Rev. Cammenga is pastor of Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. * The speech given by Rev. Cammenga at the annual meeting of the RFPA, held on September 28, 1995.
For over 70 years the Standard Bearer has championed the cause of the Reformed faith.
Over those years the Standard Bearer has undergone many changes. There have been changes in the appearance of the magazine. There have been changes in format. There have been changes of rubrics and writers. There have been changes of editors.
One thing has not changed in that span of time, and that is the Standard Bearer’s vigorous defense of the faith. Our editors, down to the present, have led the way in this. But not only the editorials, the other departments of the magazine as well have defended the faith once for all delivered to the saints against a myriad of enemies. The Standard Bearer has not drawn back from engaging the enemy, whether in the world or in the church, whether he made his appearance in the Reformed churches around us or in our own churches, as was the case in the 1950s.
The Standard Bearer has always considered it to be its calling to engage in polemics. Polemics is the refuting of error. Polemics involves controversy. Polemics involves exposing deviation in doctrine and in practice. Polemics involves the condemnation of heresy in the light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions. The Standard Bearer is today and has always been polemical.
Because of this the Standard Bearer has often been criticized. Frequently this criticism has come from those outside the Protestant Reformed Churches. It has come from those who are opposed to our distinctively Reformed stand. Comments are made. Letters are sent to the editor. Retorts are made in other religious papers.
This is expected! We are not surprised by it!
What is more distressing is that the Standard Bearercomes under criticism for this very same reason among our own people from time to time.
That is disturbing!
“Why do we always have to be negative?” it is asked. “Do we always have to be pointing out error, especially error in the other churches? Why can’t we be more positive? It seems we’re always finding fault.”
I am convinced, and I hope you are too, that theStandard Bearer must continue to be polemical. I am convinced that this is her calling from God and that this is also the need of the hour. We must earnestly contend for the faith, as Jude calls us to do in Jude 3: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you, and to exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Verse 4 gives the reason, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As the darkness around us deepens, the darkness of the great apostasy, the faithful church of Jesus Christ, faithful members and officebearers, and faithful writers in books and magazines must not allow their voices of warning to be stilled. The trumpet must be blown! God’s people must be rallied! The enemy must be confronted!
In defense of the faith
The Standard Bearer has always understood it to be its calling to defend the faith.
It was for this very reason that the Standard Bearercame into existence in the autumn of 1924. Controversy was brewing in the Christian Reformed Church, the common grace controversy. The Standard Bearer was founded by two key figures in that controversy, Rev. Henry Danhof and Rev. Herman Hoeksema. They had been outspoken in their opposition to the teaching of common grace, and in opposition to those who were in various ways promoting this false doctrine in the churches. The pages of the Banner and De Wachter, both official publications of the CRC, had been closed to them. There was disagreement on the editorial staff of theWitness, a paper of which both Danhof and Hoeksema were editors along with a number of other ministers.
In a pamphlet entitled, “Om Rechten en Waarheid” (“Concerning Right and Truth”), Revs. Danhof and Hoeksema served notice of their intention to begin publishing their own monthly paper. The first issue of the Standard Bearer was printed in October of 1924, with an editorial staff of four: Rev. G. M. Ophoff (his name spelled incorrectly on the front of that first issue) and Mr. G. VanBeek, along with Danhof and Hoeksema. That is what the Standard Bearer was at first—a monthly paper. About a year and a half later, beginning in May of 1926, the Standard Bearerbecame a semi-monthly paper, a change that occasioned the first subscription rate increase from $1.50 a year to $2.50 a year.
In an editorial in that first issue, Rev. Danhof explained the purpose of the Standard Bearer.
