A new dictator has risen to power! He is not a member of the United Nations Security Council.
He is not officially recognized by any existing national government. He has not been elected to any office by any constituency. That dictator must be destroyed or we and our children shall be destroyed. But he is very hard to destroy because he lies quite snugly hidden in the almost inaccessible fortress of the human heart.
The name of that dictator is Chaos.
And, like every dictator, Chaos exercises his grimmest bondage upon the minds of men and he docs so by his established religion of the state, which has been called by one wise wit: “Confusionism.”
How extensive his enslaving power has become may be suggested by a series of three symbolic events:
A short time ago, a practical joker ran a want:ad in a Los Angeles daily paper that ran about like this:
“Wanted: people who are willing to be converted to a new religion and accept a new found secret of happiness.” At the bottom of the ad was nothing but a telephone number. Within a short time, thirty people, enough to start a small congregation, had called that number and offered themselves blindly as willing converts to a “religion” they had never heard of, offered by a person whose name they didn’t know, and who was only joking anyway!
Lest we think that such extravaganzas can only occur in one section of the country, in a typically midwestern industrial city, an undertaker was called to minister in his profession at a home where an elderly woman had died. As he left the home the family pressed into his hand a folded piece of yellow paper with the earnest request, “Please bury Auntie with this in her hand.” He consented, of course, but when he arrived at his office, he unfolded the paper and saw to his utter amazement a Railroad Ticket from earth to Heaven, all properly dated and signed. This was to be the guarantee of the dead woman’s eternal security!
Recently, a tract was offered to me, purposing to answer the age-old question regarding the unpardonable sin. Amazing to relate, the answer was that the ace of all sins was submitting to a surgical operation. The claim was supported by this interesting exegesis: at the building of Solomon’s temple, “no sound of iron tool was heard” and, according to Paul and Peter, our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. So, of course, to lift an iron tool over that temple is to blaspheme the Holy Ghost.
We do not cite these incidents with any attempt at humor. They are too tragic to be funny. One does not laugh at the ludicrous struggles of a drowning man. And that is what these incidents are. They are the mental and spiritual struggles of souls, going down in a choking morass of religious confusion.
The sorrow of our generation was symbolized in the lobby of a small western hotel. A young soldier came into the hotel and he caught my attention because of the indescribable boredom and unhappiness that w.as written large upon his face. He changed a dollar into nickels and began playing a pin-ball machine. Each time he thrust a nickel into the machine, the lights flashed and the machinery whirred and his face seemed to lose a lillie of its mask of unhappiness. Finally his nickels were used up and he turned away from the machine and it was with almost a shock that I saw his face. It was more miserable and homesick, and bored than ever!
That young fellow did not realize that he was a symbol. But to me he was. In him I saw our generation, still wearing the trappings of history’s most colossal war, but utterly disappointed and heartsick for not one single glowing humanistic ideal for which we assumed we were fighting has been realized. And in our boredom and unhappiness, we have been pouring hundreds or dollars a week into the coffers of professional entertainment. The lights flash and the machines whirr, but when the artificial light has died from the faces of people, they turn away more heartsick than ever!
Words of Warning
A hundred years ago, the Russian novelist, Dostoyevski, spoke with a seer’s vision:
“Freedom, free thought and science, will bring men into such straits, and place them face-to-face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some, fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, and the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us.”
And these words have been strengthened by one of today’s significant international leaders:
“Military alliances, balances of power, League of Nations, all in turn have failed. 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 is basically theological, and involves a recrudescence of the human spirit to coincide with our almost matchless advance in all technical and scientific endeavors.”
These are not the words of a wild-haired prophet of doom but are the sober judgment of General Douglas MacArthur, spoken at one of the most significant turning-points in contemporary history: the surrender of Imperial Japan to the Allied Western powers.
All of this need not mean that cataclysmic destruction yawns before us tomorrow, but neither should we forget how fast modern events move. Who would have thought, a few years ago, when Russia seemed helpless as a military force, when cartoonists gleefully pictured her as a great hulking helpless bear, bogged in the snow, while little Finland, like a mischievous imp, prodded her with an ox-goad, that a decade would see nation after nation “crawl fawning to her feet to whine” for protection in the impending doom of an “atomic war”?
