TORCH AND TRUMPET herewith presents the critical letters received in response to the article appearing in the previous issue entitled “Note to a Seminary Professor.” The letters have not been edited.
24 March, 1953
Editorial Committee, Reformed Fellowship Inc.
I have read your published Note to me and wish to say that I am making reply to it in the April issue of the Reformed Journal, to which I am pleased to refer you and your readers.
Sincerely, HENRY STOB
The Editorial Committee of Torch and Trumpet,
Grand Rapids, Mich.
With much interest I have read your “Note to a Seminary Professor.” I have taken note of the fact that in your Editorial Note you have taken great pains to indicate that your aim is not to embarrass Dr. Stob nor to impugn his orthodoxy. You further enumerate some of the excellent work of Dr. Stob in which he set forth the antithesis in its bearing on Christian education. It would appear to me that the mere recollection of these writings should have made you exceedingly cautious against reading into Dr. Stob’s article “Note“to a College Freshman” the sort of thing which you attribute to him. You are, and rightly so “quite jealous for the accuracy of the opinions” Dr. Stob renders in view of his important position at the Seminary. I agree with you that we ought to be able to carry on this type of discussion in which you engage on a high level.
However, I am at a loss to find warrant for sending your article: “Note to a Seminary Professor” into the world over the signature of three persons, who designate themselves “The Editorial Committee of the Reformed Fellowship.” If we are debating matters of principle, as you assert, and this is “not the eruption of a feud,” would your purpose not have been served ever so much better if one individual had written this article and published it over his lone signature? I am persuaded that the method which you, after “wrestling long” decided to pursue is not a desirable one. It tends to group formation in the church which I, together with you, hold dear and for whose purity you and I are jealous.
It has also struck me that there is no indication whatsoever in the article that anyone of the signatories of the “Note to a Seminary Professor” conferred in any way with Dr. Stob except to secure his consent to republish in T. and T. the “Note to a College Freshman.” Perhaps you will say that you were under no obligation to do so since Dr. Stob had written for the public in the Reformed Journal. Still, it appears to me that such a conference would have cleared up many difficulties and removed many objections. It is a fact. is it not, that you speak appreciatively about some salient passages in the article of Dr. Stob? It is my conviction that if you had interpreted the rest of the article in the light of these commended statements you could not have come to the conclusions at which you arrive in your article. Dr. Stob said: “To understand ourselves, to understand the world, to truly understand anything at all, we must take position neither in the individual nor in the race, neither in sophistic intelligence nor in human rationality, but in the Truth himself, which is meant by taking on the mind of Christ.” It is in the light of this important and weighty sentence that I interpreted all the rest of the article, and then I find that many of the objections which you register melt as snow before the February sun. Also the statement at the end of Dr. Stob’s article: “to be shaped by the Word and Spirit and the whole creation of God in conformity with the mind of Christ, to be fashioned anew in the image and likeness of God,” as the goal of education indicates beyond doubt that Dr. Stab could not mean that the process of acquainting oneself with the “broader Mind of man” could take place apart from the controlling influence of Word and Spirit.
I do not know whether, or how, Dr. Stob will answer objections to specific statements in his article. I only wish to call to your attention that the logic, with which you infer and deduce from certain statements of Dr. Stob an erroneous view of Christian higher education, cannot stand the test at the statements of Dr. Stob which you heartily approve. I know that you say, that these statements are nullified by the structure of the article and by other statements in the Note to a College Freshman. But, brethren, did it not occur to you that both logic and charity should compel you to interpret all the rest of the article in the light of the great affirmations of Dr. Stob, which you also laud?
