Herman Hanko. For Thy Truth’s Sake: A Doctrinal History of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2000. xxvi + 541 pp. including index. $39.95
Seventy-five years of God’s blessing! That’s what the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) commemorated this last summer. In conjunction with their celebration this book was published. It is an interesting book in that, while it gives a history of this group of churches, it is more particularly, as the subtitle indicates, a doctrinal history. Very few books like this are written. More, this is not a heavy tome written only for the scholarly reader. It is a volume you can easily read in your easy chair.
This book is very timely. It needed to be written. It is well-known that this small portion of Christ’s Church, called Protestant Reformed, is often unjustly criticized by people who have no idea what they stand for. There are many misconceptions of what they teach and believe. Professor Hanko has done a very good job as he has explained the cardinal teachings of the PRC.
Of course, the initial events which brought about the PRC are recounted, as are the historical roots in the Christian Reformed Church, and, before that, in the Secessionists of the Netherlands (1834). An Old Dutch proverb, quoted on page twenty, puts this in focus:
In the past lies the present,
And today holds the future.
These connections are very important in understanding the beginnings of the PRC. The historical facts are nicely woven through the doctrinal history. The Janssen controversy, the common grace controversy, the antithesis, and even the related controversy regarding Church government are all explained in relation to the PRC.
While many doctrinal subjects are dealt with, by far the largest portion of this volume specifically concerns the doctrine of the covenant as it has been developed in the PRC. This, of course, necessitates an explanation of Schilder’s relation to the PRC and his teaching, and how these impacted the PRC in 1953. For those who are interested in coming to know their position, instead of listening to those who are just critical by nature, this section will be very helpful as the positive position is explained. In relation to this, the Hoeksema-DeWolf controversy is also explained. Of course, not all will want to agree with what is written. Maybe they were directly involved, or have heard from those who were, or simply have a negative attitude to what some have not been willing to learn about. But, at least, they should be honest and read the other side of the story.
Sooner or later this kind of volume had to be written as a real contribution to the study of church history, and Professor Hanko has provided admirably for this need.
The last section of this volume contains many valuable items. A collection of relevant documents in English which are important to this history appears. In fact, there are eighty pages of them: including the Acts of Secession (1834) and the Act of Agreement (1925) of the three congregations aggrieved by the decision the Christian Reformed Church Synod of 1924 concerning common grace and the related church political situation. Also appearing are copies of the documents relating to the 1953 division. In addition, a very valuable bibliography appears in two sections. The first section is general in nature, providing publications which give light on the general subject of the history and views of the PRC. Some of the listings are of Dutch publications; most are in English. The second section lists works of Herman Hoeksema. Obviously, it does not include every article appearing in the Standard Bearer or every sermon ever to be published in pamphlet form. He was a prolific writer, and someday this ought to be done. What we have in this bibliography is a listing of the basic theological writings which are important to this history.
In the middle of the book a collection of illustrations appears. It is very helpful, and, also, interesting. No doubt, for some readers it will bring on a bit of nostalgia.
This volume is attractive, and, even more, very helpful in understanding the Protestant Reformed Churches. It would be worth while for you to read it carefully.
Thanks, Professor Hanko, for your work! Jerome M. Julien
Alcock, Deborah. The Romance of Protestantism: Tales of Trials and Victory. Neerlandia AS / Pella, IA: Inheritance Publications. 1999. 186pp, paper.
Like it or not, the Church of Jesus Christ cannot and does not live in a vacuum. We must see ourselves as directly related to the Church through the ages. Nor can we dare think that the struggles for Biblical Truth are now unimportant or insignificant. We need to know who we are and what has transpired to bring us in God’s providence where we are right now.
Deborah Alcock, daughter of a minister in the Reformed Church of England and Ireland in the eighteen hundreds, was a gifted writer who carefully used historical details to make the stories of the days of the Reformation and of the days following live for the reader. According to the publisher, this present volume contains portions from theJ various volumes she wrote, and which will soon be reprinted.
The author begins with an enlightening discussion of Protestantism. Then she acquaints us with the Waldensians and their struggle for the Faith. Next, she takes us to Holland and shows us the struggle for Reformation there. Mercifully, the Lord cared for His people there, in spite of antichrist’s ugly head being there, along with his merciless doings.
Our spiritual forefathers in the Netherlands suffered much for the sake of Christ. Following this, the author writes of the Church of our Lord in Bohemia. Usually, we who have Spiritual roots in the Dutch Reformation think of the Reformation as taking place in Germany, Switzerland, England. France and the Netherlands. Seldom do we think of Bohemia and John Huss or Jerome of Prague.
This little book will help any reader to understand his Christian heritage and what our forefathers experienced for the sake of Christ. Perhaps the shocking events of those days will help us come back to the reality of the First Promise of the Gospel, the Words of Jesus about tribulation in this world, and the fulfillment of God’s Promise in the last chapters of the Book Of Revelation. Also, perhaps it will, help us to understand what the Bible really means when it teaches about true comfort!
Jerome M. Julien is the Stated Clerk of the United Reformed Churches in North America
Ashcroft, John. Lessons From a Father to His Son Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, Tenn. 1998. 214pp
The book, Lessons From a Father to His Son by John Ashcroft, is written in tribute to the instructions of Ashcroft’s father, an Assembly of God minister and college president.
The flyleaf dedication describes the content of this very readable 214 page book as follows: “To my wife Janet, and all the other moms and dads who realize that the transmission of values from one generation to the next is the single most important responsibility of a culture.”
The 29 short chapters are built around different spiritual/practical themes which John Ashcroft learned from the teachings of his father, both by precept and example. John Ashcroft takes the reader on a delightful and sometimes emotional journey of a beautiful teaching relationship which a father had toward his son. The father is described as purposefully building a Christian character and value system in his son which began early in life and continued until the day his father died.
This book would make excellent reading for any age group, and in my opinion, would be a good addition to any church library.
Rev. Marion Groendyk is an emeritus minister and member of the Bethany United Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan.