The loftiest of all religious moods is that which finds expression in adoration.
Adoration is praise of the highest type. It is such honor and homage as springs from a feeling of profound veneration and fervent love. In adoring God we do not merely thank him with deep emotion for the blessings bestowed upon us but we lose ourselves in the contemplation of his glorious attributes as manifested in his equally glorious deeds.
It is significant that adoration was the prevailing attitude toward God and his Clu’ist on the part of thosc who were privileged to behold in the Babe of Bethlehem the Christ of God.
The virgin mother exclaimed in the opening words of her celebrated song: “My soul doth magnify the Lord”; and “my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” We sing: “O come, Jet us adore Him,” referring to “Christ the Lord.” Mary’s first impulse was to adore Him who gave his only begotten Son.
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, struck the same high note when he exclaimed: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.”
The song of the angels was preeminently a song of adoration. Its first and loftiest words, “Glory to God in the highest” are the ones which the world always omits and which even we Christians sometimes forget. “Peace on earth, good will to men” is a mutilated version of that heavenly song.
The shepherds brought to God the incense of their adoration when they, returning from the manger, “glorified and praised God for all the things that they had heard and seen.”
The Wise Men who came from the east into the house (not the manger!) where Jesus was, several months, perhaps a year or more, after his birth, “worshipped him.” We speak of this as “the adoration of the Magi.”
Both Simeon and Anna, who were in the temple on the day of Jesus’ presentation to the Lord, brought a noble t rib ute of adoration. The former “blessed” and the latter “gave thanks” unto God when they saw the Son of God in the flesh.
It takes a good deal of spiritual living to be able to reach the height of adoration in our devotions. This is particularly true of the adoration which does not forget God in the presence of Him whom we call our “beautiful Savior.”
And so let us not only sing, in the words of the ancient song of the Church, “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord” but also sound the note of Mary: “My soul doth magnify the Lord” (meaning the triune God), and that of Zacharias, when he said: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.”
Jn short, our Christmas meditations and adorations should come to a climax in the lofty words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” There is no greater Christmas text than this.
The Position of Our Church in Nigeria
What authority does the Christian Reformed Church have in Nigeria? Is it autonomous in its mission work or are its rights restricted by the Sudan United Mission from which it received the Lupwe field?
These questions have an important bearing on the question whether we should participate in the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (T.C.N.N.).
The impression seems to exist among some of those who favor the proposal to entrust the training of the future native ministers in our field to the interdenominational school to be established in Bukuru (not in Gindiri!) that we are in honor bound to do this by a previous arrangement with the Sudan United Mission, or at least that this is our moral obligation by virtue of the close contact of our mission with the missions still belonging to the S.U.M.
It is important to know that our Church made no commitment when this field was taken over which in any sense or degree ties our hands in either doctrinal or ecclesiastical matters. It can be shown from an existing document that our Church is free to do whatever it deems necessary for the propagation of the Reformed faith in our Nigerian field.
The document just mentioned was read to Synod as a report by the Board of Indian and Foreign Missions but, for some reason, is not found in the Acts (1939). We quote:
“In complying with this mandate, the Executive Committee first took up the matter with the American Branch of the Sudan United Mission. The American Branch recommended to the British Branch: ‘In view of the persistent interest of the Christian Reformed Church in the Lupwe field, the denominational affiliation of the personnel, the source of moneys for this mission from the denomination, the American Branch is of the opinion that the Lupwe field should be given to the Christian Reformed Church, in which said field this Church be autonomous (meaning: self-governing-K ) ecclesiastically and doctrinally.”
“The present attitude of the S.U.M. is thus more favorable than it was a year ago. At the time the previous report was submitted to Synod, the S.U.M. did not feel inclined to hand over the work to an independent body; now it is prepared to give us full control. Its priviso that we be willing to cooperate with the rest of the S.U.M. work in Nigeria cannot mean, in the light of the statements it has made, any curtailment whatever of our authority to conduct mission work along the Reformed lines which we consider essential. We now cooperate with other churches on our Indian and China fields, but in neither case has this meant ever a limitation of our authority.”
One may call attention to the fact that though our Church was given full control of the work in the Lupwe field, the understanding was that we would cooperate with the S.U.M. But it was stipulated that such cooperation should not hamper us in conducting our mission work along Reformed lines. And if there is anything which Reformed Churches have always regarded as an activity in which they should be distinctive it is the training of future ministers. Theological training is the fountain-head of the Church. There is no future for Reformed theology in a Church whose theological school is not dedicated wholly to its defense and development.
