I have reference to the same article from Rev. de Jong’s pen with which Rev. H. Hoeksema is occupied in this issue of The Standard Bearer. I (undersigned) have real need of giving this article some additional treatment.
Rev. de Jong writes: “It is also a fact that I sent said letter to Rev. Hoeksema who was at that time in California. It is furthermore a matter of record, in his communication to me, that Rev. Hoeksema did not favor sending my proposed letter to the brethren in Holland at that time . . . But this was not at all for the reason that the Reverend objected to the content of the letter. If he did he certainly did not tell me.”
Remark. But this is an argument from silence and therefore not valid. Though Rev. Hoeksema failed to reveal to Rev. de Jong that he objected to the contents of the letter, he still may have had objections to the content of the letter. A short time later, when he had returned to Grand Rapids, he called me on the phone to express to me his deep sorrow at his having learned that I had signed the letter.
But that Rev. Hoeksema objected to both the form and the content of the letter is also reasonably clear from his communication to Rev. de Jong. Doesn’t Rev. de Jong tell us that in his communication Rev. Hoeksema stated that he favored waiting with sending the letter until the next synod? How to explain this advice except on the ground that Rev. Hoeksema objected to the content of the letter? Why should he be opposed to sending the letter at that time if he was agreed with the content ? I also recall that in his communication Rev. Hoeksema stated that we should not want to beg but should allow the Liberated to take the next step implying that the letter as to its character was a begging missive and therefore as to its content objectionable.
In Rev. de Jong’s letter to Rev. Hoeksema convalescing in California I come upon these lines: “I wrote this letter (the one that was sent to the deputies for correspondence in the Netherlands—O) in the first place at the suggestion of Rev. Ophoff.”
Comment. I can’t recall having made such a suggestion. And to me it seems too unlikely. Rev. de Jong must recall that I told him in no uncertain language how bitterly opposed I was to the Liberated churches and our churches becoming sister churches. He also must remember certainly that when he first said to me in a phone call that Rev. Hoeksema had signed the letter and would I also now sign it, my reply was that I never would. Is it likely then that I should have been the one to suggest that the “letter” be written?
Rev. de Jong. No, but knowing that Rev. Hoeksema had not voiced his objection either against the contents or the form of the letter, Rev. Ophoff had really little argument left why he should not sign the letter. (Italics—D).
Remark. I stand rather amazed at what Rev. de Jong here writes.
Is this true—true that I had little argument left on that account (on account of Rev. Hoeksema not having voiced any objections either to the form or contents of the letter) and that I therefore signed the letter? Let us see, if this is true. What was that argument of mine? (I have a witness that what I am now going to say is the truth. And that witness is my wife. For the conversation took place in my own home. And my wife was present and heard all). Now then, what was that, argument of mine? It was this, namely that I had principle objections to the signing of the letter—objections rising from the doctrinal differences between the Liberated and the Protestant Reformed and that therefore I would not sign the letter for the weighty reason that I could not for conscience sake.
This was my argument of which Rev. de Jong says that it was so nearly destroyed that little remained of it. But this contention of Rev. de Jong raises two questions: 1) By what counter argument was that argument of mine so nearly destroyed that little remained of it? 2) Who is that one who claims to have destroyed it? That one, of course, is Rev. de Jong. And what was his argument by which he now claims to have destroyed my argument, that is practically so? That argument, as he himself tells us, was precisely this: that Rev. Hoeksema had voiced no objections either to the form or the contents of the letter.
This was Rev. de Jong’s argument by which he now claims to have destroyed my argument. But did he? Certainly, he did not. And this for the very obvious reason that from the fact that Rev. Hoeksema had voiced no objections either to the form or the content of the letter it certainly does not follow that there are no doctrinal differences between the Liberated and the Protestant Reformed. So the fact is that Rev. de Jong had not practically destroyed my argument by his argument. On the contrary, when Rev. de Jong left my presence, my argument was still standing very much erect and with head uplifted. How else could it be? It’s simply a matter of cold logic.
How then, I would like to know, could Rev. de Jong write in the Concordia for all to read that by his argument he had so nearly destroyed my argument that practically nothing remained of it, so that standing speechless, so to say, I in my helplessness and confusion signed the letter as not knowing what else that I could well do?
What had Rev. de Jong to do to give him the right .to say that he had practically destroyed my argument? This is obvious. He had to prove with the scriptures and the Confessions that the doctrine of the Liberated is sound doctrine and that therefore, as our doctrine, too, is sound, no doctrinal or dogmatical differences can exist between us and the Liberated, and that, such being the case, I could certainly sign the letter with a good conscience. But, of course, Rev. de Jong did not even make the attempt. He did not even as much as take notice of my argument, to say nothing of combating it with proper argument. That nevertheless he could write in effect that very little of my argument remained when he had done bearing down on it with his argument—the argument, namely, that Rev. Hoeksema had not voiced any objections either to the form or the content of the letter—this, to me, is a conundrum.
But perhaps Rev. de Jong will say that the point to his article—that particular section of it with which we are occupied—is not at all that he had practically destroyed my argument with his argument.
