REVIEW OF CHAPTERS I–IV
The Relevance of Calvinism for Today
By Dr. Clarence Bouma
In this opening chapter Dr. Bouma asks and answers three questions, namely: I. What do we mean by Calvinism? II. Why is Calvinism so sorely needed with a view to our present-day ethical task? III. How is this task to be achieved?
In discussing what we mean by Calvinism, Dr. Bouma starts by saying that “Calvinism is nothing but Christianity,” and defends the continued use of the term “Calvinism” by citing the present ambiguity of the term “Christianity,” and by explaining that Calvinism is more consistently God-centered, more consistently comprehensive, and more consistently Christian in its ethics, than other forms of orthodox Christianity.
Next Dr. Bouma asks what is implicit in Calvinism, and answers by affirming that “The key conception in the Calvinistic interpretation of the Christian faith is the sovereignty of God” which means that “God is recognized as God.” This basic principle of Calvinism finds expression in the sphere of redemption, in our view of reality, and in our moral endeavor. The sovereignty of God is therefore not a mere abstract conception; it is truly constitutive of the Calvinistic system in its several elements.
Dr. Bouma’s second main question is: “Why is Calvinism so sorely needed with a view to our ethical task?” To this he gives a two-fold answer. Calvinism is sorely needed, first, because of the intensity of the social problems of our day. There is a growing interdependence of all social agencies and forces, and a growing interdependence of ail nations of the world. In this situation, radical (in the original sense of going to the roots of things) social ideas are being advocated. “It is autocracy and statism versus democracy, communism versus the system of free enterprise. Human society is being shaken to its very foundations in our day.” In this situation, Calvinism is authority in the center of things in human society is radical in the most wholesome sense of the word, and he is able to meet the most diverse humanistic schemes of human improvement head-on.”
In the second place, Calvinism is able to make a unique contribution to this social ethical task. He is neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but “a realist in the Scriptural sense of the word.” He neither believes in a gradual evolutionary progress of “man’s own inherent better nature,” nor in the defeatist attitude that nothing can be done about the social situation. He “recognizes that he is called to glorify God by the doing of His will in every realm of human endeavor, no matter what the circumstances or the human prospect may be.” By this statement Dr. Bouma presents the truly Biblical view of ethics, namely that our duty is to be done because it is the will of God, over against the ethics of Humanism and Pragmatism which would condition our activities upon the probability of successful results. It is to be feared that this nonBiblical type of ethical thought has influenced not only the Modernists and the Fundamentalists of our day, but also a good many who call themselves Calvinists.
Under the head of Calvinism’s unique contribution to the social ethical task, Dr. Bouma defines the Calvinistic aim in the social struggle as the glory of God, and he warns against allowing “the glory of God” to deteriorate into a mere empty phrase or motto. The glory of God is a magnificent reality. “We do what we do for God’s sake. We do what we do because God wills it,” with the great objective of pleasing our Creator and Redeemer. The aim is therefore not merely human betterment, but to gain the approval of God.
Dr. Bouma’s third main question is: “How is this task to be achieved?” To this he gives a triple answer:
A. By the study of Scriptural principles in application to modern conditions.
B. By benefitting from the example of others who have undertaken a similar task.
C. By mapping out a program of action that may serve as a blueprint.
The study and application of Scriptural principles is not simple or easy; it involves much more than looking for texts as if they were ready-made answers to our problems. On the contrary, we must strive to grasp both the permanently valid moral principles in Scripture, and the moral forces operative in modern society.
We can derive benefit from the example of others who have undertaken a similar task, and in particular from the Neo-Calvinistic movement in the Netherlands which arose under the leadership of Abraham Kuyper. This does not mean that Dutch solutions can be applied directly to American problems, but it means that we can follow in Kuyper’s path in discerning the real principles and how they ought to be applied to social problems.
In his final section, Dr. Bouma asks for the mapping out of a program of action that may serve as a blueprint. In formulating such a program, three principles must be recognized and utilized, namely, the principles of Common Grace, of the Antithesis, and of Sphere Sovereignty. Each of these is briefly explained and its relevance stated. Certainly we are he~e on solid ground. If there is anything that American evangelical Christianity needs, it is a grasp of these three principles. There are prominent and popular evangelical leaders and writers who have apparently never heard of any of them. As a result they inevitably fall into errors and blunders and are incompetent to give real leadership for a Christian facing of social ethical problems.
Dr. Bouma’s discussion is scholarly without being technical. It is solid all the way through. This forms an excellent introduction to a book on “God-Centered Living.”
Calvinism and the Task of the Church for the Solution of Modern Problems
By the Rev. Peter Van Tuinen
This is the first of three chapters on “Calvinistic Action and the Church.” The other two concern missions and evangelism. Mr. Van Tuinen shows how on the one hand the social gospel movement has become irreligious, while on the other hand evangelical Christianity has gone to the opposite extreme and has greatly neglected the application of Christianity to social problems. Many evangelicals hold an eschatological view which denies that the kingdom of God is a present reality. They therefore feel that social problems are outside the province of the church, and they tend to hold that the conversion of individuals is all that is needed. What they fail to realize is that conversion does not itself solve all social problems, for even the true Christian is still imperfect, and the process of sanctification must follow conversion.
Liberalism, on the other hand, errs by forgetting that the kingdom of God is the kingdom of God; it tends to think of the kingdom merely in human terms, as the product of human effort and existing for human ends. It thinks of the kingdom in terms of human society as such, “evolving through the processes of social reform into a more perfect fellowship of human society with leisure and abundance for all.” The essential character of the kingdom is not regarded as righteousness, but as “comfortable living conditions and opportunity for self-development to all.” Liberalism’s ideas of sin and righteousness are determined by its wrong view of the kingdom. “In consequence, it came about, not only that the chief burden of the liberal pulpit had to do with social problems, but the church itself was left with little else to do but to serve as a useful community organization for the advancement of social ideals.”
