THE SOUL AFTER DEATH
I would like to make a few comments regarding the Rev. Guillaume’s article in the last TORCH AND TRUMPET which dealt with the views of the Rev. B. Telder. It seems to me that Rev. Guillaume gives too much credit to Telder, credit which he does not have coming to him. Even though Rev. Guillaume does say that he does “not admire the manner of reasoning which [Telder] follows to reach his goal,” I believe he still places Telder in too favorable a light. I do not mean to say that Telder deserves to be called a heretic immediately. Calvin writes in his Institutes that there can be disputed articles of doctrine among the churches which do not break the unity of faith, and he gives as an example “that one church believes…that souls upon leaving bodies fIy to heaven, while another, not daring to definite the place, is convinced nevertheless that they live to the Lord” (IV,1,12). That is really the point at issue in Telder’s view, and apart now from the fact that he is in conflict with the creeds of his church, I suppose one may allow some leeway here.
My main criticism is that Rev. Guillaume does not really deal adequately with Telder’s position. The impression is given that Telder is worthy of our serious consideration, that he makes a real contribution toward our understanding of the problem concerned. And in my opinion that is not the case. I believe the overall weakness of Telder’s position far outweighs any points of merit he may have. This weakness lies first of all in his faulty starting-point and secondly in his superficial exegesis. This mars both of his books, and though he is perhaps a bit more positive in his second book, after reading it I can’t help getting the impression that his main purpose in writing it was to defend the view which he propagated in his first.
As to his starting point, Telder puts the cart before the horse. He begins with his unshakable presupposition that since man is a unity there can never be any separation of soul and body. Hence, at death the whole man dies and goes into the grave. Only at the final resurrection is he restored to life. Having made up his mind on tills score, Telder then goes to the Bible for confirmation. This “confirmation” consists largely in “disproving” the Biblical evidence for life (immediately) after death. This gets him into his second weakness, viz., superficial exegesis. A couple of examples will perhaps make clear what I mean. Concerning the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43), Telder said in his first book that “paradise” was the “realm of the dead.” Jesus was telling the thief that today he would join him in the grave (the realm of the dead). But, as Wiskerke, a colleague of Telder, pointed out in his book Leven tussen Sterven en Opstanding, there really wasn’t much comfort in that fact. After all, the other thief was going there tool Interpreted in this way, says Wiskerke, the words of Jesus mean “minder dan niets.” After such devastating criticism it is not too surprising that Telder abandoned this position. But he doesn’t do much better, for in his second book he capitalizes on the word “day.” Now it means: “Today (not any other time) I say to you, you shall be with me in paradise” (sometime). It is to be hoped that Telder changes once more—for the good.
A second example is his treatment of Philippians 1:21–23, where Paul says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” What does this mean? Well, says Telder, what Paul was saying was that to die was not gain for himself but for the church, for the cause of Christ. But, as Berkouwer has also pointed out, that’s exactly what Paul was not saying. For the church it would have been better to have Paul remain with them.
These examples could be multiplied, but this is sufficient to illustrate the point. It is this which makes Telder’s books so unsatisfactory.
The Rev. Guillaume believes that Telder deserves special credit for stressing over and over again that the dead are “with the Lord.” I question the accuracy of this statement. As was said before, Telder insists on the fact that at death the whole man dies. “Death rather affects man as a whole. The bodily soul dies. The be-souled body is then de-souled, that is, the life goes out of it.”1 Yet, “there is continuity, survival.”2 “The Lord continues us. We remain in His hand.” This sounds confusing, and it is until he clarifies it somewhat by saying, “he is never more to be thought of as absent from God’s attention and face.”3 All of which means in plain English that though a man is totally dead, he remains in God’s attention (aandacht) until He restores him to life again at the final resurrection. Hence, it is not accurate to paraphrase Telder as saying that we will be “with the Lord,” because for Telder this means nothing more than that we will remain in God’s thoughts as dead people until the resurrection day. Telder leaves no doubt about that.
