The Standard Bearer In Retrospect (2)

The first issue of “The Standard Bearer” appeared October 1, 1924. It was, from many points of view, an historic moment. It was the fruit of the labors of a group of men determined to set forth and develop the truth of the Word of God. It was occasioned especially by the “common grace” controversy which a short time after the first issue appeared, gave rise to the Protestant Reformed Churches. 

In this first issue an article appears which was intended to introduce “The Standard Bearer” to its readers. But, more than that, it sets forth the positive purpose for publishing a separate periodical — which could only have been one more paper among many others; and it speaks of the direction “The Standard Bearer intended to take in the future. This article was written by Rev. Henry Danhof, one of the first editors and a minister who, along with Revs. Hoeksema and Ophoff, was deposed from office in the Christian Reformed Church for his refusal to subscribe to the three points of common grace. He was minister at the time in a Christian Reformed congregation in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

It is interesting to note, as one reads this article, that, although “The Standard Bearer” has indeed undergone many changes in format — something which Rev. Danhof suggested might be necessary — it has not, up to the present, changed in its original purpose and goal. For this we may be thankful. 

The article follows in a translation from the Dutch.


H Danhof

In “For The Sake of Right and Truth”, the latest brochure of the ministers Danhof and Hoeksema, the writers quite extensively expressed themselves concerning their plan for the publication of a monthly magazine. In this pamphlet the specific conditions and certain serious events are also included which gave them the occasion to seek for a periodical in which they would be able to develop their thoughts unhindered and use this means to enlighten others. At that time they also drew attention to the principles from which they determined to proceed in such a paper, as well as the purpose they had in mind, and the manner in which they hoped to work. Conscious of all that, we now consider it sufficient to give a short introduction of “The Standard Bearer” of the “Reformed Free Publishing Association” to our reading public. 

This organization, which has already for a considerable time faithfully supported the above-named preachers, shall henceforth devote itself to this same task by this monthly magazine. The members feel that there must be a striving for the cause of the Lord not only against the enemies who stand outside their own church fellowship, but, under the present circumstances, no less against the enemy within the gates. Therefore they want men to raise the “standard” and instruct and lead the people of God in the strife 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 people live. And although they do not plan to limit themselves in this struggle to the publication of this periodical, nevertheless they want “The Standard Bearer” to lead the way in this difficult strife. 

Herewith the position of the editorial staff is sufficiently explained. The writers want to let God’s Word speak; they want to work in a reforming and progressive reformed spirit. They adhere to a Bible-believing, not philosophical, conception of the revelation of God. They are looking for the right emphasis of the will of the Lord along the entire line of all human activity and Christian living. Not everything therefore, which has been set forth in history as Reformed doctrine shall easily and arbitrarily be considered Biblical. They do not subscribe to every proposition of the fathers, not then, when the shadow of a wrong judgment falls on the Confession of the churches. There is indeed caution required. Yet the true welfare of the church demands nevertheless, that the full light of the Word of God be made to shine on all things which bear a relation to the right concern for the truth of the Son of God; because we are children of God, we must be irreproachable, and upright, without blame in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation in which we shine as light in the world, holding high the Word of life. We must never cease from this. And for this purpose the editorial staff of “The Standard Bearer” seeks also to qualify the church of the Lord. 

As far as contents are concerned, this periodical shall join itself completely with what has been taught during the last years and published by the ministers Hoeksema and Danhof. Already this first number contains an historical survey of the events of recent days. History has been made. That history is of concern for our churches. It can even be very important for the future. Therefore we want to rescue this history from oblivion. And for the same reason we shall also from time to time, keep up to date our history book. At the same time the present state of affairs can be ascertained from it. We desire that opponents as well as friends should be acquainted with the matter so that they may be able knowingly to deal with matters. With that in mind, we also, at the beginning, make mention of the three points which the latest Synod assumed responsibility for in the matter of common grace. It is better that the pertinent discussion of the Synodical decisions stay out of this material for a short time. But the right understanding of the matter is surely very necessary so that men may know what was decided and that men may also know the shell from which the final decision, as a proper kernel, at long last came to light. We consider this necessary all the more because from less qualified quarters, especially in foreign periodicals, matters are sometimes set forth in a very strange way. Even at the outset, we want to make perfectly clear that we do not intend to cling to the literal language of the synodical pronouncements so as to commit violence to the spirit of the decisions. Our purpose is precisely the opposite. We shall linger only briefly with the literal wording of the so-called “three points.” But we hope to set clearly before our readers their real implications. Our viewpoint underwent no modification, and we gave no thought to retreat. The editorial staff of this paper judges that no Reformed man is able to sign these propositions of Synod as long as they are unchanged according to their clear implications. Therefore they shall attempt to understand rightly these decisions in their exact sense so that after sufficient study, each and every one will be able to treat the matter with awareness of his work and its consequences. 