It appears to me that if this had been done, you would not have come to such absurd conclusions as to say that: “Reduced to its simplest terms your argument, it seems to us. amounts to stating that Christian education means the adding of courses in Bible and Chapel exercises to the regular courses which we have in common with all minds bent on getting an education.” I stand amazed that you can say such things when Dr. Stob plainly states: “Here, then is the goal of education: to be shaped by the Word and Spirit and the whole of God’s creation into conformity with the mind of Christ, to be fashioned anew in the image and likeness of God,” I for one cannot believe that Dr. Stob would hold that such a goal can be achieved without its being an integral part and determinative factor in the entire process of education. His very definitions, which you also commend, require this. Also the published addresses or Dr. Stob, to which you refer in your editorial note, would argue for such interpretation of his “Note to a College Freshman,” I am convinced that your article has not given due weight to the ringing and clear affirmations of Dr. Stob, affirmations to which I have repeatedly referred in this letter. Did your article concern one from my own hand it would grieve me to have my critics place so great emphasis on the structure of my article, And this the more so since the criticism comes not from an individual but from a group, as is evident from the signature of your article,
I do not doubt that you mean to debate issues, not personalities or journals, However, the heading of your article is hardly in accord with this claim. At any rate, if you felt constrained to write, why not under the heading: Notes on “Note to a College Freshman”?
With regard to Rev. Haverkamp’s letter we would make the following observations:
1. The suggested alternative title for our article has considerable merit, in our judgment.
2. A good sermon or argument or an effective statement of a case is much like a well-constructed building. They all have a single consistent architectural motif, and the structure of the argument or sermon or building bears this out at every significant point. This is also true at Dr. Stob’s brief article “Note to a College Freshman.” In our judgment this important though brief article was not characterized by one consistent Christian architectural motif. We were and are persuaded that there are two motifs, two architectural patterns in that article, with the major part of the article governed by a form of thinking with which we have already expressed our dissatisfaction. Therefore, in our judgment the excellent statements appearing at the end of Dr. Stob’s article (statements also referred to by Rev. Havenkamp) do not nullify the dual architecture of his argument. We doubt that a preacher in a truly Reformed Church could get by with a sermon in which he preached in an unReformed vein for the larger part of his effort and then concluded with a few pointed and positively Calvinistic statements. We don’t recommend the procedure.
3. Rev. Haverkamp feels that charity did not govern the publications of our “Note to a Seminary Professor.” At the same time it seems obvious that the brother doubts the sincerity and/or the validity of our introductory editorial note. Is this an illustration of the charity the brother feels was lacking on our part?
4. Rev. Haverkamp is in error when he states rather unkindly that the editorial committee “designate themselves” as such. This committee was duly designated as such by the Reformed Fellowship.
5. Rev. Haverkamp is seriously in error when he concludes that no one “of the signatories of the ‘Note to a Seminary Professor’ conferred in any way with Dr. Stob except to secure his consent to republish in T. and T. the ‘Note to a College Freshman.’” As a matter of fact one of the signatories went to see Dr. Stob twice. At the first visit Dr. Stob was informed that the publication of an article taking issue with his “Note” was contemplated and the matter was fully and amicably discussed. At the second visit Dr. Stob was given an advance copy of our article and he was asked for permission to republish his original “Note” in Torch and Trumpet.
Effective immediately please discontinue sending The Torch and Trumpet to the above address, even though my subscription still has a few months to run, My decision to cancel this subscription was made after considerable thought and is based on the attitude and editorial bent which your publication is taking.
More particularly I feel that the recent issue in which an insidious attack has been made against Professor Henry Stob is far from the intent of your publication as laid down in your first issue, Your editorial attitude cloaked in the guise of maintaining purity of doctrine will eventually cause more dissension in the Christian Reformed Church than the so called errors of interpretation which you supposedly are attempting to correct.
BERNARD H. VELZEN, PH.D.
Request granted, See comment on the next letter.
Regard for the Reformed tradition, for the truth, and for journalistic ethics, as well as concern for the good reputation of a good man, prompt me to protest your recent “Letter to a Seminary Professor.”
I do not wish to debate the issue involved in your article itself, for I believe that to do so would be to grant your conception of argumentation, which, in my poorly informed view, seems to be that an argument, even if unsought and unprovoked by an original party, must nevertheless be launched, even if the launching requires first the erection of a straw man who shall represent the original man’s point of view or thesis, which straw man is then to be demolished neatly. This, on my view, is your method, and I protest it. You have either misread Professor Stob’s article, and are merely misguided, or have rebuilt it for your purposes, (As a case in point: you accuse Professor Stob of positing a ‘supercession theory’ of education; but this cannot be drawn from his article, and to flay him for its presence is pure casuistry.)
