Such was the subject of the essay delivered by the Rev. J. Blankespoor at a conference of schismatic ministers held recently in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and occupying the editorial space of Concordia of December 2, 1954. In the last issue of the Standard Bearer we quoted the introduction to this essay and made a few remarks. However, due to the fact that our space was limited by the transcription of the decision of the Superior Court Judge, Honorable Thaddeus Taylor, of the case of First Protestant Reformed Church versus the De Wolf group, my article was cut short. I now wish to finish my remarks on the introduction and continue my quotation of Blankespoor’s essay inserting here and there a few remarks of my own.
In reply to his introduction I offered five remarks. I was busy with the fourth which had to do with Blankespoor’s insistence that the schismatics had “the majority of our people” with them, who also were ready for the split. I wrote as follows:
In the fourth place, Rev. Blankespoor talks about “the majority of our people” who were ready for the split. I am not going to dispute about numbers. This makes very little difference to me. A majority in respect to matters of doctrine is not always correct, and generally wrong. That’s history. It may even be true that a majority of our people were ready to step out with the schismatics. That is nothing new either. And I may add that it was the secret hope of the schismatic leaders that they would take along with them the entire denomination. The Lord, however, spoiled their plans. He preserved His remnant. This He always does. No question about that. But if it is true that the majority were ready to go along with the schismatics, how is that to be explained? In his case it is fast becoming evident that many of them have been misled, they have been told the lie. Just as the essay of Rev. Blankespoor presents the matter, very piously they first created a dislike for the Standard Bearer so that people ceased to read it. They then came with a lot of talk about Hoeksema changing. They tried desperately to discredit him with talk that he is broken in mind and body, a man too old and set in his ways to change, a man who is seeking only himself at the expense of the church and the truth. All this talk of Blankespoor about how once these people almost worshipped the ground Hoeksema stood on, but now that they have their eyes opened they repudiate him, that is what changed the minds and attitudes of our people if they have changed. But I’m not so sure as Blankespoor that the majority of our people, even those in the west who have gone along with the schismatic leaders, would feel this way if they really knew the truth. In fact, I have objective reasons for believing that several are already getting their eyes open to what has been going on of late, and they are going to come back to us in deep sorrow for having listened to these “ecumenically” minded leaders.
Finally, Rev. Blankespoor, in close connection with the foregoing, makes much of what the common people think. This is also a part of his deceptive strategy. He knows that people like to be catered to, to be acknowledged, even when they are wrong. The people who are not aware of his tactics and are gullible for this kind of talk, when they read his essay in Concordia are going to say, “Blankespoor is the man; he is so humble. Look how he recognizes us.” They will forget, or remain ignorant of the fact that almost all that really happened in our churches began with and ended in their ministers and elders who have led them. To be sure the people are responsible for what their ministers do, especially when they are told what they did. But the heresy and schism did not begin with the “common people.” It usually does not begin there. It began with and stayed with the leaders who succeeded in carrying along the people by confusing, misleading, and deceiving the majority of them. Of this I have no doubt. So Blankespoor must not say “we did not foster nor actually bring about a split. They became schismatic.” Neither should he say that they, the leaders of their group, were guided to an extent by the will of the common people, who were so convinced of what was wrong in the Protestant Reformed Churches that they were ready for the split. This I could never believe!
Now let us attend to what Blankespoor has to say in answer to the question: “What then really happened and why did we (the schismatics—M.S.) follow this course?” Here is what Rev. Blankespoor writes:
“Let me first of all state what I do not consider to be the cause of the schism.
1. That the whole thing is purely a matter of personalities, and that our people no longer could possibly digest the behavior of some of them. No doubt this is true of some of them, but not of all our people, nor as I see it of the majority of them. No doubt with some of them there was a climax in bearing up with personalities. In simple language they couldn’t take it any longer. Others, however, and many of them, for the sake of the truth were able and willing to tolerate much more. I don’t think that it ever is possible to say regarding a church difficulty that it exclusively is a matter of theology or exclusively a matter of personalities. It is most natural for everybody to project his personality into the foreground, to some extent, regardless how humble he may be. A church split brought about solely because of an unbearable attitude towards individuals to my mind is most deplorable and cannot receive the Lord’s blessing.
2. Neither did the split come about because of a rejection of the denial of common grace, which of course is the reason for our existence since 1924. Of course, we all know that we are commonly accused of such things and much worse things. For such contentions the accusers surely have not been able to find any proof.
