“The Truth Never Begs”: The Necessary Voice of the Reformed Free Publishing Association

Mr. Hoekstra is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church, and secretary of the RFPA.

In 1953 Herman Hoeksema penned an editorial titled “Why We Should Read the Standard Bearer.” He stated:

Mark you well, the Standard Bearer is not begging for subscriptions. The truth never begs. And the Standard Bearer represents the truth. If many of us are not interested in the Protestant Reformed truth anymore, something which I am still loath to believe, the truth of God nevertheless stands and marches on, even without them. Besides, I do not want mere subscribers, but readers that will make careful study of our paper and read it from cover to cover.

Hoeksema’s editorial is still relevant today for members of the RFPA. We do not beg for association members; we do not beg for book club members; and we do not beg for Standard Bearer subscribers. Indeed, the truth never begs. The truth stands and marches on. The calling comes through the echoes of our history: read!

H. Hoeksema identified reasons for subscribing to the Standard Bearer. It promotes the truth and is the means by which the truths found in the Protestant Reformed denomination have become known and respected. The Standard Bearer is specific; it does not just speak about the Reformed faith; it dots the i’s and crosses the t’s. The reasons are characteristics. They are characteristics of the works of the RFPA.

Faithful Reformed people tirelessly contribute to the RFPA’s various publications. The Standard Bearer editorial staff labors to write a first-rate magazine complete with rubrics, series, meditations, discussions of current events, and special issues. Authors carefully pen books. Book coordinators, copyeditors, proofreaders, typesetters, and cover designers all diligently work to ensure that the RFPA produces books that are professional, reflective of the truth, and allow the reader to focus on those truths as they read. Operations and administrative details are carefully attended to so that the association runs smoothly and the focus can remain on the content of the publications. Additionally, this past year has seen significant growth in the RFPA blog. Various writers now post Reformed material for digital consumption.

The truth was promoted in the Standard Bearer! Twenty-one issues deliver more than 175 articles to about 2,250 subscribers every year. Of note, the RFPA board and editorial committee labored closely together in the past year with efforts ultimately leading to a meeting, intended to be annual, where special focus was placed on the Standard Bearer. Discussion topics ranged from its appearance, layout, content, promotion, placement, pricing, and the possibility of a redesign. Most importantly, the Standard Bearer promotes the truth in its many articles.

Regarding the 2015 special Reformation issue a reader from New Zealand wrote, “I have been reading and hoarding the Standard Bearer since the mid-1970s and must admit this one I cannot part with.” The special April 15, 2016, issue encouraged us in our marriages. Prof. B. Gritters in his editorials taught the readers what it means to be Reformed. We have kept up with news in our churches, reports of classis, synod, mission trips, and the world around us. We have followed closely the world’s open adoption of homosexuality and witnessed its desire to corrupt the institution of marriage. We have been com forted and exhorted in meditations. A reader from Iowa shared, “I quite often read the meditation two or three times.” To the many who work to create the Standard Bearer we say, thanks!

The truth was promoted in books! A little more than 1,100 book club members received four new publications this past year.

Gottschalk, Servant of God tells the story of a pre- Reformer who was committed to the truth of double predestination. A reader from New York wrote, “Thank you for the book…. I couldn’t put it down. Easy to read. Informative. A scholarly work.”

The Rock Whence We Are Hewn, a must read for all of us, especially the young people, tells the story of the foundation of the Protestant Reformed denomination with special focus on the truths of sovereign particular grace over against the heresy of common grace.

Christianizing the World exposes the logical end of the error of common grace and the destruction it has brought and will bring upon churches that insist on embracing this heresy. This book is currently being advertised on WFUR, a Grand Rapids MI radio station. Notably, the truth in this book is potent enough that The Clarion, which is the Canadian Reformed magazine, and The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, the official publication of the Heritage Reformed congregations, refused to advertise it.

With excitement the RFPA recently received the much anticipated volume, The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, which was originally written in Dutch by B. Wielenga, a prominent minister of the Word in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands in the early to mid-1900s. “The great worth of this book,” according to its editor, Prof. David J. Engelsma, “is that it is the translation into English of a thorough, penetrating, sound commentary on the historic, inestimably rich Reformed baptism form.” Wielenga wrote the commentary in 1906 for all members of Reformed churches, as he stated in his preface: “The ardent desire of my heart is that by the publication of this writing many people reading this work learn to regard baptism more purely, appreciate it more warmly, and more zealously plead the covenantal promises.”

The RFPA also participated in publishing A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend, 1916–2016, the anniversary book of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In addition to publishing these five books, the RFPA published three new study guides on the books of Acts, James, and Romans as well as a second edition of Herman Hoeksema’s God’s Goodness Always Particular. The board also updated the ebook policy to allow book club members to receive free of charge the ebook format of all new books, adding another value to book club membership. To the many who labor in writing and creating books we say, thanks!