The liberal view erred especially in its failure to recognize human depravity. Regarding human nature as essentially good, it saw in social problems only maladjustments, and sought to redeem the individual by readjusting social relationships.
Mr. Van Tuinen sets forth the true basis for the church’s concern with social problems. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Noting the importance of a proper understanding of the relation and distinction between the church and the kingdom, he points out the fact that confusion here has led the liberal churches into many activities which are outside the proper sphere of the church. Yet the church must be concerned to bring this world under the rule of God, not merely to bring individuals under that rule. The church must ever witness to the demands of God in the social sphere, even though it knows full well that there will never be a perfect society this side of heaven. The will of God for all of human life is revealed in Scripture; it is the church’s business to teach, preach and apply this.
The church, therefore, has a responsibility to bring human society in its various relationships under the criticism of the Gospel. The method by which this is to be done is determined by the nature of the church; it takes the form of the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The pulpit is therefore central in this task. And the message of the pulpit must not be abstract, but concrete, addressed to real people in actual situations. “To say…that the minister of the gospel has nothing to do with social problems is equivalent to saying that the gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with sin, or that in giving salvation by grace, God is indifferent to any moral results.”
The message of the Christian pulpit must deal with social problems, but it must always be a message of grace, of the sovereignty of God, and of righteousness. Not only the gospel but the law of God must be proclaimed. Ultimately this involves the fashioning of a culture—“the endeavor under God to attain as near an approach as is possible in this world to the kingdom of God.”
Toward the end of his chapter Mr. Van Tuinen discusses “the ecumenical challenge.” The Calvinist cannot ignore this challenge. He must agree that the churches should seek to realize their essential unity. But his zeal for this ideal “is not automatically applicable to the current church union movement, nor to the ecumenical tendency of our day in all of its aspects.” The present church union movement is justly criticized on the ground that it seeks external union without doctrinal unity, and also because it is wrongly motivated, by utilitarian sociaI considerations rather than by considerations rooted in the essential nature of the church.
There can be a limited approach to the ecumenical ideal by closer relations between denominations belonging to the same family. The Reformed Ecumenical Synod is mentioned in this connection. It provides a wholesome forum for discussion of problems and may help to eliminate some of the evils of provincialism.
Finally, Mr. Van Tuinen very rightly and wisely observes that “the advantage to be gained by ecumenical action is not the force of numerical strength,” but rather “a clarification of the Christian witness.” “The Christian witness is not ineffective because it represents a minority of the population. Its power never lay in numbers, but in the power of the Spirit of God. The Christian witness is ineffective when it is uncertain and unclear. Ecumenical action should have the result that the church may speak to the world always, not necessarily with a loud voice, but with a clear and authoritative message. Such clarity and authority will be increasingly attained as the churches serve one another by mutual exorcism of the demons of provincialism and prejudice, and mutual guidance to the sure principles of God’s word.” To this, and indeed to Mr. Van Tuinen’s whole chapter, I would respond with a hearty “Amen.” What he has written is sound, discerning and relevant.
Calvinism and the Missionary Enterprise
By Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer
This chapter by the veteran missionary of the Reformed Church of America to the world of Islam is interesting and informative, but it hardly fits into the announced plan of the volume as “a discussion of the application of Scriptural principles to the various spheres of modern life.” For what Dr. Zwemer has given us in this chapter is not really a discussion of the application of Scriptural principles to the missionary enterprise, but rather a vindication of Calvinism as a missionary-minded faith.
Dr. Zwemer’s first section is entitled Je Suis Calvinist, this French statement being the confession of an Egyptian student who became a Christian while in Switzerland. The section is an account of Dr. Zwemer’s own background and his personal faith. He concludes the section: “I am a Calvinist and my theory and practice of missions as well as of missionary-history is based on that faith.” I entered a question-mark on the margin opposite one sentence: “It was not his dogma that gave Calvin his great influence, but his life.” I believe the contrary of this statement to be the truth, and I do not see how Dr. Zwemer, as a Calvinist, could make the statement. For certainly Calvin’s dogma was determinative of his life, not vice versa. And if his dogma determined the quality of his life, then it was really his dogma that gave him his great influence. Many have taken Calvin’s dogma to heart, who have had but little knowledge, if any at all, of the eminent reformer’s life.
The second section is on Calvin and missions. This is historical in nature and aims at vindicating Calvin from the charge of indifference to the missionary task. While I am not competent to pronounce any authoritative judgment on this question, I think that Dr. Zwemer has proved his point. He has shown that unlike the other reformers, John Calvin really was concerned about making the truth of the Gospel known to all the world. I believe Dr. Zwemer might well have brought out the fact that all the reformers were absorbed in a life-and-death struggle with Romanism which consumed all their energies. This battle had to be fought and won before there could be a real foreign missionary program. If your house is on fire, your first concern, and for the time being your only concern, will be to put the fire out, even if you have to stay home from a missionary meeting to do it!
Dr. Zwemer’s third and last section is on Calvinism and Islam. This section is also largely historical, though Dr. Zwemer undertakes a comparison of Calvinism and Islam. He says “Calvinism and Islam have indeed much in common.” I wonder whether he has not over-emphasized what they have in common, which is, after all, for the most part merely formal. Dr. Zwemer says that both Calvinism and Islam “were attempts to make the will of God as revealed (in the Bible or according to Mohammed in the Koran) an authoritative rule for social as well as personal affairs, for Church not only, but for State. They both believed in election and reprobation, dependent on God’s will, not on man.” This is of course true in a purely formal sense, but does it not overlook the all-important consideration that the God of Calvinism and the Allah of Islam are not the same? The only living and true God is the Triune God, the God of the Bible. But the Trinity is expressly rejected by the Koran. Islam, as a religion, is not merely defective by ignorance of the Triune God; it has consciously looked the doctrine of the Trinity in the face and expressly, deliberately rejected it.
