26 February, 2018

FAQ—Accusations against the PRCA refuted

Q. 1. “Herman Hoeksema, in denying common grace and the well-meant offer, was a hyper-Calvinist, a rationalist, and unReformed.”

(1) Not according to the Christian Reformed Synod of Kalamazoo, 1924:

According to the judgment of the broadest ecclesiastical tribunal that met at Kalamazoo in 1924—the Synod of the Christian Reformed Churches—who examined Herman Hoeksema’s teachings and also the protests that were levelled against him from various ministers throughout the denomination, in order to try him for “heresy.”

According to the judgment of synod, Herman Hoeksema was “fundamentally Reformed according to our confessions, albeit with a tendency towards onesidedness.” (Acts of Synod 1924, p. 147; English translation). It was also stated by the advisory committee (cf. Acts 1924p. 122) that it has always been “characteristic of supralapsarians to view everything in light of God’s plan,” that “this has never been condemned by the churches” and that “similar expressions [to those of Rev. Hoeksema in his preaching and teaching] have, from time to time, been used” by some in the past “without being disciplined by the church.”

Though the content of the protests against Herman Hoeksema included such harsh and strong accusations—e.g. in denying common grace and the well-meant offer, he was supposedly “guilty of public sin,” “denying the very foundations of Calvinism” and was “worthy of deposition”—the Synod did not discipline him, neither did they advise that he should be censured and deposed.

For Hoeksema’s own account of 1924-25, see The Protestant Reformed Churches in America (1947).

Individuals are certainly entitled to their own opinions, but at the end of the day, a SYNOD of a reputable denomination vindicated Herman Hoeksema from all such charges of “hyper-Calvinism” and “rationalism” (which are indeed very serious charges that would place a minister outside of the Reformed community). The protests that contained such charges were examined and read by that body of men in 1924 and were rejected.

Article 31 of the Church Order of Dordt states:

... whatever may be agreed upon by a majority vote (e.g. that such and such a person is Reformed according to the confessions and is not a hyper-Calvinist, not a heretic, or worthy of deposition etc.) shall be considered settled and binding ...

(2) Not according to David Silversides:

In a book defending the Free Offer, David Silversides writes:

... In more recent years, however, another position has appeared which could be described as somewhere between orthodox Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism, though claiming to represent the former. This view is represented by the able Dutch-American theologian Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) and the denomination he was partly instrumental in founding [aka, the Protestant Reformed Churches in America – Ed.] ... Hoeksema's teaching ... has been embraced, in whole or in part, by individuals in several denominations. Hoeksema held that God's love is only ever shown to his elect. Hence, he maintained that, whilst the gospel is to be preached to all and all are to be commanded to repent, there is no offer of mercy in Christ expressive of God's love to all who hear. Some who hold to this view, but profess commitment to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, for example, define the use of the term ‘offer’ in these documents in a manner consistent with their views [aka, meaning ‘to present, set forth, proclaim,’ etc. – Ed.]. (Source: The Free Offer: Biblical & Reformed [Marpet Press, 2005], pp. 10-11; emphasis added)

Notice from this extract, we learn that,

(1) Not even one of the chiefest defenders of common grace and the well-meant offer would go as far as some brazenly have done so, to label Herman Hoeksema and the PRCA “Hyper-Calvinist.” For according to his own words, Herman Hoeksema and the PRCA are “SOMEWHERE BETWEEN” orthodox Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. In other words, they are not “Hyper-Calvinist.” This is wonderful news; truly ground-breaking!

(2) It is NOT “hyper-Calvinist” to hold that “God’s love is only ever shown to his elect,” nor to hold that “there is no offer of mercy in Christ expressive of God’s love to all who hear.”

(3) Silversides exonerates (acquits) Herman Hoeksema from the charge of hyper-Calvinism when he concedes that he maintained that “the gospel is to be preached to all and all are to be commanded to repent” (which to deny such is, historically, hyper-Calvinism).


Q. 2. “The PRCA believe that justification is wholly in eternity and not in time, and that the moment we believe is rather simply that we come to ‘realise’ for the first time that we are ‘already’ justified.”

Ronald Hanko: “We believe that justification is something that takes place in time, when we believe on Jesus Christ—and we are justified only then. We believe that God decreed the justification of His people from eternity, but we wholeheartedly agree with the Westminster Standards which say that we “are not actually justified” until we “believe.”
Herman Hoeksema calls justification by faith “actual justification.” He did not believe that justification by faith is just simply a matter of “learning that you’re justified” or “being assured” that you’re justified. He believed (and he says this in the chapter on Justification in his Reformed Dogmatics) that faith is imputed to us as righteousness, and it is in that way we are justified and made righteous before God.” (Source: “Common Grace: Is it Biblical?”—a public debate between David Silversides and Ronald Hanko [1995])

Synod of Ultrecht, 1905—Conclusions: ref. “Eternal Justification”: “… It is incorrect to say that our confessions know only of a justification out of and through faith, seeing that both the Word of God in Romans 4:25 and our Confession in Article 20 emphatically speak of an objective justification sealed in the resurrection of Christ, which, in order precedes subjective justification; and further as concerns the case itself all our churches heartily believe and confess that Christ in the counsel of peace has given himself from eternity as surety for his people, and has taken their guilt upon himself, even as he thereupon, through his suffering and death on Calvary, gave himself a ransom for us and reconciled us with God, while we were still enemies, but that it must be maintained just as definitely, on the basis of the Word of God and of the Confession, that we, personally, become partakers of this benefit only by a true faith: reason why the synod earnestly warns against every presentation of the matter which either denies the eternal surety of Christ for his elect or the demand of a true faith to become justified before God in the tribunal of the conscience.”— Of this statement, Herman Hoeksema comments: “This, therefore, is what we mean by justification from eternity(Reformed Dogmatics [Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966], p. 502).


Q. 3. “The PRCA do not believe that the elect are ever under the wrath of God.”

Ronald Hanko: “That simply is not true. If John Bunyan “experienced the wrath of God” as he says, then I believe that he meant what he said. I think that every one of God’s people experiences that same wrath of God.
What needs to be realised is that there is difference between “wrath” and “hatred.” The two are often confused.
I don’t believe that the elect are ever “hated” by God, but I certainly believe they can be under the “judicial wrath” of God—and that they often are under the judicial wrath of God even after they are brought to salvation—that they can experience the heavy hand of God against them in their sins—as David did when he sinned with Bathsheba. He records his experience as the wrath of God against his sins in Psalm 32. I have no problem with that.
There is a difference, however, between wrath and hatred. I can be very “wrathful” with my children, but that doesn’t mean I “hate” them—I certainly had better not hate them in being wrathful with them. In fact, my “wrath” with them is an expression of my love for them—at least it should be, by the grace of God—I certainly hope that it is.
God certainly can be angry with His people, and when He comes to them to save them, then He saves them from wrath, and also from that deep sense of condemnation that’s part of the wrath of God, to give them peace through His grace. But that does not mean that He “hates” them. The “wrath” that is against them is not a wrath which is rooted in “hatred” for them, but is a wrath which is rooted in His eternal and unchangeable “love” for them. Even after they have been saved when He reveals His wrath, He reveals it in order to turn them from their sins and to bring them back to Himself.
There is a difference between wrath and hatred, and I by no means deny that the elect can be under the “wrath” of God. Wrath and hatred are not the same.” (Source: Transcript from “Common Grace: Is it Biblical?”—a debate between David Silversides and Ronald Hanko [1995])


Q. 4. “[Herman] Hoeksema never answered adequately the charge that on his view the elect can never have been under the wrath of God and Christ need not have died for them in history.” (Cornelius Van Til, “Common Grace and the Gospel”)

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965): “Now when God caused that Church in Adam to fall into sin and death, did He do so in His love or in His hatred? In His eternal love. And when that Church in Adam had fallen, did He hate or love that Church? And did He deal with that Church, even immediately after the fall, in His love or in His hate? In His love. For He had provided some better thing for that Church than the first paradise. He had prepared for them a city. He loved the elect in Adam before the fall, He loved them in the fall, He loved them after the fall. And mark you well, this is not an abstraction, as if it were thus only in God’s eternal counsel, but this eternal love was in every “moment” of God’s dealings with His Church. You may object that they, nevertheless, became “children of wrath, even as the others.” We have no objection to this. God’s holy wrath is kindled against all sin, in the elect and in the reprobate. But do not forget, that if you view this wrath of God against the elect’s sin on the background of God’s eternal counsel, it is a wrath of love, a wrath that is borne to the end in their stead by Christ Jesus their Lord.”

(Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 19, [January 15, 1943], p. 174; emphasis added.)


Q. 5. “Herman Hoeksema was the only theologian in church history that taught that God loves and takes delight only in Himself”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): “For in God there is happiness essentially; since His very Being is His operation, whereby He enjoys no other than Himself.” (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 3, Art. 2, ad. 4; emphasis added.)

Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711): “Love is an essential attribute of God by which the Lord delights Himself in that which is good, it being wellpleasing to Him, and uniting Himself to it consistent with the nature of the object of His love. The love of God by definition is the loving God Himself, for which reason John states that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8). When we view the love of God relative to its objects, however, several distinctions need to be made. We call this love natural when it refers to the manner in which God delights in Himself as the supreme manifestation of goodness. “For the Father loveth the Son” (John 5:20). We call this love volitional when it refers to the manner in which God delights in His creatures. And thus this love is either the love of benevolence or the love of His delight. (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke [1700; Grand Rapids MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1992], 1:123, emphasis added.)

