Bicentennial Challenge – Where Do We Go from Here?; Attorney Boer’s Liberal View of Divorce; “First Book” by Hylkema and Tuuk Again Available

When the late President Eisenhower was still General Eisenhower, as he told it, he was one day engaged in an embarrassing conversation with a Soviet general who wanted to know from Eisenhower what the American ideology was.

The Russian could spell out very clearly what he regarded the Soviet doctrine and goal to be, while Eisenhower found himself in the awkward position of not being able to clearly set forth the doctrine and goal of the United States.

It must have been humiliating for someone with all the military ability of an Eisenhower to realize that he could not specifically articulate what being an American is all about.

You might call this the sixty-four-dollar question.

1 am all American—but what’s that all about?

Probably some may judge it to be treason even to ask that question. However, such an attitude may, with good reason, be dismissed as jingoism, chauvinism, or blind fanaticism, and able to do nothing for us except make a bad matter even worse.

Moreover, anyone who refuses to face up to this question, while solemnly professing a dual citizenship—U. S. citizenship and also citizenship in the Kingdom of God—is guilty of a kind of treason that is far more serious.

The fiery patriotism that used to make our spines tingle is today in short supply. It may be that this year’s Bicentennial celebrations throughout the land may do something to rekindle the Hame.

God grant it! But let it be clearly recognized that, unless our patriotism is God-centered, and unless it begins and ends in the Lord, at the end it is bound to leave us in the lurch.

Equally disappointing will be the naive assumption of those who glibly assume that Americanism and Christianity are. one and the same.

Notwithstanding all the freedom and the many blessings we as Christians may enjoy in America for which we should be forever grateful—we are living in a fool’s paradise if we refuse to face the facts and are unwilling to give up the idea that America is a Christian nation.

In this Bicentennial year, high schoolers have been invited to write essays for a national contest on what an American is. The topic set me to wondering, as it may have done to others also. Precisely who and what is an American? If a man of General Eisenhower‘s stature was at a loss just how to handle that question when asked about it by a Russian general, it would be interesting to know what America’s teenagers would have to say. Publication of the prizewinning essays may still be forthcoming.

Russian Communism is basically committed in its ideology to atheistic materialism and to the totalitarian state, both of which arc abhorrent to freedom-loving people. The danger is, however, as our attachment to and our worship of things increases, and while subservience to our own burgeoning welfare-state gradually progresses, that willy-nilly we too will be drawn into the orbit of the satanic ideology that has rapidly been making slaves of millions throughout the world.

How often we have been told that those who will not learn from history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. The tragic toll of all those nations that, during our century, have come into the grip of godless and ruthless dictators should sound like a gong arousing America to get a new sense of direction.

The Bicentennial dilemma that forces itself upon us is this: Where do we go from here?

Well, what does America need?

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – we must remain “the land of the free.” Of course, these are a precious heritage for which the heroes of 1776 and many others since that time have sacrificed their lives. We honor these dead only if, under God, we also will cherish these treasures and are willing to preserve them at the cost of our lives if need be, for whatever generations may still be to come.

But, America’s freedom may issue into a blessing or a curse, depending on what we do with it. Freedom from war, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom from bondage –however much the slaves of Communist dictators may envy us for all these—they do not in themselves guarantee that America will be good and great and retain a position of world leadership.

A now long defunct American magazine used to have as its slogan: “My country! May she ever be right. But, right or wrong, my country!” A sentiment like that does not lead to the greatness but rather to the downfall of a nation.

Real patriotism requires not only that we be willing to defend our country with our lives against enemies without, but also that we have the courage to condemn and counteract even greater evils that are within.

America‘s God-given freedom has been and is right now being shamefully abused and prostituted to the service of self and the devil. In the battle of isms in our “land of the free,” Christian theism is being threatened with extinction by the Hood-tide of materialism, humanism, and secularism.

All of which leaves us with an agonizing question.

Where do we go from here?

Where must we go from here?

As Christians in America (or in Canada and elsewhere) our debt to the nation is incalculable. We think of the awesome office of the President and shudder at the thonght of having to bear a load of responsibility like this. The crushing load that converges on President Ford or whoever may occupy the oval office makes us marvel at anyone man‘s ability to survive.

But—and what a serious but it is—we as Christians have an even greater responsibility than the highest ruler in the land. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul assessed his tremendous responsibility so well in the evil world of his day when he wrote to the Romans:

“I am debtor both to Creeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that arc in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth . . .” (Rom. 1:14–16).

Because God had entrusted him \vith the gospel, Paul knew that he was in debt to Greeks and to Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish, to all men without exception. And Paul knew that the only way to discharge his debt before Cod was to preach that gospel to anyone and to everyone.

The world of Paul’s day was certainly not “a friend to grace.” It was a world in which Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and—as tradition has it—finally beheaded on the Ostian way. But in the face of all this Paul never Ainched and kept on preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with every ounce of energy at his disposal.

Dare we do anything less?

It has been well said that the call to the ministry comes from a world that is committing suicide. America with its Watergate, sex scandals, corruption in public office—all arising out of a sex-saturated and money-mad secularized society—should be told once again what General MacArthur said at the time when Japan surrendered:

“We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character . . . It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”

Keenly discerning as he was, MacArthur had the insight and foresight to know that America could not be saved by military conquest but that, ultimately, our nation‘s destiny would be decided in the realm of the spirit. There can be nothing but gloom and doom in the forecast for a nation content to sink ever deeper into spiritual impoverishment and corruption.