Dr. Zwemer points out that a large part of the missionary work in the world of Islam has been done by the historically Calvinistic churches. In the providence of God the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have been led to labor in the heart of the Moslem world. But Dr. Zwemer apparently does not realize that this has practically nothing to do with Calvinism today, for Calvinism is no longer the predominant faith in the large denominations of the Presbyterian and Reformed group. He quotes Dr. Robert E. Speer as saying: “The union of the United Presbyterian, the Reformed and the Presbyterian Church will bring a new joy and faith to the Church which today has responsibility for the strongest mission work in the world for the evangelization of Mohammedans.” But what has this to do with Calvinism today? Calvinism is a tolerated minority faith in each of these three denominations today, while the ecclesiastical machinery is largely in the hands of liberals and doctrinal indifferentists whose primary zeal is not for Calvinism but for the apostate ecumenical movement of the National and World Councils of Churches. With notable exceptions, of course, the Bible-believing Christians in at least two of these three denominations are either Arminians or of Anabaptistic faith. The United Presbyterian Church has officially adopted a Confessional Statement which supersedes the truly Calvinistic Westminster Confession and which definitely compromises the Calvinistic witness of the denomination. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. is now almost completely controlled by liberals and the Neo-orthodox—witness the notorious Auburn Affirmation of 1924—so that only in the historical sense can it be classed as Calvinistic.
I wish that Dr. Zwemer had given a discussion of the bearing of Calvinism on some of the burning missionary issues of the present day, such as the increasing tension between church and state in mission lands, the threat of communism to missionary work, and the effect of the Ecumenical Movement on small and struggling, but pure and faithful, Calvinistic missions and churches over the world.
Calvinism and the Evangelization of America
By Dr. John G. Van Dyke
In this chapter Dr. Van Dyke gives an excellent, practical discussion of the bearing of Calvinism on evangelism in present-day America. The need for evangelism is evident. There are millions who are irreligious. The mandate for evangelism is found in Christ’s command, the Great Commission. This is addressed to the church and every member of it. The motive for evangelism is to be compassion for the lost, obedience to Christ, and love for sinners.
Dr. Van Dyke warns against the tendency to tone down the message by eliminating references to such doctrines as predestination and election. The evangelist must proclaim the whole truth of God and must not allow his hearers to determine what they will have preached to them. The proper starting point of evangelism is God, followed by creation, man, sin, redemption, and so forth.
Next Dr. Van Dyke discusses the agents of evangelism, and how they should be equipped for the task. The church congregation should be central. From it Christian testimony should radiate all over the community. The leadership should be taken by the consistory or session. There follows a discussion of radio evangelism, personal work, methods in presenting the Gospel, and various classes of people to be reached.
Dr. Van Dyke has pointed the way to a truly sound, Calvinistic evangel. ism, which is very much needed in the contemporary American scene with its many unsound or unbalanced types of evangelism—anti-intellectual, Arminian, anti·ecclesiastical, pietistic, one-sidedly emotional, and the type that specializes in a Chiliastic interpretation of prophecy.
PART II CHAPTERS V–VIII
by Prof. R. B. Kuiper of Westminster Seminary
The second part of the volume God-Centered Living deals with Calvinistic Action and Education. It comprises four chapters. The diversity of subject matter in these chapters leaves the reviewer little choice but to consider them seriatim.
The major positions taken by Dr. Cornelius Jaarsma in A Calvinistic Program for Elementary and Secondary Education strike this reviewer as being commendable. For some examples, the stress on the covenantal responsibility of Christian parents for the education of their children; the affirmation that man is educable because he is spirit or, in theological language, because he bears the image of God; the insistence that Christian elementary and secondary education must be essentially personal and therefore may adopt neither the intellectualism of the nineteenth century nor the social emphasis of the twentieth, but must appraise intellectual achievement and social adjustment “in their capacity to cultivate the person” (p. 99); and the thesis that the aim of education must be to bring human beings into conscious fellowship with God, in order that as men of God they may be “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:17)—all that seems indisputable from the Calvinistic viewpoint. In other words, these positions represent consistent Christianity as applied to education.
It is indeed regrettable that the presentation of such material should be marred by inaccuracies of various kinds. Following are a few samples. According to reliable authorities James A. Garfield, not Grover Cleveland, should be credited with the well known remark about Mark Hopkins at one end of a log and a student at the other (p. 92). “It should still be mentioned” is an infelicitous way of saying that something remains to be mentioned (p. 94). One can hardly justify the use of “over” in the sentence: “Only the cataclysmic return of Christ as Lord of all can restore this world over to normal” (p. 96). After naming certain requisites for Christian teaching, the author goes on: “Let it be said too, that, allowing for human weakness due to sin, these are no assurance of our success” (p. 101). Does he mean to say that because of human weakness due to sin the presence of these requisites does not guarantee success? The first question considered in this chapter is Why Education? That done, it is said in summary: “We have tried to answer the questions ‘What is education?’ ‘Why educate?’ and ‘Who must educate’?” (p. 92).
It is not easy to subordinate these three matters to Why Education? Nor is it easy to coordinate them with each other under that head.
What troubles this reviewer more is that Jaarsma sometimes fails to present proof for important positions which he takes. For instance, Scripture is indeed quoted for the duty of Christian parents to educate their children (p. 91), but little or no evidence is adduced for the proposition that formal education is not normally a function of the state. Yet precisely that is one of the chief points at issue. And, surprisingly, the church as an agent of education is left out of consideration. No attempt is made to convince Roman Catholics, Lutherans and others that Christian day-schools should be free from ecclesiastical control. They are simply confronted with the dictum: “Education is exclusively the responsibility of the parents” (p. 95). For another example, although he gives due recognition to the intellectual and social aspects of education, Jaarsma is severely critical of the intellectualism of nineteenth century education and the social emphasis of present-day public school education. One can hardly suppress the wish that he had exposed more fully the evils which he condemns. To be specific, there is no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that “pragmatic humanism” (p. 95) is an accurate and not too severe characterization of most of contemporary public school education in these United States. But that accusation ought to have been sustained.