3. Neither do I think that the deepest cause of the split is to be found in the fact that some of the leaders were too one-sided in their presentation of the truth. Again, this is how some of us view the matter, and perhaps not a few laymen. There was not enough emphasis on the matter of man’s responsibility, they say. And a few went so far as to say that there was too much emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Both evaluations of course are terrible, to say the least. Neither should we say that the preaching was unbalanced. I certainly think that Dr. Daane is right when he says that such terminology is improper. Never can we say too much that God is sovereign, and on the other hand we can never preach too much the responsibility of man and the Christian. Can one ever exhort too much, preach too often and too much too the saints living in this sinful world that they must serve God? Of course not. The proper thing to do is to show the relationship between these two important truths.” So far Rev. Blankespoor.
I would call your attention to a few, things in Blankespoor’s negative answer to the question: What really happened in our churches?
In the first place, I am glad that Rev. Blankespoor denies that the cause of the schism “is purely a matter of personalities.” And I believe him when he says “no doubt this is true of some of them, but not all our people, nor as I see it of the majority of them.” Of course, the actual cause of the schism, as I will point out more particularly later, is the doctrinal issue involved. As far as we are concerned there was no other issue in our recent controversy. The sole issue was the two statements of the Rev. De Wolf and the doctrine they set forth. More of this later. But will the reader please notice the italicized word “purely'” in the above quotation. Blankespoor meant thereby that it is his conviction that though the cause of the schism was not “purely” a matter of personalities, it nevertheless had much to do with molding the minds and hearts of the schismatics into wanting the split. He admits that, though it is most deplorable that churches should split on account of an unbearable attitude towards individuals, it nevertheless had much to do with their act of schism. He knew it was not right what many of his people and colleagues were doing and yet, like Eli, he allowed it all to go on, never protesting against it, and worse yet, almost patting them on the back for doing it. What we really have here is some more of his “pious” talk intended to set forth a pious principle, namely, that the matter of personalities should never be the cause of schism, while at the same time almost praising those who made personalities an issue.
In the second place, Rev. Blankespoor denies the cause of the split was due to the fact that he and his schismatic brethren repudiated their denial of common grace. He asserts that they have been accused of this but without any proof. Now it is deplorable that Blankespoor passes over this accusation with a mere shrug of his shoulder and makes no attempt to disprove it. A blanket denial is no proof. I would insist upon it that their doctrinal position implied and maintained in the first statement of De Wolf is worse than the First Point of 1924. It not only teaches common grace, but developed the dogma further. This not only I but others of our ministers have often said. As Rev. Blankespoor and all who were formerly in Classis East well know, both the Revs. Vos and Hoeksema have publicly declared this on the floor of Classis. The Rev. Vos even wrote the statement on the blackboard to show up the fallacy of that first statement. He said “that God promises every one of you that if you believe you will be saved,” is far worse than the First Point which said, ‘God offers’. Blankespoor knows this full well, but he denies this without a ray of proof. Besides, the Rev. Daane, with, whom Blankespoor agrees in another part of his essay, boldly declared in the Reformed Journal that the schismatics had taken a step in the direction of the Christian Reformed Churches. Blankespoor may deny this, but he knows this too. Until he shows us that this accusation is not true, I am continuing to accuse the schismatics of repudiating their denial of common grace, and I am going to continue to say that they walk in a worse error than the Christian Reformed Churches which embrace the error of common grace.
In the third place, what Rev. Blankespoor writes about his denial that the “deepest cause of the split is to be found in the fact that some of the leaders were too one-sided in their presentation of the truth” is perhaps the biggest humbug of all. Here is an example of some more double-talk. The double-talk consists in this that, on the one hand, he denies that the presentation of the truth on the part of some of the leaders was too one-sided, while on the other hand he and his colleagues are guilty of charging us with being one-sided. Did he not virtually do this, as I will comment later when I show how he charges us with being sectarian, or with “a tendency towards sectarianism.” A sect, according to Blankespoor, in the first place, “denotes the action of taking or capturing a chosen course of thought or action. They always have a certain banner, motto, a pet notion or doctrine by which they swear, and this becomes their slogan.” What this slogan is that we are supposed to have, he does not say, but he believes that we have one. And so we have here some of his double-talk. It is true that Blankespoor does not consider this the deepest cause of the split, but he must not leave the impression that he doesn’t believe this to be the cause at all. And that is what he tries to do with his third negative point above. In plain words he says in the negative answer to the question: What really happened in our churches? that he does not believe we are a sect, but in the positive answer to the above question, to which I call attention next time, D.V., he does not hesitate to call us a sect or at least with tendencies toward sectarianism. Now just what do you mean, Rev. Blankespoor? Let’s not beat about the bush. Say what you mean, and mean what you say! That is at least being honest.