There are many ways in which our African sister-churches can cooperate with the S.U.M. bodies in Northern Nigeria, for instance in correspondence with civil authorities, in religious conferences, in seeking to prevent conflicting financial policies etc. Friendly cooperation between denominations at home and missions abroad, in all matters which do not affect basic principles, is to be promoted with zeal and persistence. But any Church which is concerned about the perpetuation of its doctrine will not even consider helping to establish a union seminary where immature students receive daily instruction in a variety of doctrinal systems.
Quoting Calvin on the Nigerian Question
Writing about Nigeria, our thoughts turned to an article in the September, 1958, issue of The Reformed Journal in which Professor Lester De Koster of Calvin College writes on the subject: “From Calvin to Gindiri.” The title should have read: “From Calvin to Bukuru” since Dr. Boer informed the Synod last spring that the plan was to locate the proposed union seminary at Bukuru instead of integrating it with the school at Gindiri.
But let us explain briefly what is meant by the Nigerian question for the benefit of our readers who are not Christian Reformed.
About ten years ago the Christian Reformed Church took over its mission field in the Lupwe district of Northern Nigeria fro m the Sudan United Mission. More recently a large area was added to that field among the Tiv people, which was offered to us by the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. So far the training of native ministers for both areas has been given locally by our own missionaries. The native tongue was used in both schools. There are at present no students in Lupwe but the school among the Tiv tribe is still in operation and it is planned to enlarge this school next February by giving a three-year course.
Chiefly through the influence of Dr. Harry Boer, one of our missionaries in the Nigerian field, the plan was conceived to establish an interdenominational seminary where future ministers would receive their instruction in the English language. The Board at first requested that Dr. Boer should be loaned as teacher to this school, and that request was granted at the Synod of 1955. The Synod of 1957 was faced with an overture from Classis Sioux Center which stated that it wished to go on record as being opposed to an interdenominational seminary in Nigeria where the future ministers of the churches which our missionaries have established would be trained. Synod answered the overture by stating that we would have no responsibility for the proposed school since it would belong to the autonomous churches of Nigeria. But at the Synod of 1958 our Board, succumbing to pressure by Dr. Boer and most of his fellow missionaries in the field, proposed that we should participate in the establishment and support of the proposed school, to be called the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN). Protests we remade at Synod against that proposal and a number of Classes requested the appointment of a committee to investigate the matter.
Synod adopted the recommendations of a majority report and decided (1) to continue Dr. Boer as a teacher in the proposed school; (2) to appoint a committee to investigate the entire matter; (3) to permit the mission board to solicit gifts for the native church in view of its desire to participate in TCNN.
That decision was far from unanimous. In fact, more than fifty delegates registered their negative vote on the motions which carried or protested against them.
The matter is now being studied by the committee which Synod appointed and is being debated in our periodicals.
Professor De Koster is one of those who write in favor of the proposed school. He seeks to prove from certain quotations from the published letters of John Calvin that the spirit of the great Reformer is favorable to the proposed seminary, in whose faculty Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, as well as Reformed, would be represented.
We agree with Dr. Praamsma of Toronto, who has just begun to write on the issue in Church and Nation, when he quotes some one who said: “Give me a quotation, and I can hang the writer with it.” We add that it is always a very dubious practice to quote Calvin or any of the church fathers to support one’s stand on issues peculiar to our day. There were no undenominational mission fields, in fact no foreign missions, in Calvin’s day. The present-day ecumenical movement, with its emphasis on external unity at the expense of truth, did not exist. And all of the sects of our day were non-existent at that time.
However, if anyone wishes to bring Calvin to Gindiri (Bukuru), he should not forget that there is only one way to get him there, namely by way of the Synod of Dort; and that means that the meeting at Gindiri (Bukurll) would hardly be a pleasant and harmonious one. The Synod of Dort adopted the Five Canons of DOlt, one of our three doctrinal standards. These Canons teach the so-called five points of Calvinism: Unconditional Election, Total Depravity, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. These five basic teachings of the Canons present the gospel to us in its most fundamental doctrines and implications. Those very doctrines are expounded and defended with great vigor in the writings of the Genevan Reformer. Anyone who wants to know how Calvin felt about these points and about their Significance for the preaching of the gospel, and for the life of the Church, should read the Institutes, not merely Calvin’s letters.