What attitude should those who conduct Christian day-schools take to the public schools of our land? That question has thus far received too little attention, and this reviewer willingly admits that he is not prepared to say the last word on it. He doubts, however, whether Jaarsma has presented his views on the matter convincingly. On the one hand, he asserts: “either state nor society can educate” (p. 95); “The so-called ‘neutral’ school is a product of the Enlightenment, not of the Reformation. It is based on a view of freedom, equality, and brotherhood refuted by the Scriptures” (p. 98); and “If democracy survives any length of time it will be in spite of education which ignores God and His ordinances” (p. 100). Those are strong but true assertions. And yet the author holds that “as Christian citizens we have the obligation to ‘give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,’ also in the realm of education” and that therefore “we pay a just tax for public education gladly.” To be sure, he adds that “we must speak out boldly against error” (p. 100). But it is not made clear that in paying that tax we are not supporting the state in that which is evil. The question remains whether Christ’s command to give to Caesar that which is his is applicable to the case in hand.
With one position taken by Jaarsma the reviewer feels he must take issue, not because it is false, but by reason of its inadequacy. It is said that Christian school education must contribute to “conversion” and must prepare for a “a decision for or against Christ” (p. 96). The phrase “or against” to one side, that certainly is true. The purpose of all Christian education is to bring into proper conscious relationship to God, and this, no doubt, involves conversion and a decision for Christ. But care must be taken lest the reader draw the inference that the aim of the Christian day-school is solely soteric. Perhaps the author’s failure to acknowledge the church as an agency of Christian education has at this point blurred his vision. Scripture states emphatically that the church is the God-appointed teacher of special revelation. To teach men the Word of God is its supreme task. It follows that the education given by the Christian church aims specifically at salvation. But the education given in Christian elementary and secondary schools has a more comprehensive aim. The fact that they not merely teach God’s book of salvation but concentrate on general revelation—viewed, to be sure, in the light of special revelation—points in that direction. The Christian day-school should exalt Christ, not only as Mediator of redemption, but also, and primarily, as Mediator of creation. It must stress not merely the soteric work of Christ, but also, and especially, His cosmic significance.
Dr. William Harry Jellema’s study of Calvinism and Higher Education is a model of English composition. It has unity, coherence, and emphasis—all three to a high degree. Its style is precise and lucid, forceful and dignified. As to form this chapter is a masterpiece. Its content too can hardly help commanding’ the respect of men of good will, for it has all the earmarks of having been written by one who knows whereof he speaks, can think both logically and profoundly, and is able to state his views convincingly; in short, by a scholar.
While American Protestantism has always had, and has today, a sense of responsibility for Christian action with regard to higher education, it has never had, we are told, a precise and concrete answer to the question “what is Christian education on the college level” (p. 106). What makes matters worse, because of its “complaint concessions to modernity” American Protestantism no longer has “a virile notion of Christianity.” How then can it have “a virile notion of Christian education” (p. 119)? What is needed is a clear-cut definition of Christian education based upon a sound view of Christianity. That need Jellema seeks to supply by bringing to the fore the concept of the civitas dei, the Kingdom of God, and stressing the antithesis between that kingdom and other civitates, which he calls “kingdoms of the world.”
At this point some Calvinist may possibly object that, since the doctrine of the covenant of grace is basic to all Christian education, higher as well as elementary and secondary, the covenant rather than the kingdom should have been stressed. But that point would not be well taken. It would amount to a quibble about words. To be sure, the Scriptural notions of the covenant of grace and the Kingdom of God are not in every detail synonymous, but they are most closely related. By the very act of establishing His covenant with man God founded His Kingdom on earth. His covenant people are the citizens of His Kingdom. And both covenant and kingdom connote antithesis. God’s covenant people are the seed of the woman, which is an enmity with the serpent and his seed; and the citizens of God’s Kingdom have been translated from the power of darkness and are henceforth at war with its prince.
The kingdom of God according to Jellema is “man’s articulate glorification of God,” the God who has defined Himself in the Bible (p. 117). But there are said to exist also “rival kingdoms, the civitates of strange Gods.” Each of these is “an imitation of the civitas dei.” Like the Kingdom of God, “each claims all of man; each bids for man’s soul and all his world.” And “each is the articulation in human life of a definition of God” (p. 120). The bearing of this on education is evident. “Education is by a kingdom and for citizenship in that kingdom” (p. 122). Hence Christian education is education by the Kingdom of the only true God, the God of Holy Scripture, and for citizenship in His Kingdom. On the other hand, all education that is not Christian, also that which professes to be neutral, is education by and for the kingdom of some false god.
The outstanding virtue of the chapter under consideration is its emphasis on the antithesis between the civitas dei and the civitates of the world. Between these, we are told, “there is opposition, conflict, antithesis; in this sense that no education is neutral” (p. 112). Modern educational theory is said to be in error, “and its error is not simply that of omitting the notion of civitas; the framework of modern educational theory is itself that of a civitas which is opposed to the civitas dei” (p. 117). “The difference between Christian and non-Christian education is, therefore, not that religious faith is present in the one and not in the other; the difference is between the Christian definition of God and the non-Christian definition; and is thus a difference and opposition between kingdoms” (p. 125).