Herman Bavinck (1854-1921): “All things need him [God]; he needs nothing and nobody. He always aims at himself because he cannot rest in anything other than himself. Inasmuch as he himself is the absolutely good and perfect one, he may not love anything else except with a view to himself. He may not and cannot be content with less than absolute perfection. When he loves others, he loves himself in them: his own virtues, works, and gifts. For the same reason he is also blessed in himself as the sum of all goodness, of all perfection ... Love is most certainly identical with God’s being. It is independent, eternal, and unchangeable, like God himself. It has its origin in him and also, by way of his creatures, returns to him.” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, pp. 211, 216; emphasis added.)

Q. 6. “In Hoeksema’s theology, the elect are never seen by God as sinners …”

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965): “… Do the elect ever occur as sinners? My brief answer would be: they do. Nevertheless, from eternity they occur as sinners in Christ Jesus, as the objects of God’s free grace. But this brings us to the entire question of supra and infra, which cannot be expected to discuss in this connection …” (Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 2, no. 1 [Dec. 1968], p. 44.)


Q. 7. “The PRCA erroneously believe the gospel is only to be offered to the elect”

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) [1]: “[Grace is never general, but always particular]. But this does not alter the fact that the Lord God … causes men to be under the preaching of the gospel without changing their heart through regenerating and illuminating grace.  Also through this calling the responsibility of man and his ethical character are maintained. God speaks to him through that gospel. In that gospel He calls him to repentance, to conversion and faith. And in a way that is very clear, and not to be denied, He presents to him the way of sin as a way that displeases God and that makes the sinner the object of God’s wrath … Moreover, in that gospel He opens for him that repents a way to be reconciled to God and to return to the heart of the Father, and assures him that he will never be cast out, and promises him eternal life … All this is being preached in the gospel, and is preached without distinction to all that are under the gospel, also to the reprobate” (Reformed Dogmatics [Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966], pp. 470-471, emphasis added).

[2]: “Our difference does not at all have to do with the question whether the gospel, according to the will of God, must also be preached to all who are in our audience, reprobate as well as elect. This is taken for granted on both sides. Note well, [the issue] is not whether the gospel must be proclaimed by the preacher to all men who sit in his audience without distinction. Every Reformed man believes this” (A Power of God Unto Salvation, Or Grace No Offer, pp. 20, 27, emphasis added).

[3]: “We have nothing against a universal ‘demand’ of faith and conversion. About this there is no dispute … That the demand of conversion and faith applies to all, even though all cannot fulfil it and even though it is only almighty grace that enables one to fulfil it, we readily grant” (Ibid., p. 30, emphasis added).

[4]: “10.  But, granting the truth of all this, is it not a fact, that the gospel is preached to many that are not elect and are not saved?   Most certainly. It would be quite impossible to preach the gospel to the elect only; neither is this the will of God, for the Scriptures declare that many are called but few are chosen.” (The Protestant Reformed Churches in America [1947], p. 335)


Q. 8. “The PRC sought a breach with the CRC in 1924”

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965): “[The Protestant Reformed Churches] neither desired nor sought the breach of 1924-25, but, on the contrary, did all they conscientiously could do to prevent the breach.  The Christian Reformed Churches caused the separation.  They adopted “Three Points” that are Pelagian and Arminian in their real tendency, and they were determined to shut the mouths of their faithful members, who raised their voice in protest against that triple corruption of the Reformed truth that was officially coined as true doctrine in 1924.” (The Protestant Reformed Churches in America [1947], pp. 289-290)


Q. 9. “Herman Hoeksema taught election and reprobation as if there is perfect symmetry between the two concepts” (G. C. Berkouwer, Divine Election)

Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965):
[1] “[When] preaching on election and reprobation, we must not place them dualistically over against each other. They are not on the same level … Reprobation should always be presented as subordinate to election, as serving the latter according to God's counsel.” (Source: The Place of Reprobation in the Preaching of the Gospel; emphasis added.)

[2] “Reprobation is immediately connected with election, but cannot be placed on a par with election. Reprobation follows election, and reprobation serves election … As the church follows this way, the reprobate shell of the human organism serves the church of Christ. In the shell of reprobation the elect kernel becomes ripe. For that reason reprobation cannot be put on the same line with election.” (Source: Reformed Dogmatics [RFPA, 2004], vol. 1, 477; emphasis added)


Q. 10. “The PRC deny that faith is a condition to salvation, and they also condemned one of their ministers for preaching, ‘If you believe, you will be saved; if you don’t believe you will be damned.’”