One of the evangelical groups to be represented at the proposed school at Bukuru is the Baptists. Can we imagine John Calvin, if he were living today, teaching at one and the same school with those who deny Infant Baptism? We happen to know how Calvin felt about that denial since he locked horns with the Anabaptists of his day whose rejection of infant baptism was defended by the same arguments which our Baptist brethren use today. If we want to know what Calvin thought of the Anabaptist position on the sacrament of baptism he should read chapter 16 of Book IV of the Institutes.
Calvin speaks of the Anabaptists as “turbulent spirits,” “violent disputants,” who “corrupt Scripture”; who are guilty of “such levity of self-contradiction,” of “frivolous evasion,” of their “favorite subterfuge,” of “betraying their ignorance,” of their “sophisticated and trivial arguments.” The Reformer went so far as to say: “If our opponents had a grain of sound sense, would they shut their eyes against a thing so clear and obvious?” He accused Servetus, a defender of the AnabaptiSts, of “false reasoning,” of “preposterous application to infants of that which is exclusively spoken to adults”; of one of his arguments as being “worse than absurd.” He even speaks of “these reprobate spirits, as if transported with frenzy” because they “bring forward the most enormous absurdities in defense of their errors.” In conclusion Calvin describes their “great exertions in opposition to infant baptism” to none other than Satan.
One might say: Here we have an excellent example of the “hatred of theologians” which we should not emulate today. Let that be so. The Reformers had nothing of the theological indifferentism of our day. That there was no personal animosity in such denunciatory expressions as quoted above is clear from the letters of Calvin from which Professor De Koster quotes. But whether we approve that kind of language or not is not the question right now. The point is that it is far fetched, to say the very least, to seek to identify Calvin with the interdenominational and anti-denominational spirit of our day. In fact, that spirit flies in the face of all that Calvin taught and is far removed from the genius of the Reformation.
Dr. Ozinga on Professor Lever’s Book
Some time ago a translation of Rev. J.M. Spier’s critique of Dr. Lever’s book on CREATIE EN EVOLUTIE (Creation and Evolution ) appeared in The Banner. It had been our intention to publish our own translation of the same article in TORCH AND TRUMPET, but we did not deem this necessary after the appearance of the article in The Banner.
Not long ago a friend in the Netherlands sent us a copy of the August issue of Libertas ex Veritate, a Dutch monthly. This number contains an extensive review of Dr. Lever’s book. It should be of special interest to our readers and to all who wonder about the permissibility of Prof. Lever’s attempt to harmonize the doctrine of creation with the theory of theistic evolution.
The writer of the review is Dr. J. Ozinga, from Lunteren, the Netherlands. His article is much too long and too technical to warrant translating it in its entirety for this periodical. But we do wish to translate several paragraphs or sections which will convey to our readers the general trend of Dr. Ozinga’s reaction to Prof. Lever’s views.
“We are concerned here with the book of a very learned friend who wants to cling very definitely to what the Word of God tells us about the creation of the world and of man. However, his ‘confession’ concerning that creation becomes an altogether different one from that which is traditional among us—although it would not be easy to say just what is traditional among us.”
In connection with Dr. Lever’s peculiar charge of “fundamentalism” against those who hold to the historicity of Genesis 1, Dr. Ozinga calls attention to the various meanings of the term “fundamentalism.” We shall call attention to this charge in another article in this or a following issue.
Dr. Ozinga comments on each of the six chapters in Lever’s book. He remarks among other things in connection with the first chapter: “I would combat the thought that man himself can discover scientific facts ‘gegevens’), because he is created after the image of God. I feel that one can speak of a restored activity of man as the image of God only when that man is in Christ Jesus (underscoring mine-K.) If this is true, this will not be without influence on the entire construction of the author’s line of thought (and besides it is of great weight with respect to passing judgment on what a scientific man has to say).
“The view of Lever is this that in the beginning all aspects of this reality were created; which aspects have successively been manifested during a process of development of that which had been created…
After stating that, according to Dr. Lever, modern science offers uS three speculations about the origin of life, Ozinga remarks: “Prof. Lever here states that he must come to the conclusion that, speaking purely scientifically we have come to know practically nothing about the origin of life.
“If I have understood this section clearly, the author bundles together all that happened on the days of creation and pushes it back to a primitive time (‘oertijd’) before time was.”
“The Lord causes such conditions of moisture, pressure, temperature to arise according to his good pleasure as conditions for the realization of the unfolding which He constantly has in mind. This means in a practical way that evolution from a fully equipped protoplasm would become a biblical possibility; indeed in Prof. Lever’s line of thought this is the teaching of Scripture. (Note: Protoplasm is the name for the semi-liquid substance which forms the principal part of an animal or vegetable cell-K).