Strange though it may seem, to the mind of the reviewer this chapter is marred by a weakness at the very point at which it excels in strength. However vigorously the antithesis may be, and actually is, stressed, it is not upheld with consistency. Some explanation and substantiation of that opinion are called for.
It is said to be the duty of the “unyielding Protestant” to present to the contemporary mind a definition of the concept civitas. Well and good. We are further told that “his definition should be pointed not toward theocracy nor toward theology, but informedly and relevantly toward the cultural situation of our day, toward our educational problems and programs, toward our contemporary educational principles and underlying philosophy” (p. 112). That the required definition must be pointed toward the latter permits of no doubt, and Jellema has performed that task admirably; but its orientation to the former seems no less necessary. Indisputably a definition of the civitas dei must be based squarely on the theocracy and theology. Realizing that, the writer gives an eloquent description in Biblical terminology of God, His Kingdom, and its citizens, created in His image and redeemed by His Son (pp. 177ff.). The question arises whether the concept civitas can properly be abstracted from the concept civitas dei; in other words, whether any civitas can be defined out of relationship to the civitas dei. That question the reviewer would answer in the negative because, with Jellema, he conceives of all other civitates as imitations and corruptions of the civitas dei. It is not difficult to see that, if other civitates are thus regarded consistently, the antithesis between them and the civitas dei will stand out more boldly than if the attempt is made to lift the civitas concept out of its Biblical context and to give it a general signification.
What the reviewer contends is that the discussion of the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world ought to have been based more squarely on Christian theology. And he holds that, if that had been done, the radical nature of the antithesis would have come into sharper focus. Following are a few examples of what he has in mind.
In addition to the Kingdom of God three ether kingdoms are named. They are the kingdom of “pagan idealism,” that of “perennial naturalism,” and that of “modernity” (p. 123). These three are described as “kingdoms of the world.” But how much more definitive is the Scriptural portrayal of the antithesis! It speaks of only two spiritual kingdoms: one the Kingdom of God, the other the kingdom of Satan; one the Kingdom of Christ, the other the kingdom of Antichrist. At the very least the author might have stated that all three of the kingdoms of the world are manifestations of that kingdom which is the one exact and absolute antithesis of the Kingdom of God.
This reviewer is more deeply concerned about the sentences: “Only as citizen of a civitas does man achieve at least formal freedom with reference to his own cultural activity and product, does he achieve the moral maturity of humanness,” and “In his choice between kingdoms he acquires the stature of moral will, or responsible freedom, of personality” (pp. 120f.). Incidentally, the addition, “This remains no less true though a right choice is now made possible only by wholly unmerited divine grace,” in no way betters what goes before. How can these statements be squared with the truth, “He is not alive; with sin man died” (p. 119)? And how can they be reconciled with the bold, straightforward teaching of Christian theology that man becomes truly man only as he puts off “the old man” and puts on “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22–24), and that only he who has been set free by the Son is free indeed John 8:36)? If it be argued that the ascription of “formal freedom” to unregenerate man as citizen of a kingdom is in line with the teaching of Reformed theology that every human being is a free agent in the sense that while all the issues of his life are from what the Bible calls his “heart,” he is not under the compulsion of outside forces, the answer is that every man is free in that sense and that Scripture knows of no additional freedom which unregenerate man acquires when he chooses the wrong civitas. And if it be contended that by virtue of the common grace of God fallen man has retained vestiges of the image of his Maker and therefore humanness of a kind, a humanness which comes to expression in his choice between kingdoms, that is readily granted, but at the same time it must be maintained that the fall did enormous injury to man’s humanness and that only through regeneration and consequent faith does he attain to “the moral maturity of humanness.”
Much emphasis is put on the choice among kingdoms. That is as it should be. The purpose of education is to prepare students for that choice, and no act consciously performed by a human being is comparable in point of importance with that choice. However, there is some danger that this emphasis may obscure the Scriptural teaching that every human being is as a matter of fact a citizen of one or the other of two kingdoms. By nature every man is a citizen of the kingdom of Satan. By regeneration, birth from above, men are translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. It remains the regenerated person’s sacred duty to make an intelligent and deliberate choice for that kingdom. It is no less true that it is a law of that kingdom that he must be prepared for that choice by indoctrination in the Christian civitas. Even that is not the whole truth. It is also true that the God of that kingdom has promised so to bless that indoctrination as most certainly to bring him to that choice. In a word, his choice is structured by the very nature of the kingdom of which he is a citizen. That is a significant covenant emphasis which might have been stressed to advantage.
Lest the foregoing observations be taken to belittle Jellema’s strong emphasis on the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian higher education, let it be repeated that they constitute a plea for a more Scripturally orientated, and hence more consistent, emphasis.
Dr. Bastian Kruithof’s contribution on Calvinism and the Appreciation of Art makes delightful reading. It is colorful; there is nothing drab about it. It is spicy; there is nothing flat about it. It is witty; there is nothing dull about it. It is original; there is nothing trite about it.
The author approaches his theme with humility; in his own words, “with some misgivings, with hopes none too high, with an admission of incompetence” (p. 131). In view of the fact that a Calvinistic aesthetic can hardly be said to exist, such humility is readily appreciated. For the same reason a like modesty becomes the reviewer. However, there do exist valuable contributions toward a Christian aesthetic. They are found, for instance, in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Abraham Kuyper’s Stone lecture Calvinism and Art and his work Pro Rege, Herman Bavinck’s Van Schoonheid en Schoonheidsieer, B. Wielenga’s De Bijbel als Boek van Schoonheid, and Westcott’s The Relation of Christianity and Art. Of these Kruithof has made good use.
The chapter under review falls into three parts, but the thrust of the whole is that the appreciation of art is a must for Christians, particularly for Calvinists.
