Special Article

Held after Address at Hull Mass Meeting July, 1953 

Questioner: Rev. H.C. Hoeksema

Answers by: Rev. H. Hoeksema

Question: Why was the Rev. H. De Wolf’s public explanation-apology related to the two-statement heresy charge against him not found acceptable to that part of the First Prot. Ref. Church Consistory headed by the Rev. H. Hoeksema?

Answer: Let me say, in the first place, that there is no part of the Consistory that is headed by the Rev. H. Hoeksema. That’s not so. We had in our Consistory three pastors, the Rev. Hanko, the Rev. De Wolf, and myself. I was not heading the Consistory. Besides, I’m not heading a part of the Consistory. I’m president, together with the Rev. Hanko,—and I was president with the Rev. De Wolf,—of the whole consistory. The consistory that deposed the elders did so according to the advice of the classis, as I explained. Why the apology was not acceptable to the consistory, I think I have explained too. The apology I read here. And the apology as I read here I explained. It was no apology, except that the Rev. De Wolf, instead of apologizing for the literally heretical statements, as the classis said, apologized really for those that misinterpreted the statements. That’s what he did. He did not apologize for himself, but apologized for the fact that we misinterpreted the statements. And we deny that we misinterpreted them. We could understand them clearly. We did not misinterpret the statements. Besides, in the connection they were very bad. And therefore, we could not accept that apology. 

Question: Here are two related questions, and one question to the Chair. No. 1: Do all ministers who do not agree church politically with your stand want a conditional theology mixed in with their sovereign grace preaching, for which they always stood fast? No. 2: Must I consider each and every one in our churches who does not rally around your standard in this case a heretic? The third question I’ll give here yet: Will the chair please ask the questioners if they are satisfied with the answers given?

Chairman, answering third question: As has been announced, there will be no questions on questions tonight. The meeting would become endless. If, however, it appears that there is ‘need for more information, I can assure you in behalf of our committee that we’re willing to call another meeting of this nature at any time. And if the necessity arises, we will. Now, however, we’ll abide by the rules announced in our letters, that all questions will be collected at once, and answered. The other, two questions I’ll turn over to our speaker. (Questions repeated). 

Answers to 1 and 2: I don’t know whether I understand that question, but I think I do. They mean to say that if they disagree with the action taken legally by our Consistory, and, of course, by our Classis,—if they disagree with that, do they necessarily mix in with their preaching of sovereign grace a conditional theology. My answer is no, simply no. That doesn’t follow. I don’t think that follows, It does not follow front a church political conception that one must have a conditional theology. That isn’t so. One can very well disagree with the one, and still proclaim the other. Only, you must not forget that in that case the one that so stands should bring his protest, and that should be cleared up. You know, it has been said,—let me explain that a minute yet,—it has been said that our Consistory did wrong. And even the Fourth Consistory doubted whether we had the right to suspend and depose elders, or officebearers, in their absence. Let me say, in the first place, that there is nothing in the whole church order that demands that any officebearer must be present when he is deposed or suspended. In the second place, let me quote to you all kinds of examples where that has been done by the church in the past. The famous Synod of Dordrecht deposed Arminian officebearers, Arminian ministers, by the hundreds. Without their being present. Opinion has differed about that, but nevertheless, that’s a famous historical example. The Synod of Dordrecht deposed ministers by the hundreds without their being present. In our own history, the Synod of 1922 deposed Prof. Janssen without his being present. In the old country, they deposed in 1926 Dr. Geelkerken without his being present. And at the latest actions of the Synod of 1939 to 1946, in general, several officebearers were deposed. We may disagree on the question whether a classis or synod can depose an officebearer. But certainly, it cannot be maintained on the basis of the Church Order that an officebearer must be present if he is to be suspended or deposed. That is my answer:’ But, I say once more, a church political theory does not necessarily involve a conditional theology and the deprecation of the doctrine of sovereign grace. 

(Second question repeated). 

Answer: I don’t like the formulation of that question. It’s not a question whether anyone rallies around my standard. No, sir. That’s not the question, not the question, at all. The question is: whether anyone rallies and, not rallies, but stands on the basis of the Three Forms of Unity and the Scriptures, and, the Three Forms of Unity as they have always been maintained and explained in the Prot. Ref. Churches. That’s different. You don’t have to rally around my standard. That would be awful. I don’t even want you to rally around my standard. I’m a sinful man. I’m a fallible man. And I’m going to die pretty soon. What are you going to do then? There’s only one thing that remains for you and for me. That’s the truth. The truth as we as Prot. Ref. Churches have maintained since 1924. If you don’t rally around that, yes, you’re a heretic. No question about it. Then you must be considered a heretic. If we don’t maintain or preach or teach the doctrine of our confessions and of the Scriptures as they have been maintained in the Prot. Ref. Churches for all these years, you must not stay with us. You’re not only a heretic if you do, but you’re a hypocrite. A hypocrite too. Don’t stay with us. There are plenty other churches. Go to the Christian Reformed Church. Go anywhere else. But do not corrupt our Prot. Ref. truth, please. Leave us. In 1924, when we were cast out, T preached on the text, “Will ye not also go away.” I preached that again in this connection, on that same text I preached in the Chr. High School. Without malice, without any malice to anyone, I say to you: if you don’t believe in the Prot. Ref. truth, which certainly is not expressed in the sentence, “God promises to everyone of you salvation if you believe,” leave us. We’re not angry at you. We’re not mad at you when you don’t agree with us. If you cannot agree with us, leave our churches. But don’t stay and corrupt our churches in the meantime. That is hypocritical. I thank you. 

Question: Several questions on’ this sheet. The first is: How is it possible to depose an elder that has been in office less than 45 hours? 

Answer: I’ve explained that already. The fact is that that elder was installed, and should not have voted on a thing that he didn’t know anything about,—at least, he should not have known anything about it. But he did never-the-less. He voted against the Classis, and against the decision of the consistory on June 1. He voted against the question whether the question of apology should be asked of the minister and of the elders. And therefore, with the elders he was worthy of deposition. I can’t help that, that he was in office only 24 hours. I tried to prevent that, as you have understood, I tried to prevent him from being installed in the office, because I claimed that he couldn’t possibly serve in this case. But they wanted him. 

Question: The second is this: Is every use of the wordcondition in theology necessarily Arminian? 

Answer: That all depends what you mean by condition. If you mean by condition, condition in distinction from state, the word condition is perfectly in order any time. I can speak of the condition of my heart, as I can speak of the condition of my body. But when I say, use the term condition as a prerequisite, as something which man must fulfill at all,—and that’s the meaning,—the word is heretical. Of course, you must not forget: in this case, and in my talk, I purposely did not enter into the broad question of “conditions.” I did not. I can. But I won’t. That would take me at least another 2 hours. And I can’t keep you till morning. But I’m willing to do it anytime, if you ask me to come back and have a speech on the term condition in Reformed theology. That’s something else. 

Chairman: We might do that sometime.

(to be continued)