“Now, the author says that in his line of reasoning there is no place for absolutely autonomous (self-ruling-K ) laws of nature. It is my opinion, however, that he (Prof. Lever) does allow such autonomous laws in his system of thought and that the difficulty lies right there. All the factors which we encounter at present, all laws and their usual validity, with respect to the relation between—volume and warmth, the speed of sound, light etc ..: all these things are, in the author’s line of reasoning, irrefutably valid. The manner in which things originate at present, these are, in Prof. Lever’s line of thought, of absolute value. If this were not the case, he would never have spoken thus about these things. So when God regulated those special circumstances, produced them (see above: moisture, pressure, temperature etc.-K) then manifestly it happened in such a way, according to Prof. Lever, that the human observer could notice nothing special, nothing contrary to nature, also nothing outside of nature (same as “above nature”-K).
“For Prof. Lever there is really no room any more, specifically not in this chapter, for unexpected acts of God…for a separate, demonstrable starting or changing of the whole machinery of laws: nor for an Eve who, when she was 20 years ‘old’ was only 2 years ‘old’; nor for a standing still of the sun and moon (as in the days of Joshua)—and then all this communicated to a believing church which must be informed about a God who alone doeth wonders, in order that she may believe, among other things, in the miracle of justification. Everything must remain ‘ordinary’…otherwise we fall into super-naturalism!
“The third chapter is entitled: ‘The Origin of the Types of Organism.’ It has reference chiefly to the evolution of groups (klassenevolutie). The author says that the question of the origin of the highest categories (meaning classes or groups of living things of the highest kind-K) cannot be answered because of the lack of scientific data. Also a creation of the highest categories ‘out of nothing’ (ex nihilo) cannot be contradicted. However, the author wants to leave room for the possibility that the various categories originated in a series out of the life that had begun in a manner now wholly uncomprehended.
“Here again we see the author’s aversion to the miracle as something which occurs outside of the established order …
“Chapter V has as title: ‘The Origin of Man.’ Also a very interesting chapter.
“Here the most crucial problems are discussed. Adam is an important figure in the Bible…He (Prof. Lever) goes so far that the declarations in Genesis 1:27; 2:7: ‘And God created man in his own image’ and: ‘Jehovah formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ have retained for him only this thought that man is not as ‘totality eternal, and that he is not of divine origin’ but ‘of the earth, earthly.’
“I shall not deny that this is included in the texts cited, but in my opinion they say more than that and that ‘more’ Prof. Lever must get rid of; he has this left and for him it is not usable. This ‘more’ is something very precious for the believer, (‘een stuk rijkdom’). One cannot try to deprive him of it without doing great harm. In this it can be of little use to point to fundamentalism and the dangers connected with it.
“Prof. Lever says on page 165: ‘How the origin of man took place is not revealed to us in the Bible.’ Now, we read in the Bible that God created man on the sixth day. This revelation has disappeared altogether in the reasoning of Prof. Lever; or, in the manner indicated above in the case of Genesis 1:27 and 2:5, is reduced to this: Man has to do with God, is his property and remains his property. But (in this way) the sixth day, following the fifth and preceding the seventh, has disappeared and therewith also the work of creation on those days…”
In the beginning of his article Dr. Ozinga claims that the book of Dr. Lever follows the path marked out by the late Dr. J. H. Diemer in various articles which appeared before and during the second world war. On the last page of his critique Dr. Ozinga says that “the extensive citations from Diemer save neither Prof. Lever nor Diemer himself”. Then, a little farther on Ozinga declares:
“I perceive behind Prof. Lever’s reasoning a constant urge which intends to be biblical but is not biblical”.
A few lines farther we read:
“I think that along the line of thought of Diemer or Lever we become more and more impoverished, no matter how well intentioned the ideas, how amazing the knowledge, how keen the reasoning…
“Where then do we go with all the figures and facts of the various sciences? I can’t help it, but I see these things, for the present as being vague and uncertain, founded too much on the shifting ground of not yet fully surveyed but absolutized actuality of laws and circumstances. When more comes to light and becomes more certain, perhaps it will then be possible to determine where that absolutizing, which now irrevocably takes advantage of us, has come to influence us for evil, not in our scientific work but in our total insight. Thus, for example, also where we have said that this or that went just as fast as at present; that the solar system has always functioned precisely as it does now, with all the consequences for conditions on earth; that all laws have been as valid (‘geldig’) as they are now—and then, must have been valid! But there is something else that must be valid, that does not pass away, the Word of God.”