The writer takes his fellow-Calvinists to task for permitting their “genuine concern for the Christian life,” their “serious sense of duty,” their “industriousness as to a livelihood,” and their “practice of isolationism” to crowd out in large measure “the contemplation of beauty, the cultivation of the aesthetic sense, and the creativity that art demands” (p. 133). In the process he indulges in an occasional bit of ridicule. It is suggested that, when some proclaim Calvinism as a grand world and life view and at the same time advocate undue isolationism, “it may appear to others that the view of life and the world is not unlike a glass jar with Scylla and Charybdis sitting on the cork” (p. 133). Yet on the whole the matter is dealt with in a kindly and sympathetic spirit. A shortcoming in those whom he addresses does not lessen Kruithof’s appreciation of their many virtues.
In the discussion of Our First Duty Concerning Beauty many excellent points are made. We are told: “Our first duty is to God.” God Himself is beautiful or, to use a term that Scripture seems to prefer, glorious. God has revealed His glory in both creation and redemption. Not only do “the heavens declare the glory of God,” but “beauty comes into its own again in Christ,” who is “the Restorer of all things.” Man can appreciate the revealed glory of God because he was made in God’s image. That image was disturbed by sin but is restored in those who are saved by divine grace. Therefore Christians are capable of appreciating beauty as others are not. While it is true that man “does not become truly man again until his salvation makes him so,” yet “God in His common grace has allowed all men something of the sense of beauty.” Hence Calvin was right when he spoke of “how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature” and warned that in “despising the gifts, we insult the Giver” (pp. 134–137) .
Under the head Our Privilege and Responsibility the emphasis is once more on duty. “We must hate sin, to be sure, but we must also hate the sin of baldness of soul and poverty of feeling and imagination.” We are told: “When music means inferior hymns, and literature moral stories, and painting cheap prints, and architecture hideous church buildings, and preaching garrulous crudities, we are far from the glory of God.” The appreciation of art and beauty outside of Christian circles is also said to be “a mandate of God.” And our responsibility is said to lie “not only in better appreciation, but also in the development of creativity” (pp. 137–140).
By and large this chapter is characterized by a strong but balanced emphasis. “Let us say it honestly, frankly, and unashamedly that we Calvinists are concerned about the salvation of our souls, but let us not fail to add that our redemption is bound up with the restoration of all things” (p. 136). “Granted that there is always the danger of making a religion of beauty, the danger of worshipping art, as Mortimer did in Schiller’s Maria Stuart, there is also danger of coldness, baldness, and poverty in our personal lives and in our orders of worship in the churches” (p. 140). Those are wholesome sentiments.
The reviewer has two suggestions to offer.
The appreciation by Christians of non-Christian art admittedly presents difficulties. True enough, we must not strangle such art with “the wrong kind of sobriety” and “we must keep free from some shackles that dishonor both God and man” (p. 137). But precisely what shackles are these and what is the wrong kind of sobriety? More specifically, it is true that “literature that presents life realistically is not necessarily bad,” and that “what is important is the aim of the writer” (p. 139); but Kruithof will, no doubt, grant that other matters too are important. In reading such a book as Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the attitude of the reader is no less important than the intent of the writer.
And bound up with that attitude is the degree of maturity, not only intellectual, but especially moral and spiritual, to which the reader has attained. While the reviewer does not claim to have anything like the final solution of this problem, he surmises that it lies in the intimate connection of beauty and holiness. As sin is ugly, so holiness is beautiful. Beauty is the reflection of holiness. When God revealed Himself so resplendently that the very seraphs had to cover their faces with their wings, they cried out: “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3). The glory of God is a revelation of His holiness. New Jerusalem is at once the city of perfect holiness and supreme beauty. Kuyper has boldly asserted that in all true art there is something holy because it gives expression to man’s desire to escape from the curse resting upon creation (Pro Rege, III, 521f.).
More might have been said and, in this reviewer’s opinion, should have been, about the creation of distinctively Christian art. In passing it may be remarked that he does not have in mind ecclesiastical art. In Calvinism and Art Kuyper has shown that one of the benefits of the Protestant Reformation, particularly in its Calvinistic aspect, was that it freed art from ecclesiastical domination. But, surely, if all beauty is a revelation of the glory of the God of Christianity; if Christ is both the Restorer of all things and “the Head over all things” (Eph. 1:22), art included; and if the Christian is the bearer of the restored image of God—then he is not only in an incomparably better position than is the non-Christian to appreciate art worthy of the name, but it is incumbent upon him to create art of the noblest kind, art which is an expression of his pure religion, art which anticipates, albeit imperfectly, the beauty of the Holy City, “having the glory of God” (Rev. 21:11). B. Wielenga was profoundly right when he said: “Of beauty too it holds that knowledge of God is the prerequisite of true knowledge” (De Bijbel als Boek van Schoonheid, p. 18). This matter too demands much further study, but undoubtedly a strong plea for Christian art would have provided Kruithof’s study with a fitting climax.
The 1926 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church elected a committee to make a study, from the viewpoint of Scriptural principles, of certain so-called “worldly amusements.” Two years later that committee submitted a report which became the occasion of several decades of debate. Of that debate Dr. Leonard Greenway had the benefit when he wrote his chapter on Calvinism and the Problem of Recreation and Amusement.
Several significant principles are enunciated, and in the main they are stated well. “Anyone who allows himself to get into a situation where the labors and tensions of life are not properly counterbalanced by relaxing diversions and amusements is unfaithful to the Christian duty of self-presentation” (p. 143). “Herein lies the distinction of Calvinism as an interpretation of Christian faith and life. Its fontal idea is the God-concept…Calvinism, more than any other system of Christian truth, gives a consistent application to the Divine command: ‘Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God’” (p. 145). Of Christian liberty it is said: “Both lordly liberty and loving servitude characterize the redeemed child of God” (p. 147); “Conscience must never be given the place and prominence that belong only to the Bible” (p. 149); and “We are never to permit our liberty to serve as a springboard at the pools at profligacy” p. 150). We are told that “the most effective antidote for worldliness is vital piety” (p. 151). And in stressing the oft neglected truth that Christian living is essentially positive, Greenway says: “Christianity has more do’s than don’ts,” and “Our leisure activities are not to occupy the major place in our lives” (p. 154). All that, and much more that he says, is eminently Scriptural and therefore thoroughly Calvinistic.
