A MOUNTING PROBLEM
The problem I have in mind is literally a mounting one. I am thinking of the new hairdos that obstruct people’s view in church. It is not uncommon to see worshippers craning their necks, first to one side and then to the other, in order to see past the high-coiled pyramids in front of them. It’s becoming a menace to motorists too. Two postiche hairdos in the back seat of the car pretty well black out the rear window. Add one false hairpiece with “upswept lines” to the front seat next to the driver and you have a situation that is bound to become the number one worry of auto insurance firms.
The whole thing began in the spring of 1961 when Alexandre, the Parisian maestro of the hair-dressing world, created a glamorous evening coiffure for Mrs. Kennedy to wear at a gala dinner in the palace at Versailles during the Kennedys’ state visit to France. Many of us wish that Mrs. Kennedy had stayed home. The American landscape would be much more visible. To make matters worse now are adding feathers and jewels to these sky-soaring hairdos. How can the bobby pins take it all.
They tell us that these new twists for tress plus the “pouf,” the postiche and the Rhinestone plume are “all reminiscent of 18th century grandeur.” But all was not so grand in the 18th century! More seriously now, I find much in modern fashions that seems to collaborate with an inward vanity of spirit. Excessive love of luxury, style, elegance, and ease is a sign of nakedness of soul. The less character a person has, the more he needs to supplement it by external show. We have today a good number of poverty-stricken egos bundled up in sumptuous velvet, stain and brocade and protectively covered with rich furs.
As regards our thinking, we have developed the habit of dissipating every serious thought by a succession of sensations and new rhythms. As for our moral consciousness, we have lost the sensitivity that belongs with the capacity for high resentment. As for religion, we want just enough to provide a sense of security. Christianity is all right so long as it can be had in ten easy lessons.
NOT ALL SCIENTISTS BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION
I have just finished reading an article in the September 14 issue of Christianity Today. The title is: Growing Doubts: Is Evolutionary Theory Valid? The author is Walter E. Lammerts, Ph.D., Director of Research Division, Livermore, California. He formerly taught in the University of California. We are told that “His work in Genetics he won many awards for success in hybridizing roses (among these being the varieties, Charlotte Armstrong, Queen Elizabeth, and San Francisco).” Not being a geologist there is much in the article which we do not understand. The general drift of the argument is that geology does not prove that man evolved from lower forms of life during ages of slow development. The writer believes in the universality of the Flood and cites many facts from geology and embryoloy which in his opinion disprove evolution.
The reader will probably be interested in the following paragraph from Dr. Lammerts’ article:
“Many younger scientists tend to accept creationism and catastrophism. In my own small circle of personal contacts are at least 25 creationists. One of the older experienced pioneers, the eminent microbiologist Rene Dubos, has little goo to say of evolution; he maintains it provides no answer to questions concerning the development of life (The Dereams of Reason, Science and Utopia, Columbia University Press, 1961). Herbert Nilsson, the late Director of the Botanical Institute of Lune, Sweden, is even more emphatic in his conclusions, as judged by his recently published Synthetische Artbildung (Verlag. OWH Gleerup, 1953). In his two-volume 1130 page book he reports on his 30 years of work. The he asks: ‘Has there really been an evolution? Are proofs of its occurrence tenable? After a detailed comprehensive review of facts, we have been forced to give the answer, No!’”
We hope and pray that the teachers in our Christian colleges will think twice before trying to harmonize creation and evolution, the Bible and “modern science.” After all what does the term “modern science” mean all too often? Merely the theory of certain scientists who, consciously or unconsciously, seek to discredit the teaching of Scripture about the origin of the universe. After all, there is no such thing as mere or neutral science. There are two kinds of science and scientists: the believing kind and the unbelieving kind. Both start out with fundamental beliefs, presuppositions, and all interpret the facts which scientists discover in the light of these suppositions. The question is: Whose presuppositions, whose faith, is true? One believes the teaching of Genesis 1 that God created the universe and all it contains in six days and that living things were made “after their own kind.” The other holds that all existing things, including all forms of life, had their beginning in dead matter and that all the complex forms of life evolved from the simplest forms. Some try to bridge the chasm between these two basically contradictory and mutually exclusive faiths and seek to harmonize their view with the Bible by doing violence to its plain meaning. At this point the words of Dr. Albert Hyma, retired professor of history at the University of Michigan, are worth remembering:
“As long as secular historians who do not believe in the Bible ignore its teachings, it is possible to argue that they present a view contrary to that of orthodox Christians. But when professors state that their view is the same as that expressed in the Bible while they are denying the veracity of the Book of Genesis, they are causing immense confusion. Worse than that, they are misleading their own students” (Christianity Today, September 14, 1962, page 9) .
WHO SHOULD TEACH THE CATECHISM CLASSES?
“It also belongs to their office to instruct the children of the church in the doctrine of salvation . . .” This is a quotation from our form for the ordination and installation of ministers of Cod’s Word. It refers specifically to the pastor’s work in catechizing the children in his congregation. The Letter of Call commonly used among us also makes reference to the pastor’s catechism responsibilities. We quote the following: “The labors that we expect of you, should it please God to send you to us, are: Preaching twice on the Lord’s Day, attending to catechetical instruction…” Here the use of the word “attending” is a bit ambiguous. A pastor who regularly uses assistants in his weekly catechism schedule may be said to attend to said instruction, provided he carefully supervises the work of those assistants. At any rate, the word has so been interpreted.