They (that is, the members of the RFPA) felt that they must fight for the cause of the Lord, not only against the enemies who stand outside of their own church communion, but under the present circumstances, no less against the enemy within the gates. Therefore, they desire men who will raise the standard, and instruct and lead the people of God in the battle which is inevitable and which must be fought. A need is felt for leadership in ecclesiastical questions, points of doctrine, prevalent speculations, and the practical application in life of the principles out of which men ought to live. And although they do not plan to confine themselves in this struggle to the publication of this periodical, nevertheless, they want the Standard Bearer to lead the way in this difficult struggle (SB, vol. 1, p. 3).
That the Standard Bearer has seen it to be its calling to defend the faith of Scripture is evident too from the “Constitution of the Reformed Free Publishing Association.” Article II, titled “Purpose,” states:
The purpose of this Association shall be:
1. To witness to the truth contained in the Word of God and expressed in the Three Forms of Unity.
2. To reveal false and deceptive views repugnant thereto.
Article III, titled “Ways and Means,” goes on to say:
To effectuate the purpose contained in Article II, this Association shall publish and distribute a magazine, to be known as the Standard Bearer….
It cannot be denied that over the years the Standard Bearer has exerted itself to be faithful to its founding purpose. Even those who are in disagreement with us, those who have taken issue with what has been written in the Standard Bearer, must acknowledge that our magazine has made a conscious effort to be polemical. The Standard Bearer has engaged in controversy.
In the defense of the faith, error has been pointed out.
Old errors, errors that have threatened the church for centuries, have been refuted: Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, Amyrauldianism, Premillennialism, Dispensationalism, Post-millennialism, and a host of others.
New errors, especially those that have arisen in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, have been assailed: common grace, the teaching of a conditional covenant, the well-meant gospel offer, presupposed regeneration, Pentecostalism, unbiblical divorce and remarriage, and various forms of the denial of Scripture’s infallibility and authority.
The most recent errors to trouble the Reformed churches have been exposed: Theistic evolution (with its denial not only of creation but also of the flood), Feminism and the women in office advocates, the New Age, the Reconstructionists, those advancing the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, the Independents (whom Jude refers to in v. 19, “These be they who separate themselves…”).
In the defense of the faith, groups and churches either countenancing or approving of error have been addressed: The World Council of Churches, the Reformed Ecumenical Council, Reformed churches in our own country and in the Netherlands, various Presbyterian bodies. Issues dividing the PRC from the Liberated (especially the Canadian Reformed Churches), the Netherlands Reformed congregations, and the Christian Reformed Church (our mother church) have been frequently addressed. Along with this, error in the instruction of the Christian colleges and seminaries has been scrutinized in the Standard Bearer.
In the defense of the faith, following the example of Christ and the apostles, the false teachers themselves have been identified and their pernicious views judged in the light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions: Barth, Dekker, Daane, Runia, Boer, Wiersinga, Kuitert, Woudstra, Schuller, Holtrop, Camping, VanTil, Menninga, Young.
In its defense of the faith, the Standard Bearer has been involved over the years in exchanges with other magazines: De Wachter, the Banner, the Reformed Journal, Concordia Clarion, Torch and Trumpet(now the Outlook), and more recently Christian Renewal.
This is not to say that the Standard Bearer has confined itself to polemics, to defending the faith. Not at all!
There has been a great deal of positive setting forth and development of the truth over the years in theStandard Bearer. The great doctrines that make up the faith of the church have been explained. The holy life to which God calls His people has been set forth. And even when error has been condemned, it has been condemned because of its attack on the truth, in the interests of the maintenance of the truth, for the sake of the knowledge of the truth among the people of God.
Think once of the many articles that have appeared in the pages of the Standard Bearer selling forth the doctrines of grace, the truth concerning Scripture, the covenant of grace, marriage and the home and family, Christian education, the church and her worship. There has been extensive exposition of Scripture and the confessions. Books like Triple Knowledge andBehold, He Cometh, as well as Freeborn Sons of Sarah and The Glory of the True Tabernacleappeared first as installments in the Standard Bearer.
It is not fair, it is simply not accurate, to accuse theStandard Bearer of being always negative, exclusively polemical.
. ..to be continued.