Our Distinctive Heritage

Summary of the address of Rev. Herman Hoeksema given at the 25th Anniversary Mass Meeting, Grand Rapids area. Reported by Roger Faber


The topic of Reverend Hoeksema’s ad­dress was “Our Distinctive Heritage”. He defined our heritage as the truths and doctrine handed down to us from the fathers of the church. Our heritage is distinctive because of four character­istics. First, it is distinctive because it consists of the teachings of Reformed church fathers. That quality distinguish­es it from Roman Catholicism. Second, it is distinctive because it is contained in our Three Forms of Unity. Third, it is distinctive because that distinction was accentuated in the doctrinal con­troversy with the Christian Reformed Church in 1924. Fourth, our heritage is distinctive because its teachings have been developed and clarified since 1924.

Expressed briefly, our heritage is this: “The organic development of the cove­nant of God in connection with the or­ganic development of all things in the world—in the line of Sovereign election and reprobation.”

This “organic development must be divided into three stages. The first step was the creation of all things by the Word of God. God created all things as a cosmos: that is, a unified, harmon­ious, complete whole. There was a grad­ually ascending scale of creatures from the most elementary forms of inorganic matter, through plants and animals, to man, who stood at the head of creation. Man’s heart was the center of creation, and through man God had fellowship with all His creatures.

Sin, however, caused a breach in that fellowship—the second step. Creation did not become a chaos; it remained a cosmos with man at its head, the whole upheld by the Providence of God. The breach took place in man’s heart: it was a spiritual, ethical breach. Before, there had been a continuous chain from the universe through man to God, but now the link between man and God was broken. Man became consecrated to tin devil and was placed under the curst and all creation was placed under the curse with him. The speaker there em­phasized that the cosmos continued to exist not because of the common grace of God, but because God had so deter­mined the development of His covenant that the continued existence of the uni­verse was necessary to that development.

After the fall of man a third change took place. God established His cove­nant with the elect. His purpose through­out the previous steps was the establish­ment of fellowship with a nucleus of the fallen human race. This covenant was established in the line of election and reprobation: that is, God saved the kernel of the human race and cast away the hull. He caused enmity between Satan and the seed of the woman, thereby separating the elect from the reprobate by an antithesis. And, because man had retained his office as head of creation, God also renewed his fellowship with the cosmos through the heart of his regener­ate elect. Hence, today the elect and the reprobate live side by side, both with their purpose in God’s eternal plan. They live together and have everything in common—except grace.

The conclusion of this, Rev. Hoeksema stated, is that we as elect of God are called to maintain the antithesis, that distinction whereunto we are called by our heritage. We must actively sup­port our beliefs and never lose the dis­tinction between us and the rest that is called church. We are distinct from the whole church in general, from the Re­formed church in particular, and even from the Christian Reformed Church. If we should fail to maintain that distinc­tion we should cease to exist as Protest­ant Reformed; therefore we must main­tain it, both doctrinally and practically, against all the powers of darkness.