[One who makes such a claim] badly and inexcusably misrepresents the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches.
I cannot understand how [anybody that makes this claim] can be so careless in [their] recounting of history. I myself have said from the pulpit on numerous occasions the very statement which [it is claimed] we do not believe. In fact, worse yet, the very statement itself is almost a quotation from Scripture (Rom. 10:9), and we are not so bereft of our senses that we would condemn someone for quoting Scripture.
[The one who makes such an outrageous claim is referring] to a controversy in our churches in the early 1950s, in which controversy a minister was condemned and ultimately suspended from office for teaching heresy. But that heresy was not: “If you believe, you will be saved.” That heresy was: “God promises to every one of you that if you believe, you will be saved.” That is quite different. The statement teaches (and perhaps [the one making the false claim] agrees with that teaching) that God’s promise comes as a promise to everyone who hears the gospel, but that it is a conditional promise, the fulfilment of which is dependent upon faith. It is a general and conditional promise which our churches have condemned as Arminian.
The reason is clear to any thinking man. Does God actually promise salvation to a reprobate man? If He does, God promises something which He never fulfils; and the promise becomes a farce. I mock a man without legs if I promise him $1000 if he walks a mile.
If it is said: “Yes, but faith is the condition,” then the burning question is: Is faith a part of the promise (as the Westminster [Confession] teaches in 7.3), or is faith a condition to the promise? It is absurd that God would say to a totally depraved sinner: “I promise you eternal life if I will give you faith to believe.” A general promise to all makes faith the work of man.
The command to believe in Christ comes to all; the promise is particular and unconditional to believers.
But does not the Westminster Confession use the term “condition”? Indeed it does. But [it] ought to [be pointed out] that the term “condition” in the Westminster Confession, and as it was used by Presbyterian and Reformed divines for centuries, means “necessary means.” Faith is the necessary and God-given means of salvation. It is the means of salvation in order that the great salvation God gives us in Christ may become our actual experience already in this life. Faith is the necessary means, for faith is the bond that unites us to Christ and makes us partakers of Christ and all His benefits.
If the word “condition” is used in this sense, no one has any objection. But faith as a condition to a general promise makes faith the work of man. It is another question whether, in the light of today’s rampant Arminianism, we ought to use the word “condition” at all. It is not found in Scripture, and it is not found in the Three Forms of Unity, except in the mouths of the Arminians. (Herman C. Hanko, “An Answer to David Silversides” [2019], pp. 4-5)


Q. 11. “The PRC categorically deny that God makes any offer in the gospel whatsoever.” (Phil Johnson)

“[We] do not “categorically deny” that one may speak of any offer in the gospel whatsoever. What we object to is The Free Offer of the Gospel. And that is something else again.
We do not deny that Christ is and can be offered in the gospel preaching in a proper sense. In the gospel offer of which the Canons speak, Christ is set forth before all as the one sacrifice for sin, God’s Savior from wrath. Christ Jesus is trumpeted as the revelation of God as He graciously wills to have mercy upon sinners. We are authorized to declare to every man in the gospel, “Jehovah is a forgiving God. Turn ye unto Him and He will have mercy upon you. Everyone who turns to Him seeking salvation and forgiveness in Christ Jesus’ name shall find it. He has never turned one such seeking, sorrowing sinner away yet, and I can assure you, He is not about to begin now. Repent and believe, and thou too shalt be saved!” This is the true gospel offer. In these terms Christ crucified and risen is to be set forth for the consideration of all, of everyone without exception to whom the gospel comes. You can even throw in a “Whosoever will, let him come!” We would not mind at all. Really! If Scripture says it, say it, by all means—to all. You are free, yea, called to do so.
One wonders how much more “promiscuous” one must be to have a good reputation these days! But this is not what is meant by the “offer” anymore these days. It has been hijacked by the WMO of the gospel, giving men license to use language that neither the apostles nor the fathers of Dordt used. This is why we tend to stay away from the use of the word altogether—people hear the word “offer of the gospel,” and think “free offer.”
The free offer authorizes preachers to speak of the God who has in love elected just some to salvation as yet also wanting and wishing for the salvation of every sinner, yearning for their salvation with all His divine heart (cf. The Banner of Truth, Aug.- Sept. 2005, p. 41). In the end, the free offer authorizes men to say to every hearer in God’s name (be they Herod, be they Judas Iscariot), “God loves you. Yes, Christ died for you!”
This is the language of the WMO. It is sheer Arminianism. It is precisely this language that occasioned the writing of the Canons of Dordt to begin with, in defense of true Calvinism and the gospel. And yet, according to the promoters of the free offer, such language is now to be considered the very “marrow” of Calvinistic gospel preaching. Astounding!” (Rev. Kenneth Koole, “The Standard Bearer,” vol. 82, no. 4 [Nov. 15, 2005], pp. 77-78)

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