Ninety Years of “Free”

 

Mr. Kalsbeek is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan and retired secretary of the RFPA.

1924 was a good year. On January 21 of that year fifty-three-year-old Vladimir Lenin died. Sadly the police state, command economy, and state propaganda machine he had imposed upon the Russian people did not die with him. In that same year eight months later and half a world away, the RFPA was born. In contrast to the slavery and propaganda machine Lenin imposed, the RFPA was dedicated to freedom: the freedom to write in the Standard Bearer.

With the distribution of the September 15, 2014 issue, ninety years of publishing the Standard Bearer has been completed. This is, no doubt, a significant anniversary for the Reformed Free Publishing Association. More significant, however, is the fact that for ninety years the word “Free” in our name has remained operative. What does this mean? Rev. Herman Hoeksema explained it this way in his October 1, 1949 Standard Bearer editorial:

The term “Free” in this name denotes that the association in publishing its literature does not stand under any ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It also means that the editors alone are responsible for the contents of their writing, and that they are not under the jurisdiction either of the Church or of the Board of the R.F.P.A.

Interestingly, it was the censorship of Hoeksema’s writing by The Banner (the official publication of the Christian Reformed Church) that led to the birth of the RFPA and its publication, the Standard Bearer. It also precipitated the inclusion of the word “Free” in the name of our association to insure freedom of the writers in the Standard Bearer. God grant that this “Free” continues to be operative as the RFPA goes forward in the publishing of the Standard Bearer and distinctively Reformed books.

Our ninetieth year of publishing distinctively Reformed books has been productive. The RFPA Board, committees and staff have been busy. We have published three new books: 1834: Hendrik DeCock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps, The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer (a commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi) by Rev. Ronald Hanko, and Behold the Beauty (art curriculum volume 3) by Connie Meyer. Also made available this year is a revised, third edition of Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel by Prof. David Engelsma. In addition, reprints of Engelsma’s Better to Marry, and Marriage the Mystery of Christ and the Church are completed and have found their way back on our stockroom shelves. Encouraging are responses to our books, like this one concerning our reprint of Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel:

The reprint is truly refreshed. This book has done more to stimulate and further my study of the Scriptures than any other work concerning the doctrine of Grace. Not being Reformed, there was a decided gap in areas of my biblical training. Prof. Engelsma’s book brought me face to face with the wonderful truth that God alone sought me and bought me from before the foundations of the world. Nothing is more amazing to consider.

All told 6,959 volumes of RFPA books have left the RFPA warehouse to take up new residence in the homes of our readers this fiscal year.

Our ninetieth year has not only resulted in more books being published; many more ebooks are available as well. Significant progress has been made this year toward our goal of making all RFPA books available as ebooks. At this time twenty-five of our books are available in electronic format. While ebook sales are not what one might call “brisk,” there is a steady demand for them. Last year we sold 330 ebooks. By the way, if you do not regularly visit the RFPA website, you may not know that The Church Order Commentary by VanDellen and Monsma is available as an ebook.

A peek at the RFPA’s plans for the ninety-first year of publishing Reformed literature reveals that an ambitious plan is in the works. God willing, we will publish three or four new titles. Also, we are well on our way toward the goal of publishing some children’s books and making some of our titles available as audio books. Less significant, but of interest to many, are plans to print some new study guides and to reprint second editions of the study guides on Malachi, Ruth, and I and II Thessalonians.

It is our hope that our ambitious plan of book publishing not be a deterrent to our Book Club members. Sadly, our number of Book Club members has declined of late: from a high of 1,236 to 1,172 at present. The value of the Book Club to the RFPA cannot be over-stated; consequently, in the near future a Book Club questionnaire will be distributed in an attempt to ascertain the mind of the Book Club members in order to better serve member needs and desires.

Our ninetieth year of publishing Reformed literature once again has included the publishing of the Standard Bearer. In last year’s annual report we expressed some concerns because of a decline in the number of subscriptions. While this continues to be a concern, we are thankful to report an increase of 56 subscribers (2,211) over the same period last year. This reflects, no doubt, promotion of the Standard Bearer by you, our faithful members.

As we stand at the threshold of our tenth decade of publishing distinctively Reformed literature, we are encouraged by reader responses to the Standard Bearer, such as this one from a reader in New Hampshire: “Today, a week after receipt, I remain ever joyful, since reading (more than once) April’s Standard Bearer. Truly, a splendid issue, educational and, need I say, most spiritually rewarding. It has encouraged and, hence, increased my daily psalm singing.” Responses such as this remind us of the debt of gratitude we owe to all those who have made it possible: writers, office personnel, book club agents, copy editors, proof readers, volunteers, and Mr. Donald Doezema. We take this occasion to make special mention of Don to publically recognize his faithful, nearly flawless, thirty-five years of service as Managing Editor of the Standard Bearer. Most know Don as the man with many hats. Don is in the process of removing those hats, one of which is the Managing Editor’s hat. Thankfully, Mr. Charles Terpstra is donning them almost as fast as Don is taking them off. So we welcome Mr. Terpstra as the new Managing Editor of the Standard Bearer.

So we begin our ninety-first year of “Free.” Along with the “Free,” however, is the “Reformed.” That part of our name commits writers of RFPA publications to promote unashamedly the Reformed faith in keeping with our purpose to “witness to the truth” and “reveal false and deceptive views….” Thirty years ago Prof. (currently emeritus) Robert Decker spoke to the RFPA under the title, “The Standard Bearer and Polemics.” He closed his speech this way:

Yes, the Standard Bearer ought to engage in Polemics. This was the reason historically for the existence of the Reformed Free Publishing Association. Our Protestant Reformed fathers needed the freedom to expose the error of Common Grace. All through the years the Standard Bearer has faithfully and vigorously defended the faith against heresy. This must continue. This must not be done merely in a negative fashion. Errors must be exposed and refuted and we must not hesitate to do that. But we must do it in the way of the positive development of the truth. We must do it so that our readers grow in the grace and knowledge of God in Christ. We must do it so that the church’s understanding of the truth increases. We must fight the good fight of faith also by means of the pages of the Standard Bearer. We must not allow negative criticism to deter us.

That takes courage and grace! God grant that to our writers as they take up the pen in our ninety-first year of “Free.”