Let me repeat the line of thought of the professor’s article, the second half of which I must still treat. As was said the professor charges me with two, I should have said, three follies.

1)  My first folly, according to the professor, is my saying, that Rev. Hoeksema’s dogmatic structure, opinion, coherent view “over alles en nog wat” is official doctrine in our communion just because it is Rev. Hoeksema’s view and through the success that he had in binding it on our people.

I made plain that the professor cannot point to a single statement in any of my articles that can justify his telling his readers over there in the Netherlands such a thing. Such a saying from my pen would indeed be absurd and as untrue as it is absurd. Not Rev. Hoeksema’s thetical view “over alles en nog wat”, but his covenant-theology—the teaching that the promises of God are given only to the elect—is official doctrine in our communion, and this for the sole reason that it was officially adopted.

2)  My second folly, according to the professor, is my saying that Rev. Hoeksema’s covenant-theology was unwritten and as unwritten officially adopted. Were this true, says the professor, the Protestant Reformed officially adopted Rev. Hoeksema’s unwritten creed, dogmatic structure, opinion, coherent view, thetical view “over alles en nog wat”. But that is inconceivable. It simply cannot be true. And it isn’t true. Fact is, the professor goes on to say, that all the Protestant Reformed have is the Confession, the Three Forms of Unity, and not the covenant-theology of collega Hoeksema.

But as I made plain, the facts are these. Not Rev. Hoeksema’s thetical view “over alles en nog wat”, but his covenant-theology, the teaching that the promises of God are given only to the elect, is writtenwritten indeed—and as written also officially adopted, and therefore binding indeed. The “how” of this adoption has been fully explained.

Here the professor has my reply to what we have in the following paragraph from his pen (quote), “Now this time I am not going to say a word about the theology of the Liberated.” (That is really a pity. I would like to hear the professor on that theology, that covenant-theology of the Liberated, the teaching that the promises of God are given to baptized elect and non-elect alike). The professor continues (quote), “But I do want to say something about the theology of the Protestant Reformed brethren. If Rev. Ophoff dare aver that the unwritten creed, nevertheless officially adopted, is binding in his communion, well, then it is time to hold him to the spirited word of Rev. Hoeksema’s Triple Breach, p. 24, that I, mutatis mutandis (necessary changes having been made) would now like to hold before him: ‘The Formula of Subscription contains always still nothing more than that we (the subscribers of that document, the officebearers in the church) declare our willingness to maintain and defend the Three Forms of Unity.’

Remark. We wholeheartedly can indorse that statement from the Triple Breach. Truly, that is all that the Formula of Subscription contains, to wit, a promise to maintain and defend the Three Forms of Unity. And before our own consciousness we have been holding ourselves to that promise through the years, also in our officially adopting the written teaching that the promises of God are given only to the elect and in our official rejection of the written logical contrary of that doctrine. For that doctrine, teaching, we firmly believe, is the plain teaching of those Three Forms, so that, according to our firm belief, all that we were doing in officially adopting that written teaching is precisely what the Liberated, according to their belief and public statements, were doing when they officially rejected the teaching of the synodicals to the effect that the promises of God are given to the elect only. What we were doing, we believe, is returning to the Confession. And, of course, the question is—and this is the question indeed—who actually returned to the Confession, the Protestant Reformed or the Liberated? We certainly would like to discuss with the Liberated brethren precisely that question. We are convinced that we did. And as holding that conviction we are exceedingly willing to debate the matter.

Again quoting from Rev. Hoeksema’s Triple Breach, the professor continues ,“A little further, p. 24/5 (of the Triple Breach), ‘In 1924 office bearers were deposed because they refused to subscribe and express their agreement with the Three Forms of Unity. These office bearers had promised to hold themselves to the Three Forms of Unity without any additions.’

Remark. We can wholeheartedly subscribe also this statement from the Triple Breach of Rev. Hoeksema. For it is simply a statement of what at the time and still is our conviction. Our conviction was and still is that the Three Points are, as Rev. Hoeksema states in the aforesaid booklet, three additions to the Confession and not the very Confession itself. Such being our conviction, we might not, and also did not, subscribe the Three Points. But, I repeat, the teaching that the promises of God are given only to the elect is, according to our firm belief, the very Confession, the only true interpretation of it. Hence, we would have had absolutely no scruples in subscribing that teaching, had they so required. For, certainly, we did not desire that rupture between us and the Christian Reformed brethren. We did all within our power to prevent it. Why should we then have been unwilling to subscribe the truth, if that could have held us together? We would have committed a heinous sin before God had we allowed ourselves to be deposed in our office for the mere and sole reason that we didn’t want to be told.

The professor continues, “Rev. Hoeksema reproved the Christian Reformed church, and, I believe, rightly so, as follows: If the Christian Reformed Churches wanted to be honest, they would so have to alter the Form (the Three Forms of Unity), that in it the Three Points of 1924 also received a name.’ I (Dr. Schilder) share that opinion.”

Remark, I (Rev. Ophoff), too, share that opinion (of Rev. Hoeksema). So here the professor and I again agree. Certainly, the Christian Reformed brethren, then, should have been honest enough to make room for the Three Points by changing—mark you, changing —the Confession. And the reason is simple. As Rev. Hoeksema stated in his Triple Breach, these points, so we believe, are not the Confession but verily additions to it.

And now I must confess that I can see no logical connection between what the professor has just said and what he in the same paragraph next writes (quote) “If Rev. Ophoff, what I otherwise do not believe, thinks that an unwritten creed is binding, let, then, the Protestant Reformed churches write down on paper that which is unwritten, and definitely name it among the papers which, let us say, the catechumens of 1949 must receive 25 years after 1924.”

Reply. The professor shall have to admit that the necessity under which he here wants to place us is really no necessity at all if the doctrine in question is written in our hearts; if it is the consensus of opinion, better said, conviction, among us that the doctrine is the plain teaching of our Confession; and if it already has been put in writing, and as written officially adopted,

The professor concludes, “As long as this has not happened, and I suspect that it never will happen, I know not how to honor the Protestant Reformed  churches better, than to say to everyone: hands off, because we have there the Three Forms of Unity and nothing else,—Rev. Hoeksema himself has said it.” I fail to grasp what the professor means, by the expression „hands off”. Hands off what? Our confession? Do not change that symbol by the addition of propositions foreign to its doctrine? If that is what is meant, I again fully agree, of course. The rest of the sentence is clear. True, we have the Three Forms and nothing else in the way of corrupting additions. And the teaching to the effect that the promises of God are only to the elect is our official interpretation—of the Confession. Rev. Hoeksema has said it not so long ago in the Standard Bearer. And we all say it with him, not because he said it, but because it is true.

It is therefore as the professor tells his readers. All that we as Protestant Reformed have is the Confession, the Three Forms of Unity, but the Confession so interpreted as to yield the teaching that the promises of God are given only to the elect. That teaching, we believe, is the only true interpretation of the Confession. And on that teaching hangs not Rev. Hoeksema’s thetical view “over alles en nog wat”, but our covenant view, theology. The ensign, so to speak, of that view, theology, is exactly that teaching. To distinguish our covenant-theology from other covenant-theologies, for example from that of the Liberated, it would not be amiss to call it the promises-of-God-given-only-to-the-elect covenant-theology of the Protestant Reformed. Indeed, it is really as plain and as simple as all that.

3)  My third folly, according to the professor, is my saying that the Protestant Reformed in their rejection of the Three Points repudiated the covenant- theology of Prof. Heyns, the dogmatic construction of the professor, his opinion, coherent view, thetical view “over alles en nog wat”. Such is my folly here—a folly that the professor means to expose in all its great foolishness. For he writes (quote), “It is not true that a theology, for example of Heyns, was rejected. Propositions were rejected, nothing more. Back of them lie, of course, more than a fragment, not to say: back of them lie all kinds of shreds of theology; but even as in 1944 the people who cast us out, had all kinds of theological ideas in their heads, the one about the church, the other about the sacrament, a third about the promise, and the one for that and the other again for some other reason, some in all likelihood for all kinds of casual reasons, nodded their approval, when the chairman brought to a vote as binding, the deliverances, the propositions, so, too, in 1924. We only cause ourselves a hopeless amount of work should we also still have to deal with all those theologies. Don’t take offence, but such a construction of the present church life dangerously approaches the myth.”

This, then, is my great folly, namely, my contention

that in rejecting the three points, the Protestant Reformed repudiated all that lies back of those points: the theology of Heyns and of all the delegates to synod, their shreds of theology, all kinds of theological ideas in their heads about church, sacrament and the promise including all kinds of casual reasons back of their nodding their approval, when the points as binding were brought to a vote.

In replying, all I have need of is to direct attention to the proposition on which the first of the three points was made to repose,—the proposition to the effect that the preaching of the gospel is grace for all—elect and non-elect—to whom in the providence of God it is presented. And that is Heynsian theology. And that theology was rejected together with the first point.

That theology, doctrinal proposition, does not, of course, stand alone. It is surrounded by other doctrinal propositions, to which it is radically related and in union with which it forms a distinctive covenant-view, theology, the Heynsian. Basic to this view is the proposition that the promises of God are given to elect and non-elect alike. On that proposition this whole view hangs. It is, therefore, not amiss to speak of the promises-of-God-given-to-all covenant view, theology, of Heyns. Not with all kinds of theological ideas in the head of Heyns or in anybody else’s head have we to do, but with this Heynsian covenant view. For it was officially rejected with the three points in 1924.

The professor in the sequel of his article objects to identifying the Heynsian covenant-view with that of the Liberated. He tells his readers that he, himself, rejects the first point of 1924 and definite constructions of Heyns. But that is his inconsistency. For he at once holds that the promises are given to all the baptized, elect and non-elect, alike.

