor should not have neglected to include this in his history. He should have admitted or denied that they were in love with the Liberated and their doctrine. This he says nothing about for specific reasons. Also he should have told his audience how he defended and still does the heretical statements of De Wolf, how “Classis West” made itself guilty of schism when it defended Rev. De Wolf and his elders. That’s history in the light of which the question of what happened in our churches must be answered. Blankespoor omits all this. Why? I say the reason is to cover up and to deceive.
In the third place, Rev. Blankespoor makes some more pious speech about how small we were denominationally, and how much we needed each other. He has much to say about Rev. Hoeksema and the Standard Bearer. And all the while, for as many as nine years before the split I dare say, they were trying to get rid of Hoeksema and the Standard Bearer. All that pious talk about Hoeksema and his being ill, bah! The biggest surprise of their life was that the Lord restored him. One of their men told me right to my face how he wished that Hoeksema had died. If only he was out of the way, they could go places. The hate Hoeksema campaign; and I may add also Ophoff, has been going on for a long time, not only in the east, but also in the west. I can prove this too. And the Standard Bearer? It makes me sick to read what he says about that when we know that openly these men were advising their people not to subscribe to it and read it. With Rev. H.C. Hoeksema. I say—All Hokum! Hum-bug. The truth is that all but three of their ministers have refused to subscribe to the Standard Bearer, and one even had the audacity to tell our business manager that he wouldn’t have “that filthy sheet in his house.” And, mind you, this all while they still read the Standard Bearer and use it as the Standard Bearer so much? Is it because the latter are so heretical and unreformed? Not a Reformed man with a Reformed hair on his head would ever believe this. Even the Christian Reformed and, the Liberated do not believe this. The reason is that these men have defended the truth in the Standard Bearer, the truth that has undressed them, these schismatics, and they have been shown up for what they are. That’s the only reason. Hoeksema, Ophoff, and the Standard Bearer stood in their way of becoming big, of realizing their “ecumenical” desire.
In the fourth place, Rev. Blankespoor talks about “the majority of our “people” who were ready for the split. I am not going to dispute about numbers. This makes very little difference to me. A majority in respect to matters of doctrine is not always correct, and generally wrong. That’s history. It may even be true that a majority of our people were ready to step out with the schismatics. That is nothing new either. And I may add that it was the secret hope of the schismatic leaders that they would take along with them the entire denomination. The Lord, however, spoiled their plans. He preserved His remnant. This He always does. No question about that. But if it is true that the majority were ready to go along with the schismatics, how is that to be explained? In this case it is fast becoming evident that many of them have been misled, they have been told the lie.
Our space has run out, however, and we shall have to continue our remarks in the next issue.