While the discussion of Christian liberty is in many respects admirable, it is to be regretted that some important aspects of that doctrine are either neglected or stated inaccurately. For instance, it is said emphatically: “The Christian is not free from law” (p. 147). In a very real sense that is true. Modern Dispensationalism is wrong when it avers that the decalogue is not for the New Testament church. All true liberty is liberty within law; so is Christian liberty. But the thoughtful reader can hardly help ask what Paul meant when he said: “Now are we delivered from the law” (Rom. 7:6). That question is pertinent and deserving of an answer. The rather obvious answer is supplied by the same apostle in the declaration: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17) . Under the control of the Holy Spirit the Christian delights in the law of God after the inward man; and that is the essence of liberty, paradoxical though it may sound, both from the law and within the law. For another instance, the Scriptural injunction that Christian liberty is not to be used so as to give offense to brethren should have been interpreted more accurately. The statement, “We are not permitted to do anything which we know will grieve or mislead a fellow Christian who has scruples where we have none” (p. 148) hardly excels in precision. To be sure, our liberty is to be exercised in such a way as not to place a stumbling-block before others, over which they may fall into sin. It is also true that walking in love requires that we do not needlessly hurt the feelings of fellow Christians by doing things which we think proper but they condemn. But just what does the author mean by grieving? A brother who is more legalistic than “weak,” to use Pauline terminology, may feel grieved if he sees me enjoying a smoke. Must I permit him to lay down the law for me? Did Paul yield to the Judaizers of his day?
An important aspect of the Christian’s liberty is his liberty in the socalled adiaphora. Greenway does not give evidence of a clear understanding of that concept. He says: “In the absolute sense there are no adiaphorous matters. God cannot be indifferent to anything that concerns our conduct” (p. 147). The latter of these statements is, of course, wholly correct, but the inference that adiaphora are non-existent is unwarranted. The matter hinges on the question just what are adiaphora. The term does not refer, to human actions that have no moral quality. Since man is a moral being, nothing that he does is amoral. Nor does the term refer to actions concerning the moral quality of which God has left us in the dark. That view would amount to a denial of the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as a rule of life. Nor again does the term refer to actions the Biblical injunctions concerning which are imperfectly, and hence differently, understood by Christians. The fact that Christians differ as to the propriety of membership in the Masonic Order does not make such membership less wrong. Adiaphora are simply matters of which Scripture approves without commanding them. The moderate use of wine is a good example. In the Institutes Calvin has pointed out the importance of the Christian’s maintaining this aspect of his liberty. Says the great Genevan: “The knowledge of this liberty is very necessary for us; where it is wanting our consciences will have no rest, there will be no end of superstition…When once the conscience is entangled in the net, it enters a long and inextricable labyrinth, from which it is afterwards most difficult to escape.” (III, XIX, 7).
One example of a dubious “standard for fun” may be named. The writer condemns participation in dangerous sports, and we are forbidden to seek enjoyment in witnessing them (p. 153). But is this not an instance of unwarranted generalization? Do not practically all sports involve a measure of danger? And is not the facing of danger one way of building physical courage? Surely, the mother was unwise who forbade her child to get near water until it had first learned to swim.
In conclusion this reviewer would raise the question whether, after all these years of discussion in Calvinistic circles on the subject of amusements, it might not reasonably have been expected that a somewhat more precise, and therefore more satisfying, treatment of the subject would be forthcoming.
While the four chapters that were reviewed are not of equal value, together they constitute a worth-while attempt to state and apply some of the principles that should guide “Calvinistic action” in the field of education. Meanwhile it is evident that we have by no means arrived. But for that we Calvinists collectively are to blame more than are these authors. We have been both complacent and slothful. We mean to be Calvinists; we even pride ourselves on being Calvinists; but we must become much more Scriptural Calvinists. More power to us!
PART III CHAPTERS IX–XIII
By JOHN P. CLELLAND
PART THREE of the Symposium is entitled “Calvinistic Action and the Political and Social Spheres.” It consists of five chapters on politics economics, social problems and international relations.
By way of introduction, may we say that the very existence of this section is a good sign. It shows that Calvinistic action relates to more than the salvation of men’s souls. The writer remembers from his student days how many earnest Christian students confined their “action” to the prayer-meeting and the gospel team. Political and social problems held little interest for them. Just get men saved! This is a common error of fundamentalism and it is indeed refreshing to find herein the Calvinistic thesis that all of life is to be God-centered.
Another excellence of this section is its constant appeal to Scripture. Contemporary liberal Christianity is much interested in these same problems but it has rejected the Divine Word. Consequently it has no rock and builds on the quicksands of human logic and expediency. All the writers of these chapters view their problems in the light of God’s infallible Word.
A third virtue of these articles is their attempt to be self-consciously Christian, to rise above class interest and tradition. All too many Christians fail in this regard and, hence, hold social and economic views without evaluating them in the light of Scripture.
“Calvinism and Political Action”
Dr. William Spoelhof, president of Calvin College, in his chapter on Political Action does not seek to give an exposition of the principles of Calvinism in politics but rather to discuss what Calvinists in America can do in the field of politics. We cannot copy the Dutch program because of the different situation in America. A Calvinistic political party or even an orthodox Christian party seem to offer little hope. Rather he favors working through the existing political forms. He labels this form of action “permeation” and contends we may do this on the ground of expediency without compromising our principles. We believe he is right in this contention.
