Excerpts from Letters of a Christian Serviceman II

Right now I am faced with a type of problem typical of what many Christians face. In our unit the combined Federal Campaign, a kind of United Fund, is being collected. It gives money to such organizations as YMCA, Cancer Society, Catholic Charities, Jewish Charities, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Legal Aid Bureau, and scores of others. There is strong emphasis to get 100% participation in each unit, so if I don’t contribute, I’ll probably have to talk to the Colonel as well as face a lot of other pressure.

If you can find time to write back, I’d like to know what you think about that. So far, I haven’t given, and have begun to explain why. although it’s very difficult to explain in a few minutes one’s reasons for that when those reasons are based upon a radically different world and life view totally alien and incomprehensible to those who do not hold to this belief.

When I look at the situation, I cannot help but see at root, a manifestation of the antithesis here. It’s as if I see two ships -the one representing the Kingdom of God and the other the Kingdom of Satan. Now certainly the secular ship may be staffed with excellent sailors from whom we as Christians may learn a lot. So may we learn a lot from these generally secular charities. We have been neglecting those areas as Christians. I can see too that the incompetency and clumsiness of the sailors on the Christian ship are sometimes atrocious. So, as Dr. Seerveld said (Christian Camel Drivers Unite), the sins and incompetence of Christian organizations may cry out to heaven (p. 7). But one all important difference should never be blurred: the ships are going in opposite directions, the one obediently trying to be led by the Lord, the other rebelliously and proudly sailing the other way. And just because the “best” sailors seem to be on the other ship which is sailing so smoothly does not mean that we should join them or keep one foot on each ship.

Now, I don’t believe either that it is our primary task to try to sink the worldly ship right now. But in view of the way the Kingdom ship seems to be struggling and foundering, I just can’t see that our policy should be to contribute our efforts to helping the secular ship (or non-christian organizations). Rather, it seems to me, that our efforts (and money) should be used to foster distinctively Christian action and witness. And I suppose that there are some so-called “neutral” organizations which we can belong to or support, e.g., a chess club, or perhaps some of the United Fund organizations, but, as Dr. Seerveld points out, that certainly should not become the norm (Ibid., p. 10).

Incidentally, I have discussed this kind of thing with several people including Christians and people who claimed to be Christian. They almost all disagreed, of course. However, what disturbs me is not the fact that they disagree. Rather, what appalls me is the fact that the reason they disagree is that they absolutely cannot see anything antithetical in such matters—if, indeed there is anything antithetical at all.

There is a passage in Matthew 7 that seems to be pertinent here. Many come to the Lord asking, Haven’t we done all kinds of good works in your name? And He gives that awful reply, “I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.” “Iniquity,” mind you. How does Christ have the brazen audacity to call their good works “iniquity”? But He does.

This kind of situation is also interesting from the point of view of Dr. Hart’s pamphlet, The Democratic Way of Death. There is a very real sense in which I am excommunicated from the community in the unit for believing as I do. especially if I carry out my beliefs in action. Now this kind of community often proclaims its belief in tolerance—they can tolerate and accommodate all beliefs, partly because the community is based on neutral or at least common beliefs. But why is it that they cannot tolerate it when I prefer to give (for whatever reasons—Christian or otherwise) to some other organizations? Suddenly, that cannot be tolerated. What is more, I am then the one to be labeled intolerant—because the community cannot tolerate my beliefs.

That is the view of my roommate—an articulate, though not a traditional Roman Catholic. He declares not only that my view is different from his, but that my view is definitely the most anti-Christian one he has ever heard—and he stales that strongly. He’s so glad that Catholic charities now go in with the United Fund instead of independently. His thinking behind this is not that such charitable institutions are neutral, but that they are an expression of Christianity at its truest. He also believes that all those “good” people in foreign lands who may not even have been confronted with Christianity, will nevertheless be saved, especially if they believe in a concept of god. That is, of course. a logical extension of traditional Roman Catholic doctrine with the two-story approach.

You are aware, I’m sure, of what difficulties I have in discussing things with him. In addition to the radical differences between our religious starting paints he has a lot of advantages. His is the view that is supported by centuries of respectable thinking, by almost everything in his upbringing; in short, his is by far the predominant viewpoint. But what makes it worse is that for most of my life, I have been brought up to think almost the same synthesizing way. And so I’ve had only a few years contact with reformational thought, while he has a lifetime of reinforcement of his view which is much more consistently and thoroughly worked out than my beliefs.

This whole problem brings to my mind one more analogy. It sometimes seems that the world is behind a dike that helps keep back the raging storm that threatens to destroy us. The dike is leaky and tottering, and certain to break completely. The only question is how long it will continue to stand. The reason for this is that the dike is constructed completely wrong—it violates the principles of physics and hydraulics.

What should be done? Some say that the obvious answer is to put your thumb into a hole. In fact, some dedicated people may be seen with each thumb and each big toe in a hole and plugging a gaping hole with their heads at the same time. Others say a new dike should be built—one which conforms to the laws of physics and hydraulics.

A great many people, Christians and unbelievers, agree that the storm threatens our world and that the dike is leaky. But many refuse to see that it is certain to come crashing down. And so they are busy plugging holes and urging others to help them do so. They contribute to non-christian charities; they join secular unions, political parties, and organizations to promote some “good” thing or other to fight corruption. They volunteer for the Peace Corps and VISTA. They get involved. They arc piously and pathetically plugging holes and praying to the Lord for more thumbs.

What will you say to them? They will tell you that they are doing noble work and can often point to very impressive results. Furthermore, if all Christians would suddenly withdraw their. thumbs from the dike to begin work on a new dike, the world would be inundated. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of “truth” in their contention. But only because for hundreds of years Christians have not been obediently busy building the dikes of government, labor, scholarship, etc., according to God’s laws, adopting instead the thumb-in-the-dike mentality.

Dr. Seerveld makes a very perceptive statement on the issue at stake here when he says (Christian Camel Drivers Unite),

The question that must be faced is this: with what spirit is the Christ follower to meet his given culture? With the spirit of re-forming its patterns of life till they be conformed intrinsically to the way of the Lord? or with the spirit of accepting what is good in existing institutions, Christianizing points where necessary, influencing established ways as much as possible by personal example and wisdom?

In the balance is the Reformed faith. The Reformational Christian faith is quite distinct from the Roman Catholic, Anglo-catholic, Fundamentalistic. Neo-orthodox Christian faith. What differentiates other Christian faith from the Reformational Christian faith is the makeshift reservations, human blind constructions and divisions, unhappy mixtures it seems to a Reformation believer the other’s grounding, driving religious motives tries, for whatever good reasons, to insert confusingly into the biblical dynamite. Nothing less than everything brought subject to Christ’s footstool satisfies the Reformed faith.

Although in some ways I’m out of touch with Dordt, I still feel very close. I recall going to Dordt merely for convenience. I recall that I didn’t at first catch the vision of the biblical direction for which Dordt stands (perhaps partly because Dordt has changed too). And I recall nearly deciding after two years, not to come back. It is obvious now that this was a critical juncture. I can’t be thankful enough that I went back to Dordt. The last two years there were a real blessing to me. I hope that many others will have that experience too, and by the direction the college seems to be moving in, I believe that will happen.