The very air of this present era of history vibrates with fear a desperate fear a fear that grips not alone the simple mother who looks upon the face of her child and sees visions of a future that spells doom, but a fear in the heart of the greatest and soberest scientific and political leaders of the world.
In a far earlier day, a leader of men looked about him and summed up the whole situation in one statement, found in the Book of Psalms, the third verse of Psalm 11: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”1
Nothing so accurately characterizes this period of human history than to say that the foundations are literally destroyed.
The moral foundations are destroyed.
The moral foundations have been destroyed by a false love of security divorced from a God-given sense of moral responsibility. In society, “social security” is the watchword. In world politics, a “security council” symbolizes the ideal. Even in war, one of the aims was, “freedom from want,” and another was “freedom from fear,” in religion, people warn to forsake the battle for truth. They want to immerse themselves in the soft lap of a sense of spiritual security. Away with fine distinctions, away with doctrinal differences, away with challenging service—we want peace! That longing for security came to spritely expression during the insecure days of the Depression, in a comedy ditty: “Please Go Way, and Let Me Sleep.”
And educators have been dinning into the cars of teacher’s and parents, that, at all costs, nothing must ever jar a child’s sense of security. In the home and in the classroom, a sense of security must be maintained and fostered. Children must not be disciplined into a realization of responsibility; they must be only shielded and catered to. The result of all this is that we are spawning in our schools a brood of moral illiterates who have no sense of right and wrong because they are always shielded from the real issues of life.
The moral foundations are destroyed by a deep and all-pervading utilitarianism in education. We must never ask, such embarrassing questions as, “Is it true?” It is enough to ask, “Will it work?”
The moral foundations are destroyed by a conception of human nature that makes any definite instruction in morals as ridiculous as if I should begin quoting the Ten Commandments to a tree-toad. If human nature is only a little above the animal level and there is no difference of kind between children and puppies, but only a difference of degree, then why not treat children as though they were high-grade animals?
The moral foundations are destroyed by the propagation of an utterIy false freedom. When the moral libertinists recommend that young couples solve their problems of premarital compatability by a dangerous series of sexual experiments, the argument is, “They will learn to know life.” It reminds us of the argument of the serpent in the garden who said to Eve. “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thine eyes shall be opened, and thou shalt be as God.” If we read on a bit, we find that Satan was half right, “They ate of the fruit of the tree and their eyes were opened, and they saw that they were naked.” Our generation has heeded the advice of those who wanted them to “know life.” Their eyes are opened, but instead of finding that they have become god-like, they find only that they stand naked and ashamed before their moral and social impurity. The moral foundations are destroyed!
The intellectual foundations are destroyed!
“The educated man,” we are told, “never makes up his mind until all the evidence is in.” It is a plastic way of stating that only open-mindedness is the way to scholarly truth. I surely would not plead for an absolutely closed mind, but certainly an absolutely open mind is entirely too much like a belfry—a nesting place for bats, but hardly a shelter in the time of storm. Such open-mindedness is mental disintegration.
It is perfectly clear that if such a standard of open-mindedness is widely accepted, there can be no room for a definite affirmation of anything that purports to be absolute, infallible, Divinely-revealed Truth. But for this same open-mindedness, denials of the truth gain free play. The result is that when a public school community decides by a vote of 99 and 44/100 percent that they desire religious training in the public school, and only one atheist raises an objection, the atheist gets his way and the overwhelming majority must simply keep still. Truth may not be taught, but denials of the truth must not be challenged. And be well-advised, this open-mindedness which is simply a prettier name for agnosticism is now in the process of being forced upon us by Supreme Court Decisions, by a Federal Communications Commission memorandum—calling the reality of God into question—by UNESCO, with its blanket authority to revise education, according to the beliefs of the atheists and agnostics who head it—and by an unmistakable movement in the direction of enforced unification, with Federal Fund support, of all educational institutions. What chance of survival for private Christian education when the intellectual foundations are destroyed.
