Herman Hoeksema on 1 Peter 1:23

“Having purified your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unpretended brotherly love, love one another fervently out of a pure heart, being regenerated, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and remaining forever. Because all flesh [is] as grass, and all [the] glory of men as [the] flower of grass; the grass was dried, and its flower fell out, but [the] Word of [the] Lord remains forever. And this is the Word announced as gospel to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25; underlining mine).


Herman Hoeksema on 1 Peter 1:23 (underlining mine):


“It is true that here the apostle presents regeneration as taking place through the Word of God, which lives and abides forever, and also that he adds that this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto the church. But this does not imply at all that the apostle contends that regeneration occurs through the preaching of that living Word of God. The living and abiding Word of God and the proclamation of that Word are two different things. And when the apostle teaches here that regeneration takes place through the living Word himself, that is, through Christ, it certainly is not proper to replace this living Word simply by the preaching of the gospel” (Herman Hoeksema).


Hoeksema says that regeneration is not through the preaching of the word of God but through Christ, the living Word. One question might be:


Is there any doctrinal knowledge or content imparted, known, and believed that is an immediate and inevitable result (fruit) of Hoeksema’s doctrine of regeneration? Hoeksema continues:


“It is true that the preaching of the word stands in connection with regeneration in the broader sense, because without the proclamation of the gospel it is impossible that regeneration will ever become conscious in the people of God. That the apostle here also speaks of this regeneration in the broader sense, as it concerns our conscious life, is clear from the context, as we hope to indicate presently. But this does not remove the fact that even in this broader sense regeneration does not take place through the preaching of the word, but  through the living and abiding Word of God himself” (Hoeksema).


Hoeksema says that


“the preaching of the word stands in connection with regeneration in the broader sense, because without the proclamation of the gospel it is impossible that regeneration will ever become conscious in the people of God.


For Hoeksema the gospel of Christ is NOT the power of God to salvation (i.e., commenced at regeneration) to everyone believing, but some sort of “gospel rain” that waters the dry, dormant, and “unconscious seed” of  regeneration. Thus, Hoeksema believes that a regenerate person can go for a period of time being ignorant of the only ground of salvation that is revealed in the gospel (until eventually being made “conscious” by the proclaimed word). Hoeksema:


“Further, it is evident that the apostle speaks of regeneration in the narrower sense, in its very first beginning, when he says that we are ‘born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.’


Theologians who favor mediate regeneration have tried to avoid this difficulty by contending that in both expressions, ‘out of the seed’ and ‘through the word,’ the same truth is meant and that the apostle in the first expression uses a figure, while in the second he speaks more literally. But this avails nothing to defend the view of mediate regeneration, since the Word and the proclamation of the word cannot be identified. Further, there is no ground in the text for the interpretation that identifies the seed of regeneration with the abiding and living Word of God” (Hoeksema).


Hoeksema speaks of theologians who “favor mediate regeneration.” Mediate? As in mediated by the gospel of Christ? Regeneration WITH means in contrast to regeneration WITHOUT means? More from Hoeksema:


“The contrary is true. The apostle makes a very careful distinction here…By this distinction the apostle means to describe carefully the mode of regeneration. The seed of regeneration, that is, the principle of the new life, is implanted by the Holy Spirit in the heart. From that seed or principle sprouts forth the life of regeneration” (Hoeksema).


The “mode of regeneration.” And what is that mode? This “seed of regeneration” Hoeksema ascribes to the Holy Spirit. This is obviously a false holy spirit since those who have allegedly received this “principle of the new life” remain in abject darkness (Romans 10:1-4; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6).


“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).


To which the Hoeksemian doctrine could posit: a very tiny remnant among these are NOT NECESSARILY blinded (i.e., lost/unregenerate), but  have not yet become conscious of or “awakened” to their previous and already regenerate state. In other words, they are not necessarily blind since the “seed of regeneration” might not have sprouted forth in their consciousness.


Hoeksema continues:


“However, this sprouting of the seed of regeneration is not realized except through a working of the living and abiding Word of God, through which he calls the quickened sinner efficaciously, and gives him ears to hear and eyes to see. This, therefore, is the efficacious calling through the Word of God. This efficacious calling receives content for our consciousness through the fact that this living and abiding Word of God is also proclaimed among us” (Hoeksema).


There are certain damnable heretics who believe in an irrelevant gospel (e.g., those who believe that a regenerate person can go for a period of minutes, hours, days, or years before believing the gospel). Hoeksema is such a heretic. He writes:


“Although we will not deny that in a certain sense regeneration may be presented as taking place mediately through the word, nevertheless we maintain that the appeal to 1 Peter 1:23 contains no ground for this contention” (Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, pp. 29-31; underlining mine).


In a “certain sense,” Hoeksema says. The “sense” of course was the supposed consciousness of regeneration taking place mediately, or by means of, the word of the gospel.


So, in Hoeksema’s damnable view the gospel of Christ is NOT the power of God to salvation as Biblically understood, but is the essentially vital means whereby your consciousness is “awakened” to a salvation previously possessed during the time of your deadly ignorance (Romans 10:1-4; cf. 1 Peter 1:14).


Closely related to this is Herman Hoeksema’s comments on what he calls “saving faith”:


“As a spiritual habitus it [“saving faith”–CD] is given with our spiritual birth, that is, in regeneration, while it develops into the conscious activity of believing through contact with the gospel applied to the heart by the Spirit of Christ. Without this spiritual habitus it is impossible for a man to believe in Christ. … 


This habitus of saving faith is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is true that the power of faith becomes active belief only through the gospel. Without that gospel, faith has no Christ to apprehend or cling to, and for that reason can never become active belief. But we must not make the mistake of presenting the matter of saving faith as if its habitus or potentia were implanted, wrought in the heart, by the Holy Spirit, while its activity is caused by the gospel without the operation of the Holy Spirit. This is not true. Both the power and the activity of faith are wrought through the Spirit of Christ only.


It is the Spirit who applies the preaching of the gospel to the heart of the sinner in whom the aptitude or habitus of faith has already been wrought. It is, therefore, the Spirit of the Lord who calls and awakens the power of faith into the conscious activity of belief” (Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, pp. 64-65; underlining mine).


Herman Hoeksema presents a different spirit than the One Paul presented in 2 Corinthians 4:6. What Paul calls blinded, unbelieving, and lost, Hoeksema’s doctrine allows for such blinded ones to be already regenerate and possessing the “habitus of faith,” but who have yet to be called and awakened into the conscious activity of belief (supposedly called and “awakened” into the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, though they allegedly were already possessed of a “spirit-wrought habit of faith”).


“But also if our gospel is being hidden, it has been hidden in those being lost, in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, [so that] the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, [should] not dawn on them. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your slaves for the sake of Jesus. Because [it is] God who said, Out of darkness Light shall shine, who shone in our hearts to [give the] brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).


Herman Hoeksema did not believe that all to whom the gospel is hidden, all whom the god of this age has blinded, all who do not see the gospel of the glory of Christ, are unregenerate; he did not believe that God shines the brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in the hearts of every regenerate person.