Herman Hoeksema was born on March 12, 1886 in Hoogezand, Groningen, the Netherlands. Although he grew up in a Christelijke Gereformeerde congregation, he was introduced to the preaching and teaching of Dr. Abraham Kuyper through a friend.
Hoeksema emigrated to the United States in 1904, where he lived with a sister in Chicago and became a member of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).
Controversy in Holland, MichiganEdit
Hoeksema had a towering intellect and graduated from Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. His first pastorate was 14th Street CRC in Holland, Michigan, which he served from 1915 until 1920. Here he began a controversial career upholding the Reformed faith not only against Arminian errors, but also against some of the doctrines of Abraham Kuyper.
Hoeksema was a strong proponent of Christian schools and believed in double-predestination - that God has elected some for salvation and others for damnation. Always willing to go against the flow, he also opposed displaying the U.S. flag in the church sanctuary - not a popular decision while World War I was taking place. To protect himself from patriotic zealots, Hoeksema took to carrying a handgun.
At this time premillenial dispensationalism was all the rage. It was making inroads in the Reformed tradition, and Hoeksema strongly opposed it as "contrary to the Reformed Confessions", a position that both the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America agreed with. (This issue would split Calvary Reformed Church in Grand Rapids in 1929, when when a large majority of the church followed their pastor, the Rev. Martin R. De Haan, in founding Calvary Undenominational Church.)
Controversy in Grand RapidsEdit
Hoeksema became pastor of Eastern Avenue CRC in Grand Rapids - one of the largest Christian Reformed churches in the U.S. at the time - in 1920, where he had an enthusiastic following. He soon became embroiled in "the Janssen case".
Dr. Ralph Janssen was professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, and his teachings denied the infallible inspiration of Scripture using the techniques of higher criticism. Janssen was a member of Eastern Ave. CRC, so Hoeksema was brought in when other attempts to remove Janssen failed.
Janssen used common grace as one of his justifications for accepting higher criticism - a doctrine that Hoeksema had already repudiated. Hoeksema carefully built the case against Janssen, whose teachings were condemned by the Synod of 1922.
This made Hoeksema's condemnation of common grace known across the Christian Reformed denomination. The CRC affirmed the well-meant offer of the gospel, presumptive regeneration, and common grace (also known as the Three Points of Common Grace) in the Synod of Kalamazoo (1924) - but it did not require Hoeksema to agree to these teachings.
Although Synod found Hoeksema "fundamentally Reformed", his critics pushed his Classis to require Hoeksema to subscribe to the Three Points. Hoeksema refused and was promptly suspended.
The majority of the congregation (about 75%), the majority of its consistory, and Rev. Hoeksema formed the First Protestant Reformed Church (PRC) in January 1925. Their church was soon joined by two other pastors and congregations over the same issues.
Hoeksema began teaching dogmatics and New Testament at the newly established Protestant Reformed seminary and established The Standard Bearer as the bimonthly voice of the PRC.
Hoeksema suffered a massive stroke in June 1947, recovering sufficiently to take up his work again but never completely overcoming the damage resulting from the stroke.
A Church DividedEdit
The Protestant Reformed Churches would be split over another issue, whether salvation is conditional. This was the teaching of Klaas Schilder, who had been deposed from the Gerenformeerde Kerken in Nederland in 1944. Although he and Hoeksema agreed on many things, this was not one of them.
Schilder believed that the children of believers participate in the covenant, but Hoeksema "insisted that only the elect children of believers were included in that covenant."
As Schilder's views were embraced in parts of the PRC, Hoeksema opposed them. Finally, in 1953 the denomination was split with roughly 2/3 of the members and pastors forming the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Churches, also known as the De Wolf Group after the Rev. Hubert De Wolf, one of Hoeksema's two copastors at First PRC). This group united with the Christian Reformed Church in 1961.
Hoeksema spent the last 12 years of his life rebuilding the Protestant Reformed denomination. He died in Sept. 1965.