And basic to all else, the spiritual foundations are destroyed. Modernism, with its world-wide councils and its almost exclusive control of government interest and support, is busy chipping away every tenet that is distinctive to historic Biblical Christianity. It is no wonder that the political dishonesty and opportunism that is blotted across our national record can go hand-in-hand with the claim that we are a Christian nation, if our Christianity is represented by Modernism that has sucked the life-blood out of religion and hasn’t the decency to bury the corpse but insists on setting it up as though it were still a living sovereign in the lives of mankind.
And too much of Fundamentalism, which arose in reaction against Modernism, is helping to keep the spiritual foundations destroyed. Too many sincere Christians have been content with giving their youth a mystical, emotional, unintelligent “experience” of salvation without teaching them how to make that religion fit the actualities of life. It is all very well to believe, if you wish, in a “rapture” that is coming by-and-by, but it isn’t here yet. And multitudes of these young people, utterly unprepared for the subtleties of unbelieving philosophy, go to the university and find that their mere experientialism doesn’t stand up. It has not been strengthened by sound study and research.
“No creed but Christ” will do very well if we are living in the first generation after Christ. But to say it now is dangerous. The spiritual foundations are not rebuilt by a movement which freely discounts God’s ordained institution, the Church Universal, the “Pillar and ground of the truth.”
The Challenge of the Hour
Since the foundations are destroyed, let us begin honestly to take stock.
What have the righteous done?
What have they done about the moral foundations?
God said, in language that cannot be misunderstood: “Be ye holy, for I am holy!” and again, “Love nor the world, neither the things that are in the world, for if ye love the world, the love of the Father is not in you.” Compromise means a loss of God’s blessing upon His and our spiritual endeavors. Surely we must do more toward a positive solving of the worldliness problem, but we must not go back to greater worldliness! If we do, we share the blame for breaking down the moral foundations.
What are the righteous doing about the intellectual foundations? We answer quickly, “Look at Christian Education.” But when we look at it, we are all are much inclined to look with the complacency born of regarding a truly great accomplishment. We fall prey to the temptation of making false comparisons, with those who have less progress to report. Such comparison is always vicious. The Bible urges us to compare only with the standard of perfection. If we do, there will be no room for complacent self-satisfaction. Self-congratulation and self-examination cannot dwell under the same roof!
What are the righteous doing about the spiritual foundations? Bernard Iddings Bell, well-known Anglican Churchman, after a survey of religious opinions expressed by service men, came back with the startling statement that parents need not be so concerned that their children will lose their faith in the service, because, frankly, they haven’t any faith to lose. “Most of the men look upon their churches at home as social clubs, smothered with respectability, enervated with timidity, headed by preachers who are far more concerned with pleasing the wealthy members in the pew than with blurting out the disconcerting wiIl of God.”
In what direction are orthodox churches moving—definitely away from that low level, or slowly but surely sinking toward it?
If it be true that the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
We shouldn’t even ask that question. Because the answer is too obvious. We cannot do anything. But we are not asked to do what we can. We are told to do what we must, and God has promised the strength to do it if we will only do what we know we must.
We must give the answer to the anxious spiritual questions of the age of which we are a part.
To a power-minded age we must say, “All power is given unto (Him) in Heaven and upon earth. Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.”
To an age of confusion, we must witness, “(He) is the way and the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by (Him).”
To an age of relativism and neutrality we must say, “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things that are seen are not made of things which do appear.” And, “Of Him, through Him, and unto Him are all things, to Him be the glory forever and ever.”
Under God, Christian Education may well be the distinctive answer to the wailing cry of our age, “They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him.”
1. Compare the marginal translation in the American Standard Version: “The foundations are destroyed, what have the righteous done?” and the Dutch version: “De fondementen worden omgestooten; wat heeft de rechtvaardige: bedreven?”
ARNOLD BRINK is Educational Secretary of Calvin College and on ordained minister of the Christian Reformed Church.