But if this is not the point to the reasoning of that section of his article with which we are now occupied, will Rev. de Jong then state in plain English just what is the point to the reasoning of that section of his article with which we are occupied ? Is it perhaps this: that, though I did not favor the letter, I nevertheless signed the letter, just because Rev. Hoeksema had not voiced any objections either to its form or contents? But how could Rev. Hoeksema’s failure to voice his objections to the letter be the reason for my signing the letter, seeing that Rev. Hoeksema at the same time was in favor of waiting with writing to the brethren in The Netherlands until next synod, and seeing that I on my part (and Rev. de Jong knew this) was even so strongly in favor of waiting with writing to the brethren in The Netherlands that I did not want to write to them at all with a view to their churches and our churches becoming sister churches? This is not well possible, is it? So there must be another reason for my signing the letter, and Rev. de Jong knew that reason, for it had come to me from him.
So again I turn to Rev. de Jong with the question, what really is the point to the reasoning of the passage of his article in question. Let him tell us. He should. He is under solemn obligation. For the way the passage in question reads it can easily be taken to mean that, though I did not favor the letter, I nevertheless signed it, just because Rev. Hoeksema voiced no objections to it. And this cannot be true, as I have just shown.
And is it true that, as Rev. de Jong states, I read from Rev. Hoeksema’s own hand that the letter was perfectly alright for the purpose. I can’t recall reading any such thing from Rev. Hoeksema’s own hand. And therefore I request that Rev. de Jong publish Rev. Hoeksema’s letter to him in order that it may appear whether or not he wrote such a thing.
But there is this question remaining. If for principle reasons I was so bitterly opposed to signing that letter, why then did I nevertheless sign it? Why? Because in my weakness and folly I allowed Rev. de Jong to wear me down with this argument of his: You see for yourself that you are the only one opposing the movement toward the Liberated churches and our churches becoming sister churches. Rev. Hoeksema is not really opposed. For he raises no principle objections. Our people are for it. You are the only one that stands in the way.
This was Rev. de Jong’s new argument, and it proved potent indeed.
For the result was that I began to debate with myself whether I all alone should assume that responsibility, whether it wasn’t the height of conceit for me to imagine that I alone was right and all the rest of us wrong. Could the Spirit be dwelling in me alone? Preposterous, I said to myself. And in that mood I signed the letter.
Having obtained my signature, Rev. de Jong immediately left. He was barely gone, when I began to accuse myself. I felt that in signing that letter I had done one of the worst things I had ever done in all my life. And that is still my conviction. I can’t understand to this day why I allowed myself to act under the impulse of that mood.
For certainly there was no reason for me to allow myself to be brought into this mood. For it was not true that I was the only one opposed. I soon learned that Rev. Hoeksema was just as much opposed as I and for the same reasons. And there were several others among our ministers just as much opposed as also many of our people as has become evident. And certainly the matter of signing or not signing that letter could have waited until Rev. Hoeksema had returned. Then we could have met as committee. There was no reason for haste. Besides, the letter contains statements that should certainly have caused me to recoil from signing it. There is this statement: “But we believe that the origin of your churches (Liberated) was a Reformation and a return to the old and tried Reformed paths,” mark you well, to the old and tried Reformed paths. Do we believe that? I for one do not believe it. In fact I know from a study of source material that during the past three years has come into my possession that it is not true. Here is another statement: “Dogmatical differences, which possibly may exist between you and us, are no confessional differences.” But dogmatical differences between us and the liberated do actually exist. And though we do have the same Forms of Unity, we do not certainly interpret them alike, And then finally this statement: “If at all possible we would like to do something for the members of your churches. We would like to receive them in our churches, or to organize them into congregations wherever possible.” This is what Rev. de Jong would have us do but not what I would have us do.
Reading these statements, I stand amazed at my having signed that letter. Whether I neglected at the time to take proper notice of the content of the letter ? I do not know. It is true that at the time of my signing the letter I hadn’t yet made a study of the theology of the Liberated. For I had not in my possession the necessary source material, books and pamphlets of liberated authorship. Hence my acquaintance with Liberated theology was rather slight. But the little I did know of it had turned me against it. For to me it smacked of Arminianism and thus left in my mouth a very bad taste. And therefore already then and especially because of my having listened to Dr. Schilder’s expositions of doctrine on the meetings of our conference with him, I strongly objected to our churches having correspondence with the Liberated churches. That is, what I objected to was that we be sister churches.
As to Rev. Hoeksema, he feels the same as I do about our having signed that letter. Also his stand is, of course, that it should not have been done. He signed it because if the majority of the committee, were in favor of sending the letter, he did not want to withhold his signature. But he felt certain at the time that the majority of the committee would not be in favor of sending the letter and therefore he attached his signature to the letter. Besides, all that the letter proposes to the deputies in the Netherlands is that preparatory work be done that would lead to correspondence. And correspondence as Rev. Hoeksema saw and still sees it, does not necessarily mean that two communion of churches be sister churches.