“The Standard Bearer” is in direct contact with life. It cannot be ignored in discussion. The subjects which it treats lie too near the heart of God’s people. The present day question touches above all our view of God. That became evident already before the Synod, but it came to light more clearly during the Synodical gatherings. In everything— reports, speeches, arguments — this shone through. There were differences of viewpoint concerning God. Around that central point however, related questions grouped themselves. These were questions concerning predestination, the idea of the covenant, the law of the Lord, the temptation in Paradise, the cause of sin, the depravity of men, the revelation of God’s wrath, the operation of the curse, the development of evil, the freedom of man’s will and his responsibility, the showing of favor, the preaching of the gospel, the works of the Spirit, deception, attack, fear, blinding, savagery, hardening, perversion, in connection with the works of the prince of darkness; the natural knowledge of God, the tradition of revelation, the battle of all ages, the consciousness of independence, solidarity, alienation, disharmony; the experience of pain and grief and sadness and despair, but also of deliverance, strengthening, comforting, change and renewal; the work of faith, trust, prayer, love, praise, but equally of unbelief, disdain, hate, blasphemy and cursing; etc. All these and similar matters are of such supremely great concern because they more or less touch man in the depths of the life of his soul and in the choice of his heart. The kernel of every difference in this realm then, is hidden also in the conception which one has of the freedom of man’s will in connection with the will of God. Strictly speaking, every difference concerns the nature of God’s will. Therefore, we cannot conceive of any other possibility but that every truly Reformed man presently pricks up his ears as soon as he hears mention made of these things. Not to do this would immediately bring vengeance. He loses contact with history. Indeed, the Reformed fathers fought a dreadful fight just exactly concerning that point. And we possess in the fruit of their work, the touchstone of the purity of Reformed preaching concerning this question; while we also, according to the same standard, attempt to apply this to practical living. Therefore men in our circles shall surely bend an ear to listen when these things are treated in close connection with actual life in a practical way. 

Long series of articles on one and the same subject shall not appear in our monthly periodical. Nor have we divided everything in fixed rubrics. Yet we do have a definite plan in mind. In the treatment of different and separate subjects, certain main topics have been followed. Chiefly we ask in each case, first of all, concerning the conception which God gives in His revelation and the view which we consequently must take. Then attention will be paid to the historical development of revelation and the historical significance of things. Meanwhile, we, at the same time and again and again, shall glance around us to pay attention to actual deeds and events. If the case should arise that an important subject, after short discussion, should justify a more many-sided and systematic treatment, then that shall probably take place in a supplement or a separate brochure. 

We are not directing ourselves towards a definite class or group. Our purpose is to help to live a more conscious, more fervent, deeper, richer, more multi-faceted positive Christian life for our Lord, now, in this present evil world. As much as possible, everything shall be arranged with that in view. We shall reckon with the circumstances of that life; first of all with our own ecclesiastical circumstances, because they are the circumstances in which we exist. If we should consequently come into contact in our periodical with life, our life, then we must know the circumstances rightly. With a view to this, it can very well be that our periodical undergoes change from time to time. But we shall have to wait and see. 

We shall write in the Dutch and in the English language, nearly in the same proportion because such is the requirement of our time. But the contents of the articles will be taken into account. Therefore, at least temporarily, the balance will perhaps tip towards the language of the fathers. 

The writers assume responsibility not only for their respective contributions, but for the entire basic content, according to its principle and import. There is also, however, provision made for cooperation and contributions. And although we do not place open our columns for everything which people might want to see taken up, we shall deal properly with what is brought to our attention. 

Let “The Standard Bearer” thus enter the world.