Your journalistic ethics are debatable, I feel, for you have prefixed your attack with a ‘humble’ protestation of friendliness for your victim, which is easily seen through and which mitigates not one whit the obvious personal nature of your article. “Methinks the lady ((and the Editorial Committee)) doth protest too much.”
Please do not construe this letter as a personal attack on yourselves or your valuable paper. These are, as you can see, merely personal reflections of a week’s vintage, and I wish to register them. I pray that your sensibilities may he mended, and that no more of this kind of thing may appear in your paper.
GEORCE G. HARPER, JR.
We regret that Mr. Harper obviously interprets our article in a highly personal way. Since such an interpretation is the polar opposite of our intent and effort, we can hardly comment further on his letter.
DEAR REV. PIERSMA:
I have been a constant reader of “Torch and Trumpet” since its inception, and will say that there has been much that I have enjoyed. It is with much sorrow that I must now protest and question the propriety of placing before the public the article “Note to a Seminary Professor” at this time, just before the Calvin College and Seminary Board of Trustees meets to make reappointments and new ones. I grant that the short article of Dr. Henry Stob in the September issue of the “Reformed Journal” left some questions which I think he would have been glad to answer. This three-pronged attack looks too much like a smear campaign, which has no place in Christian Ethics nor in “Torch and Trumpet.”
Yours in the Master’s service,
JACOB E. FEENSTRA
We too regret that our debate with Dr. Stob’s article appeared in the February issue of our magazine. We should have preferred to publish it in the December issue. But that was made impossible by the prolonged absence from the city of one member of the Editorial Committee. It would have been much “wiser” to publish our article in the December issue because by publishing in the February number we invited a type of interpretation of our effort which was never intended.
At the same time we do not care to deny that we wanted to publish openly our disagreement with Dr. Stob’s views as expressed in the article in question, so that the church at large and the trustees of Calvin College and Seminary as well might know our convictions in the matter. So persuaded are we of the correctness of our criticism of the article in question that we will hold to our conviction even as we become the object of epithets like “smear campaign.”
I am writing to you to express my disapproval of your “Note to a Seminary Professor” in the last issue of the Torch and Trumpet. I doubt very much whether your lengthy and “weighty” criticism of the Professor’s brief “Note to a College Freshman” is of any real significance. It seems you are making a big fuss about little or nothing—a mountain of a molehill. Possibly I am wrong. But I object especially to the way in which it is done. We have had enough of this type of journalism in the “Banner” of late years. Our Reformed community needs discussion and debate—but with tolerance, and no presumptuous heresy-hunting. Why could you not have simply gone about discussing the issues—if there be such—without all the fanfare and the hullaballoo, which to many of your readers cannot help but create the impression that our new Professor in the Seminary doesn’t quite know what he is talking about. You profess to want to keep personalities out of the discussion, but you are not doing that with this type of presentation. The Reformed witness in the Netherlands seems to have suffered much from just such acrimonious and stuffy discussion, that leads only to division and endless bickerings; when they and we need each other for strength. Is there not room for some differences within the Reformed framework of thinking?
Mr. Diephuis’s opinion of the method used in our debate with Dr. Stob is directly connected with his opinion of the significance of the issue raised in our article. If the issue is as insignificant as Mr. Diephuis thinks it is, then obviously the method used was out of order. If the issue is as important as we think it is (see note on previous letter), then the whole question of the method of employed in joining the debate becomes quite secondary and even tertiary.
A GENERAL OBSERVATION:
In all kindliness we would lay before our critics a general observation which we believe to be manifestly pertinent at this point. Those who have had intimate acquaintance with struggles (like that of Dr. Machen and his colleagues in the Presbyterian Church USA) the effort was constantly put forth to play down or completely put forth to play down or completely dismiss the doctrinal issue and to give prominence to questions of method and procedure. The raising of a question of principle was regularly construed as a personal matter, or was appraised solely in the light of the method used to get at the question of principle. In other words, questioning having to do with the person involved in the debate were given priority over questions of truth. We cannot help observing that this type of approach to an issue of principle is plainly in evidence in several letters of our critics. In all good will and sincerity we ask our critics to reflect upon this general observation.