In fine, my purpose in replying to the writing of Rev. de Jong is not, certainly, to bring in excuses for my doing. Nor do I mean to be blaming Rev. de Jong for what I have done—sign the letter. That was my deed for which I must and am also willing to bear the blame. However, Rev. de Jong is not without sin. Having learned from my own mouth that I was unable to sign the “letter” with a good conscience, he should by all means have desisted from attempting to induce me to give him my signature. He did, certainly, have the right to make it possible for me to sign the letter with a good conscience by attempting to remove my objections. But fact is that he made no attempt at all to remove my objections, made no attempt to prove to me that I was taking a wrong attitude toward the theology of the Liberated. As he himself admits, the substance of his whole argument was that whereas I was the only one in the whole denomination opposed to sending the letter, I had better sign it. And that is not argument. It is simply a statement, and a false statement at that, one therefor which he might not even make. And certainly I did very wrong in allowing myself to be influenced by it.
I noticed that in his article Rev. de Jong takes the stand that his doing was ethical. He writes: “Of course he (Ophoff) did not favor that letter, in that respect Rev. Ophoff has been rather consistent, but at that time the potent argument for me with Rev. Ophoff was that Rev. Hoeksema had no objections to the letter (take notice of these Italics. They are Rev. de Jong’s).
Rev. de Jong must not defend his doing. We may never try to induce a person to go against his own conscience and especially not by means of fallacious reasonings. That certainly is very wrong.
Here follows that passage from Rev. de Jong’s article with which I deal in this article.
“It is correct that Rev. Ophoff hesitated to sign the proposed letter when I confronted him with it.”
(Remark, the word “hesitated” is much too weak here. Rev. de Jong knows that he should have written: “It is correct that Rev. Ophoff stated that he could not sign the letter for conscience sake”).
“If there was a certain measure of pressure on my part to have Rev. Ophoff sign the letter, that pressure, if one wants to call it such, certainly was on the level, open and above board, and a matter of conviction on my part that we were doing the right.”
(Remark. Here Rev. de Jong admits that he used pressure on me. Here then we have proof from his own pen that he had encountered in me a very serious objection to signing the letter—the objection which I just stated and that his final argument was what I said it is).
“And knowing Rev. Ophoff I feel absolutely positive that he never would have signed the letter if Rev. Hoeksema had in any way at all expressed his objection against the content of the letter.”
(Remark. Take notice of the Italics in this sentence. They are all Rev. de Jong’s. Here Rev. de Jong means to establish with absolute certainly that Rev. Hoeksema raised no objections either to the form or the content of the letter. But I am satisfied that I have overturned this whole argument of his. The readers may judge).
“No, but knowing that the Rev. Hoeksema had not voiced his objection either to the contents or the form of the letter, Rev. Ophoff had really little argument left why he should not sign the letter.”
(Remark. First, Italics J.D.’s. How fantastically fallacious this reasoning of J.D.! This, too has been made clear.)
“Of course he (Ophoff) did not favor (take notice, favor. Much too weak a term in this connection for reasons already stated—O) that letter, in that respect Rev. Ophoff has been rather consistent, but at that time the potent argument for me with Rev. Ophoff was that Hoeksema had no objections to the letter.”
(Remark. Here Rev. de Jong says that in raising objections to signing the letter, I was consistent. This can mean but one thing, namely that the objection that I raised to signing the letter in my private meeting with Rev. de Jong is the same objection that I at the time had in public all along been raising against the Liberated churches and our churches becoming sister churches. This objection was that the theology of the Liberated smacks of Arminianism. Here then we have more proof from the pen of Rev. de Jong that in my private meeting with him I told him that I could not sign the letter for conscience sake. Rev. de Jong should have told this to his readers. But he didn’t. He also refrained from revealing to his readers the real reason for my signing the letter. And he so wrote as to leave the impression that the reason I signed the letter is that Rev. Hoeksema raised no objection to it. This is wrong of Rev. de Jong. To his assertion that Rev. Hoeksema had no objection to the letter, I have already replied. Rev. Hoeksema stated that he did not like to beg implying that the letter was a begging one. This may not be a principle objection but it is nevertheless an objection to the content and form of the letter).
“And it seems to me Rev. Ophoff acquiesced in signing the letter when he read from Rev. Hoeksema’s own hand that the letter was perfectly alright for the purpose.”
(Remark. I trust that it has become plain that also this statement from the pen of Rev. de Jong is fantastically untrue. And I am also certain, as I said, that Rev. de Jong is not quoting Rev. Hoeksema here literally. Will Rev. de Jong do so. Will he please publish that communication of Rev. Hoeksema, which he still has in his possession. And by the way, also these italics are J.D.’s).
Now I suppose that Rev. de Jong and more of our people won’t like this article. I can’t say that I like it myself. But what could I do?) That article of Rev. de Jong had to be answered. For, as he says, the records must be kept straight by all means. I haven’t been writing controversial articles for a long time. And it wasn’t my intention to be breaking out into controversy in this issue of our paper. But we are simply being driven to it. Also by the kind of articles that Rev. Kok has been placing in our papers. These brethren seem to be determined to keep the pot boiling. That is all right, too.