The truth was promoted on the blog! This past year rfpa.org drew 107,000 visits from fifty-five countries, and undoubtedly many of these visitors read more than seventy-five blog posts. Recent posts addressed Islam in a way that can help us better understand this world religion and how we respond to the doctrinal errors within it. Other posts addressed the errors of venerating Mary, provided help for those making decisions, and exposed the heresy of Federal Vision as it continues to fester in Reformed and Presbyterian churches. We encourage you not only to read the blogs but to comment. Start a conversation, ask a question, encourage the writers, share. To those who write for the blog we say, thanks!

We must remember that the witness of the RFPA is not merely through current publications, but also through past publications, as a reader in India recently reminded us: “I was struggling with the common grace issue. My struggles ceased when I read Herman Hoeksema (Reformed Dogmatics and Ready to Give an Answer). I no longer adhere to common grace.” This past year 1,132 copies of recent and older titles were shipped to the Philippines to support the mission work and spiritual growth in that field. Editorial Duolos, a ministry of Spanish Evangelical Distributors that has been distributing Christian books in Spanish since 1989, noticed a void for theologically sound works and is now translating God’s Everlasting Covenant of Grace for the Spanish-speaking world. We are thankful to God that past publications continue serve the cause of the gospel.

In the coming year the RFPA will continue to sound forth the truth. We do not even wonder if there will be more Standard Bearer articles or blog posts; we are confident that God will graciously provide these materials and sustain our authors and staff. We will open our magazines and digital devices to discover what was planned when it arrives. Without a doubt Reformed truths will be put forward and heresies will be exposed.

A number of books are also planned for the coming year, the first of which will be Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer. We also plan to release a book outside of the book club this year. This is a test case for bringing additional books to market without overloading the book club. This is not a timid test; we are excited to announce this new book author, Rev. M. McGeown, and the publication Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, an exposition of Christ’s Olivet Discourse.

All of this work has occurred in a year that has seen some staff changes. Rachel Maatman has been called to serve as a mother in Zion and has retired from the RFPA. We give thanks for her work. We welcomed a new staff member, Miriam Koerner, to the office, replacing Rachel. More significant changes will occur in the coming year. We expect to hire someone to focus on building a children’s book division based on the successful publication of Gottschalk and the overwhelming interest provided by our readers and writers. Most notably, Tim Pipe and Evelyn Langerak plan to retire in about a year. Transition plans are in the works, and we covet your prayers as the board works through these changes in personnel. Tim and Evelyn have faithfully served for many years in the RFPA, and whether they admit it or not, they know more about the RFPA than any board member. Replacing them will not be easy, but they have both agreed to train their replacements during this transition. Changes will come, but thankfully, the truth of God’s Word is unchanging. We trust that He will be faithful in this transition.

Just as in 1953, so also today, the RFPA publishes the distinctive truths of the Reformed faith. The scholarly work of our authors is not unnoticed outside the Protestant Reformed Churches either. Eugene Heideman recently published his work, Henry Scholte, His Legacy in the Netherlands and in America, in which he made numerous references to Marv Kamps’ work, 1834. Our writers are faithful and willing to take stands for the truth despite its unpopularity in the world and the nominal church. Our writers are unabashed. We give thanks to God for them and we encourage them to continue to be faithful in this regard. Admittedly, the task is not easy; at times it is wearisome and difficult. By God’s grace though, distinctively Reformed truths flow forth from the Standard Bearer, the books, and the blog. God is pleased to use a very small publishing organization for this work. For this we are both humbled and thankful.

H. Hoeksema concluded his 1953 editorial with a sobering thought:

Controversy we must have. The Scriptures are full of controversy. The Confessions devote a large part of their contents to controversy. As long as we are living in a sinful world and in an imperfect church, as long as the truth is attacked by those that oppose it, we certainly need controversy. And no lover of the truth, and certainly no Protestant Reformed man or woman should refuse to read the Standard Bearer because of its partly controversial nature. You must become acquainted with all the arguments, pro and against the truth of God…. This is my last reason why it is certainly necessary for all the Protestant Reformed people to read and support the Standard Bearer with all their power.

Imagine the Protestant Reformed Churches and even the world without the RFPA. Ninety-two years of the Standard Bearer, missing. Sixty-five thousand books in the RFPA warehouse and untold quantities throughout the world and in homes, gone. The truths of sovereign particular grace, of the covenant, of sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality would be virtually unheard of in the church world today. God has given this little organization an amazing calling.

Association members, the truth never begs. But let us remember that we stand in this calling together. Together! We labor together! Encourage one another! Regarding the truths published by the RFPA, let it be said of us that we read, write, and converse about them. Not just for the sake of knowledge, but because we love the truth. May God grant us the grace faithfully to continue in this labor together. For His faithfulness shown to us, we give thanks!