Far more definite is the stipulation in our liturgical form: “It also belongs to their office to instruct the children of the church in the doctrine of salvation.” For years it was the custom in our churches that the pastor teach all the catechism classes. When on occasion he had to be absent from one or more of these sessions, an elder usually served as a substitute. In recent years we have been witnessing a departure from this historic practice. More and more churches arc permitting their pastors to use assistants regularly. In some instances the pastor teaches only one or two classes a week while as many as five or more classes are placed under an assistant or assistants. This is particularly the case where all classes are held on one day—sometimes Sunday in place of the Sunday School!
Whatever may be the circumstances that are held responsible for this procedure, it is to be deplored that a pastor cannot (sometimes it is will not) teach all his catechism groups. Here in these weekly gatherings is his great opportunity to become well-acquainted with the lambs in his Hock, to learn to know them in their personal spiritual needs, and to encourage their confidences. Certainly it is more important that the pastor has these weekly associations with the children than it is that he teach an adult group whose members have been Christians for forty or more years.
As a general rule, I should say that when a congregation becomes so large that it is physically impossible for the pastor to teach aU the classes, then it must be said that this congregation has become too large and that it is time for mother to have a baby!
STATISTICS MAY BE MISUSED
Nowadays everybody is acquainted with statistics and graphs. We meet with them in scientific endeavor and in commerce and industry. Churches, too, use them, especially denominations. The Yearbook of the Christian Reformed Church is filled with them. We need such records; in fact, would not be able to get along without them. I admire the skill and accuracy of the compilers of all these figures and feel grateful to them.
However, the question does occur whether such statistics and records are always properly interpreted. Wrong or one-sided conclusions may be drawn from them. T am afraid that is the case with the reports concerning the number of individuals (adults and children ) received into the church through the work of evangelism. According to the 1962 Yearbook, 851 were received in that way during 1961. Of course, that is quite wonderful and we thank God for it. At the same time we wish the figure had been larger. How grateful we would have been if it could have been multiplied by ten or twenty.
But now the question is asked, Why was the number not larger? Frequently, perhaps even invariably, the cause of this comparatively “slender” gain is ascribed to lack of effort. The assumption is that if we had put forth greater effort, we would have garnered a greater harvest.
I trust we’re all agreed that our efforts are never sufficient. In the year 1961 we could have done more, much more. But the conclusion is Dot warranted that bad we done more, the figure would have been greater. Perhaps it would have been greater, but that’s not certain and should not be taken for granted. I suppose in commerce and industry a great deal depends on effort. Someone has said that in those realms success is 90% “sweat.” I am not ready to deny this, though even in such work “God must give the increase.” But in religious life and in the work of evangelism we are more specifically and intensely dependent upon the work of God and of his Spirit. Scripture states this explicitly, “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered; but God have the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (I Cor. 3:6, 7). In Pisidian Antioch Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and we read “And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). These truths warn us to be careful. Suppose that one missionary is able to reach a greater number of converts in a given year than another does that necessarily indicate that the one has worked more diligently than the other? I should say not! The reverse may even be the case: the one reporting the smaller number of conversions or even no conversions at all, may have worked more diligently. Attention should be called to the profound statement in explanation of the fact that Jesus did not do many mighty works in his own country; namely that it was “because of their unbelief.” (Matt. 13:58)
At the same time we must avoid the other extreme in minimizing the importance of human effort and diligence. In that respect Acts 14:1 has ever impressed me. We read that in Iconium the apostles “…so spake that a great multitude of Jews and of Gentiles believed.” That refers very definitely to the manner in which they preached the gospel. That is very important and should not be forgotten. The best we can do is none too good. Paul likewise states, “I am become all things to al men, that I may by all means save some” (I Cor. 9:22). Not success, but faithfulness is required—faithfulness in trusting God and the power and sovereignty of his Spirit, but also faithfulness in obedience and diligence, so that no one is slothful in the business of the Lord. We must, therefore, use the statistics of our Yearbook in a Biblical way, for that is God’s way and his evaluation of things.
It should also be said that we must attempt to get a view of the whole situation by consulting all the statistics. The church must labor extensively and seek to draw men and women out of the world to the fold of Christ. But the church must be no means neglect to work intensively within its own realm. Though I have heard people point to the paucity or scarcity of the number added to the church through the work of evangelization (851 in 1961) I don’t recall ever having heard some one call attention to the number resigned, excommunicated, and erased. Yet that number is sadly impressive; think of it, 370 in 1961. All this happened in just one year. Moreover, all these 370 must have been adults; they were all baptized and, at least to an extend, knew the Lord’s will and, therefore, “shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47). These belong to “the sons of the kingdom [who] shall be cast forth into outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12). However, neither in this case am I ready to offer a fixed diagnosis. Have sufficient and prayerful efforts been put forth to surround these “wandering ones” with Christian love and concern in order to save them? Perhaps that may have been the case, but there may also have been neglect in at least some of these instances. Christians can be so very cruel at times as if they of all men should not be their brother’s keeper. Yet that’s never the whole story. Alongside of human responsibility we may never lose sight of God’s sovereign will and his foreordination. In Romans 9 Paul states, “…I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake. my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Yet throughout this section (Chapters 9–11) the apostle bows before the sovereignty of God and concludes, “To him be the glory for ever. Amen.” Statistics may never be misinterpreted and thus misused. Indeed, they do tell a story but we are by no means always able to understand that story. God only can fully understand statistics on church life and mission activity. and that for reasons already mentioned or suggested.