Happy birthday, America!

Over and over again we sing and shout it to ourselves and to each other. Men of good will may well be doing this in good faith and expressing a patriotism that rings true. A very real danger, however, is that too many are merely carried along on an emotional binge or spree that will add up to nothing for the nation’s real good when all the euphoria is at last dissipated at the close of this year of celebration.

And now, what is the upshot of all this?

You and I say that we are Christian and that we are seeking first the Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But—does anyone in our land ever hear us say this outside of our homes and beyond the sheltered walls of the church?

America is lost, hopelessly lost, moving headlong to the same ignominious doom that has overtaken all the nations of history unless—unless our land and leaders somehow find their way back to God, to His Word, and to His kingdom!

And now the clincher is this: unless we who call ourselves Christian are willing to preach and to pray, to witness and to work, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world—in every nook and corner of the land, and in every possible and impossible place—to call America back to God—unless we are up and doing in no less than all this, we will surely be called to account before our God and the God of the nations with whom we have to do.

Neither should we dare to say it‘s hopeless.

Never forget the lesson God taught runaway Jonah!

And remember too that, if there had been only ten righteous persons left there, Sodom and Gomorrah would not have been destroyed.

God bless America!

Yes, God bless America—but unless you and I are willing to sacrifice our all to bring this about, we have no right to believe it will ever happen.


Attorney Boer’s Liberal View of Divorce

Tuesday, June 1, was the opening day of the 1976 Christian Reformed MinistersInstitute. Attorney Roger Boer of Grand Rapids was one of the speakers on that day. His subject was “Divorce and the Christian Reformed Church—Quo vadis?” Quo vadis? is Latin for Whither goest thou? Obviously, the speaker‘s topic left us guessing whether, in our stand on divorce, we were going to be heading for better or for worse.

The come-on letter from the committee about the Institute gave Mr. Boer’s address the following build-up: “Are Christian Reformed families immune to the divorce rate and the family break-up? Listen to a Christian attorney. He’ll open some eyes!”

Well, he did that all right. I am not thinking of what the speaker told us about how prevalent divorce is becoming in the CRC. Probably most, if not all, the three or four hundred CRC ministers in attendance had a pretty good idea of that to start with.

But it was an eyeopener to hear a Christian Reformed attorney go all out in saying that the CRC should abandon its historic stand on divorce without giving any attention, in his address, to what the Bible has to say about the matter. And it was even more of an eyeopener to hear the applause with which a speech like that was received at a CRC minister’s institute.

You see, the speaker insisted, that we must be realistic and open our eyes to know how marriages are breaking down today. From his experience, Mr. Boer cited cases of marriage disasters—and that was obviously supposed to settle the matter.

My comment after the meeting to a fellow CRC minister that the Bible should determine our stand on divorce called forth the retort that he did not go for such simple answers and that I was being simplistic. And when I insisted that Mr. Boer‘s presentation was a plain case of situation ethics his reply was that there was room for some of that. Let’s hope that the minister with whom I spoke was a rare exception; but the altogether too generous applause at the close of the address was anything but reassuring.

I am told that to applaud, even after a speech like Mr. Boer‘s is the thing to do and that this is simply a matter of courtesy. Because I disagreed so vigorously with what I had heard, it would have been downright hypocrisy for me to applaud, and my intention is to continue to sit on my hands at any other time like that.

The real trouble with the liberal stand on divorce being advocated by Mr. Boer and those who are likeminded is that it is man-centered and more concerned about the happiness of the parties involved than about the sacredness of the divine institution of marriage.

What does the Bible say?

Unless we retain that as our rule for faith and practice, we will solve nothing and only multiply our woes.

Bleeding hearts are generally not the best counselors to follow. Mere sympathy for those who are miserable in their marriage and who insist that they will never be able to love each other is so often harmful instead of helpful. Marriage partners must know that as Christians they should realize that all things are possible with God; and that, barring the one Scriptural ground for divorce, marriage is indissoluble.

When man takes it upon himself to put asunder what God has once joined together, let him not be surprised if his woes become even more numerous and unbearable than they were before.

(Note: The above lines were written before the CRC Synod met and therefore without any knowledge of any decision on marriage guidelines and divorce that may have been taken prior to the appearance of what I have here written.)

“First Book” by Hylkema and Tuuk Again Available

Nothing but pleasant memories come to mind of my catechism-teaching years when we regularly used First Book in Christian Doctrine by Hylkema and Tuuk for young people of junior high school age. Both as to content and the teaching method employed in this book for instruction in doctrine made it a favorite. It was first published in 1925.

Now, a half century later, undoubtedly due to repeated requests for it, this book has been revised and reprinted by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and appears under the title, A First Book of Christian Doctrine. None of the numerous minor revisions made for greater clarity and readability in any way change the substance or the plan of the 28 lessons.

Because of the merits of this well-known First Book and its being out of print, the board of Reformed Fellowship had some time ago requested the Tight to reprint it. However, Eerdmans already had plans for doing so and now Reformed Fellowship is happy to assist in the sale and distribution of this valuable teaching aid.

The late George W. Hylkema and Edward J. Tuuk, both Christian Reformed ministers of a generation or more ago, obviously were wholly committed to the Reformed faith and were also gifted with the knowhow to articulate it clearly for instructing the teen-age youth. The plan of presentation of Christian doctrine is that followed in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Note; See an add elsewhere in this issue for further information about price and availability of the book.