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Under the title “Covenant and Election” the Rev. W. Pouwelse devotes two more rather lengthy articles (Clarion, Feb. 9, 1985 and Feb. 22, 1985) to my charges that he distorts the doctrinal position of the Protestant Reformed Churches and the history of events in the 1950s, especially of the schism of 1953.

In all that he writes, however, the. Rev. Pouwelse makes only one forthright correction; and that correction is even open to the possibility of leaving a wrong impression. Perhaps the reader will recall that in my original editorial in which I criticized Mr. Pouwelse’s presentation of our doctrinal stance and history, I criticized him for writing the following: “In 1951 the ‘Declaration of Principles’ caused a conflict in the Protestant Reformed Churches and the Canadian Reformed Churches were established. What was left from the Protestant Reformed Churches went back to the Christian Reformed Churches in 1960.” I criticized this as being historically inaccurate on several counts. In response to this the Rev. Pouwelse writes, p. 77:

Here Prof. Hoeksema has a real point and we do not hesitate to apologize for a mistake. After the Canadian Reformed Churches had been established, there was a split in what was left of the PRC. The one group merged into the Christian Reformed Church. The other group continued to exist as Protestant Reformed Churches.

Even this is not accurate, of course. First of all, it leaves the impression, intentionally or not, that there was a connection between the establishment of the Canadian Reformed Churches (the Liberated in Canada) and the split in the Protestant Reformed Churches. There was no such connection whatsoever. Secondly, it leaves an incorrect impression in speaking of “what was left of the PRC,” as though there was only some kind of remnant of the PRC after the Canadian Reformed Churches were established. But the establishment of the Canadian Reformed Churches had no effect on the Protestant Reformed denomination. The latter was intact until the De Wolf schism took place in the latter half of 1953. Up to that time two small congregations, Hamilton and Chatham, Ontario—congregations chiefly composed of Liberated immigrants, who were organized on a Protestant Reformed basis, but who dishonestly (I use the word advisedly) maintained their Liberated views—had left the PRC. Their departure had nothing to do historically with the schism of 1953. And it leaves a strange impression to speak of “what was left of the PRC” when those two congregations comprised only some 40 families, at least four of whom did not leave the PRC. 

For the rest, the Rev. Pouwelse appears to be very reluctant to admit forthrightly any distortions on his part with respect to our Protestant Reformed position. In the first place, he does not want to admit at all that the Declaration of Principles did not represent a change of direction on the part of the Protestant Reformed Churches. In supporting his contention that the Declaration does indeed represent such a change of direction, he appeals to the writing of Dr. K. Schilder, especially to one of his last articles, entitled, “De Kous Is Af (The Stocking Is Finished).” I remember the article well, as I also remember the late Rev. Hoeksema’s reply to that article. Dr. Schilder labored at that time under the misapprehension that our second conference with him had ended with Rev. Hoeksema’s calling Dr. Schilder’s ideas about the covenant Reformed and that Hoeksema had said, “That is Reformed.” But this was not said. What was said was, “He is Reformed.” Besides, do not forget that after Dr. Schilder’s visit to our churches, the Revs. J. DeJong and B. Kok had visited in the Netherlands and had attempted to sell our churches down the river. They had so convinced the Dutch Committee for Correspondence that our churches were wide open for the Liberated covenant view that they were ready to have full correspondence with us and that the late Prof. Holwerda had advised the immigrants in Chatham to join our churches and to propagate their Liberated views among us. But the fact of the matter is that we had not changed our direction, and that our churches were not wide open for Liberated views. Meanwhile it was also true that our churches were not wide open for Synodical views any more than for Liberated, while we frowned upon the Synodicals for their hierarchical actions and certainly sympathized with the Liberated because of the ecclesiastical injustice of their treatment. 

Take as a concrete example the organization of the Chatham congregation. This was before the Declaration was adopted. Were they organized on the basis that there was nothing distinctively Protestant Reformed binding upon them? By no means. Once they were refused organization because they wanted to be free to hold and propagate their Liberated views. When they were actually organized, the late Rev. Hoeksema told them emphatically three times in the course of his sermon that if they were organized they were bound to our Protestant Reformed view of a particular promise, and that if they did not want to be thus bound, they must not organize! Yet when the Declaration was under consideration, who immediately objected to it? The Consistory of Chatham! 

Nor did I suggest, as the Rev. Pouwelse writes, that “everyone who speaks about a change of direction shows that he has never read the Declaration and does not know what he is talking about.” I wrote the following, and it is true: “For anyone who reads the Declaration and who knows anything at all about Protestant Reformed history will recognize immediately that the Declaration does not represent a change of direction. On the contrary, it just exactly represents a holding to our original direction.” That is altogether different, you see. And why is this true? First of all, because the Declaration itself in its very opening paragraphs proceeds historically. It goes back to 1924. It speaks of the fact that we maintain our Reformed confessions over against and withrepudiation of the Three Points of 1924. The Declaration simply sets forth black on white what our Protestant Reformed Churches have believed and taught from the very beginning. But if you are acquainted with our history, you will know this, too. The little book, Believers And Their Seed was originally published in the Dutch language under the title De Gelovigen en Hun Zaad. In this book the Kuyperian view of presupposed regeneration and the Heynsian view of a general, conditional promise are both repudiated. In the same book our Protestant Reformed covenant view is set forth. But when and why was this book first published? It was not something prepared to combat the Liberated covenant theology, although the Dutch version was reprinted in the late 1940s and widely distributed in the Netherlands because it was pertinent at that time. No, it was originally published in the late 1920s and over against the views of Prof. Heyns, views then prevalent in the Christian Reformed Church. Does the Declaration represent a change of direction, then? Not at all! It was a holding to the original Protestant Reformed course. Anyone who said in the 1950s or who says today that it was a change of direction could not be more wrong! 

For the rest, the Rev. Pouwelse has to concede, in the light of what I have written, that his distortions were indeed distortions. He concedes that we officially deny presupposed regeneration. He concedes, too, that the Protestant Reformed do not speak of two kinds of covenants and two kinds of promises. But in effect he takes the position that there is not much difference between our view and that of Dr. Kuyper. Meanwhile, he writes at length about “What is the covenant?” and he thrashes over some old straw about what Dr. Schilder wrote about the term condition—something which was answered and criticized years ago by the late Rev. Hoeksema. 

For my part I have no desire to continue a discussion of this kind. It appears to me to be utterly futile. From the Netherlands and from Canada we have always gotten the same reaction and the same charges. It appears to me that the Liberated never really want to face the issues. If they would royally admit once that not everyone who disagrees with the Liberated holds to presupposed regeneration (or its equivalent), and if they would take our Declaration of Principles and our covenant theology at face value and at least concede the possibility that it is different from either the Kuyperian or the Heynsian view, then I could see at least the possibility of fruitful discussion. I mean this in all seriousness. This was what our churches wanted in the 1950s already, even though we disagreed with the late Dr. Schilder’s presentation. At that time all discussion was abruptly ended not by us but by Dr. Schilder and his “The Stocking Is Finished.” Since that time others have continually used presupposed regeneration as a “red herring.” It would have taken the Rev. Pouwelse less than a page frankly to admit his distortions; but he writes three long articles to becloud the issue. 

We on our part will always be ready for frank and open discussion when the Liberated are willing to cease beclouding the issues and get rid of their phobia about presupposed regeneration as far as the Protestant Reformed Churches are concerned. 

Until that time comes, however, I refuse all discussion with the Canadian Reformed about the covenant. I will, however, continue, upon occasion, to call attention to their very erroneous and unReformed Heynsian error.