Dr. Spoelhof recognizes the impossibility of capturing either of the national political parties or of being a decisive factor within them. His best suggestion is that we form a Calvinistic pressure group, a sort of lobby. We agree with his contention that pressure groups are not bad in themselves and have saved our democracy from the evils of exaggerated partisanship. However we think that he fails to recognize what a tiny minority Calvinists are in this country and pressure groups depends on numbers. To say nothing of the difficulty of getting Calvinists to agree among’ themselves.
He, we believe, makes his best suggestions in the field of local government. Here small groups can be most effective. He is right in urging cooperation with like minds. The Ladies’ Home Journal in its series on women in politics keeps insisting on the necessity of work at the precinct level. Calvinistic political action surely must begin at home. If we cannot do much in the nation we can do something in our home town.
In contrast to the articles on economics, Dr. Spoelhof does not enter into a discussion of political views and policies. This would seem to be a deficiency in view of the importance of politics to the life and freedom of modern man.
“Calvinistic Action and Modern Economic Patterns”
Dr. Henry Ryskamp gives a sane and well balanced survey of modern economic patterns. He recognizes the sinfulness inherent in all human systems. This keeps him from identifying capitalism with Christianity as the National Association of Evangelicals and the American Council of Christian Churches tend to do. He points out the impersonal character of modern capitalism, its tendency to be smug, the weakness of labor (in times past) in relation to capital, the need of governmental intervention to check greed and monopoly. He rightly relates Adam Smith to eighteenth century deism. He also does not fail to see the evils of socialism and excessive government controls and their threat to human freedom He makes individual freedom and opportunity the touchstone by which to judge economic questions.
This reviewer would probably, if he had been writing the article, placed a little more stress on the perils posed to human freedom by deficit financing, labor monopolies and the growing power of the state. He would also be more insistent on “the discipline of the market” as being better economically than the present maze of controls.
“Calvinism and Contemporary Business Endeavor”
Mr. J. Herman Fles is a Christian business man and his chapter is characterized by practicality and a heartwarming Christian devotion. Both he and Dr. Ryskamp build their economics on sound Biblical principles, the service of God and love for our fellow-men. Mr. Fles is a strong believer in private enterprise but he is no “rugged individualist.” He has too much social conscience for that. Accordingly he accepts the need of government intervention to stop abuses. He is strong for competition but forthright in his warning against competitive abuse. The Calvinist is a trustee to God, the absolute owner. We wish all Christian business and professional men could read this chapter with its sense of “vocation” from God and its warning against materialism. There is not as much difference as we are apt to think between communistic materialism and the materialism that is so evident in our democratic society. Mr. Fles gives the antidote for this evil and in so doing is a sound defender both of democracy and Christianity. Of course, he writes out of his own business experience. The laborer in the great factory and the member of management lost in the lower echelons of the big corporation may feel frustrated in his desire to be a Christian in his business endeavor but the principles here enunciated are sound and should be practiced in the sphere of their influence by all who labor.
“Calvinism and Social Problems”
Christianity has ofttimes been deficient in its social conscience. Orthodox Christianity is frequently deficient still. No such lack wiII be observed in the chapter by Dr. Heyns on “Calvinism and Social Problems.” There is here no unbiblical preoccupation with heaven, none of that emphasis on the Second Coming and despaIr of this evil world which so often has caused Christians to withdraw from the world and its problems. Also there is an absence of that smugness and pharisaism which has left professed followers of the compassionate Jesus blind and indifferent to the human needs of those around them.
We rejoice in the forthright stand taken by Dr. Heyns on the race question. He comes out against any idea of racial inferiority. He opposes discrimination and segregation. He says that the negro should be welcomed into membership in our congregatIOns. The resolutions on the race problem adopted by The Young Calvinist Federation are developed by Dr. Heyns. It is particularly good to read this at a time when the Calvinists of South Africa by their vicious apartheid policy are bringing the word Calvinist into worldwide reproach.
The rest of the chapter is devoted to rather brief comments on law and order, dependency, poverty, the unemployed and aged, housing, public health and morality. In all these areas there is an expression of Christian love and concern. We do feel that a sort of “social worker” mentality is evident. Why is there not a clear statement of family responsibility as prior to group and state responsibility? Needs are clearly seen and expressed but how about state extravagance, bureaucracy and overmuch interference? Would many Calvinists agree with the rather casual acceptance of “socialized medicine?” Finally in a chapter on social problems why should not marriage and divorce be discussed? We hope these criticisms are taken as referring only to perspectIve and not as minimizing the real needs Dr. Heyns faces.
“Calvinism and International Relations”
Dr. Vanden Bosch is clearly an internationlist but he is on good CalvinlstIc ground in being so. He points up the modern world’s lack of community and correctly doubts that scientific humanism can produce a real feeling for humanity. Real community is found among the body of Christians who though only a minorIty are still the salt of the earth. However Christians must support efforts for international co-operation. We agree with the general thrust of Dr. Vanden Bosch’s internationalism but not all his particular recommendations. Surely the Christian should support the idea of a United Nations. But might he not believe that the veto, the ideological gulf between the Soviet and the free world, the manifest lack of power of the U.N. over its .own members make the present United Nations powerless to achieve any real international goals? We think that the iron curtain is the greatest obstacle to the development of a peaceful world rather than sharp dIfferences in living standards among nations. Point Four is surely in accord with Christian ethical ideals. Whether our government operating under group pressures and ethical expediency wiII accomplish this goal is another question. We cannot agree that the U.N. declaration on human rights and the treaty on freedom of information should have our hearty support. We believe that non-democratic governments have put jokers into these documents which nullifies their declared intentions.
The Rev. John P. Clelland is pastor of the Eastlake Orthodox Presbyterian church, Wilmington, Delaware.