I still have a question. As we know, by synodical action in the communion of “Gereformeerde” churches in the Netherlands, that promises-of-God-given-only- to-the-elect theology was made binding. Every officebearer was asked to express his agreement with it. Dr. Schilder and his brethren in the service—professors, ministers, elders, and deacons—refused. Action was taken against them, and they were deposed in their office. Synod’s action was the striking of what turned out to be an always widening breach between brethren of the same household of faith.

Here, then, is my question? Why did Dr. Schilder and his brethren refuse to subscribe that covenant- theology? Let me put the question to ourselves. Why in our communion did our original consistories back in 1924 refuse to subscribe the Three Points? Was their reason the following?

1)  They had no earnest convictions regarding the doctrine contained in those points, but only opinions. Their attitude was more or less neutral. They had a feeling that the doctrine was unscriptural but they did not know. They were not certain. At the moment, they were unable in their minds and hearts to take a firm stand against or for the points. As led by Rev. Hoeksema, they had been studying the doctrine and its contrary for a long time. But as yet no settled and firm beliefs had formed in their soul. They felt that, before they ever would be able to say with earnest conviction, that the Three Points were sound doctrine or heretical, they needed much more time, perhaps years, for study. Hence, their ideal with respect to the doctrine of the Three Points and its logical contrary was a legal state in the church in which every one was free to take whatever attitude his heart bade him with respect to the points, and to live that attitude, denying or affirming those points, as he should choose.

Was this the state of heart and mind of the three original consistories and their pastors—Revs. Hoeksema, Danhof, and the undersigned—with respect to the three points? And did they refuse to sign those points because, being still in great doubt, they, according to the word of the apostle, would be damned, should they yield? And is this what they in their refusal to subscribe the points declared: We are not returning to the Confession in our minds and hearts. For we have no convictions regarding the doctrine of the points. So then, we are returning to that ideal legal state (just described) the watch-word of which is: nothing binding.

Now this, certainly, is not what those three original consistories declared, meant to declare and actually did declare, in their refusal to subscribe the Three Points. How could they with a good conscience have allowed themselves to be deposed*in their office without first revealing to Classis their doubt and petitioning Classis to bear them in their doubt as members of the Christian Reformed communion of churches, and thus refrain from demanding of them that they subscribe the Three Points. And it is not unlikely that the Classis would have been willing to bear them in their doubt on the condition that they solemnly promise to refrain from attacking the doctrine of the points either by the written or spoken word; but to keep silence until through the searching of the Scriptures, they should be able to take a stand either against or for the Three Points.

In a word, had that been the state of mind and heart of those original consistories, how could we today justify our separate existence as a communion of Protestant Reformed Churches. I don’t see it.


2)  But, certainly, that was not the state of mind and heart of the three original consistories with regard to the Three Points and its contrary doctrine. Those consistories, the pastors of those consistories, had earnest and firm convictions regarding the doctrine of those Three Points. It was their earnest conviction that the doctrine of those points was in conflict with the Scriptures and our Confession. It was their firm conviction that, should they subscribe the three points, they verily would be binding themselves to denying and attacking the Gospel of God and to proclaiming the lie in the pulpit. And in that conviction, they refused to subscribe the Three Points. In that conviction they allowed themselves to be deposed in their office. And their firm belief was that in openly repudiating those points, they were returning to the confession indeed. Let no one say, therefore, that the contrary of these points, the contrary of the First Point—that promises- of-God-given-only-to-the-elect covenant-theology is not binding in our communion. To deny that is to be making it impossible for ourselves to justify before God our separate existence as a communion of Protestant Reformed Churches.

How is Dr. Schilder and his brethren justifying their separate existence as a communion of Liberated churches? The question is pertinent because of their saying that in their refusal to sign the points they were returning to that legal state that has for its watchword: we do not bind one another;—returning to that state with respect to the doctrine of those points and its logical contrary.

One or two: 1) Their refusal to sign those points was an act expressive of their earnest conviction that the doctrine of those synodical points is heretical, and that in repudiating it, they were returning to the Confession and the Scriptures, and then the contrary doctrine of the points is binding in their communion; 2) or they were not acting from earnest conviction; and in that case the contrary doctrine of those points cannot very well be binding in their communion. But how then are the brethren justifying their separate existence as a communion of Liberated churches? That is really my question.

The trouble with the Liberated brethren is that they say two things. They say: 1) We did return to the Confession. (Prof. Schilder said this in his article that I am now treating). Hence, in repudiating that promises-of-God-given-only-to-the-elect covenant theology of the Synodicals and in embracing its logical contrary, we did act from conviction. That “promises-of-God-given-to-baptized-elect-and-non-elect covenant theology is binding in our communion. Our separation therefore is justified. 2) And they say, “that covenant-theology of ours is not binding in our communion. We did not act from conviction. Our separation is not justified.

The Liberated brethren must stop saying two things. They must say either the one or the other.