One more point deserves mention. The Rev. Guillaume gives the impression that men like Popma and Berkouwer are in virtual agreement with Telder, which is not the case. On the main point at issue these men refuse to follow TeIder, much to his dismay. And Berkouwer even remarks in a footnote in Vol. II of his Wederkomst that it is unfortunate that Telder almost completely by-passes the present-day theological and philosophical problematics. Nor do I believe it is correct to say that Berkouwer almost rules out the existence of two different expectations. Berkouwer speaks often of a “small horizon” and a “large horizon” and even speaks of a “legitimate doctrine of the intermediate state.”
It is regrettable that thus far Telder has not presented us with a stronger case for his position, and before he can do so he will have a lot of homework in order to answer the rebuttal of his colleague Wiskerke, who has done some thorough, painstaking exegesis. Telder ought to follow his example.
1. Sterven…Waarom? p. 95. “De dood treft veeleer de mens als geheel. De lichamelijke ziel sterft. Bet bezielde lichaam wordt dan ontzield, dat wil zeggen, het leven gaat er uit.”
2. Ibid., p. 98.
3. Ibid., p. 99. “Hij is nooit meer voor Gods aandacht en aangezicht weg te denken.” Cf. also p. 96: “Maar ook als gestorvene blijft hij voor God bestaan. Hij is niet ‘weg’ want de Here waakt over zijn ‘stof.’”
SOCIALISM IS NOT THE ANSWER
The recent election is a pointed indication of a definite trend in America. It is a tread away from God and toward man. Since its scope is so large, the trend involves every part of life. One can only come close to its essence with terms like “humanism” or “modernism” or “secularism.” Perhaps “apostasy” is as inclusive a term as any.
A majority of Americans have become apostate in most walks of life. They have fallen away from Biblical principles. In theology, man pays less attention (and allegiance) to God, more to fellow-man and his would-be explanations or denials of eternal truths. In society, man is willing to have a government of men and laws fulfill his obligations to his fellow-man, sparing him the task of loving his neighbor in his heart. In economics, man gives as an excuse for neglecting his and his family’s needs all sorts of reasons which seek to lay the blame anywhere but on himself. In politics, man shows himself to be unbelievably callous to whatever corruption is brought to light in his governing bodies, choosing rather to believe that, since it is universal, evil is unavoidable. And so goes American man, away from principle and away from God.
The Christian in America is thus placed in a unique position. He must not choose the apostate man’s answer to the problems embodied in life. But at the same time he must live in that apostate society. To say that the Christian simply chooses the way of God’s Word, however, is to be unrealistic. For too many professing Christians it is not automatic or natural to turn to God’s Word. Life is, rather, an actual struggle between two warring values, as if there were two legitimate alternates: man’s ideas or God’s teachings. Sadly, too many Christians choose the popular answer, man’s answer.
The genuine Christian should know better. Yet, to explain why men kill or steal, many will say it is not sin but sickness, or possibly the result of being deprived of some material things. To avoid embarrassment at being improvident, many will have the state provide for them in many ways. And so goes the Christian, far too often relying on man’s ideas rather than God’s Word.
Possibly the most obvious proof of man’s apostasy is found in his eager and increasing acceptance of the socialism which has become so much a part of American life. Sadly, many members of the Christian Church have turned to this answer, man-centered and man-originated as it is, and sincerely believe it to be good. But it is not. Socialism is wicked.
The true Christian cannot accept man’s ideas as solutions to earthly problems. Thus, for the cause of man’s criminality he offers the doctrine of total depravity, and for man’s social obligations he points to the heart and Christ’s love working there. For all things, then, he finds God’s Word sufficient, and on that he bases his conduct, both public and private. He finds socialism to be wicked because it is contrary to the commandments of the second table of the law. Socialism is worlds apart from God’s teachings. The Christian cannot find his answer in socialism. It is still only man speaking, and man needs a solution above himself. The genuine Christian knows that, since God’s Word tells him.
The Christian Church in America ought to realize that socialism embodies religious principles. Perhaps that is why many find it attractive. Especially appealing to some in the church is the idea that each should work for all and all for each. This can be an article of religious faith, as will be at attested by its defense and propagation in college, seminary, and by certain ministers. Actually, if we are to understand what Jesus means when He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must study the various commandments of the second table of the law.
Paul said, “For he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For this: thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Romans 13:8,9). In His interpretation of these commandments, Christ tells us that more than the overt acts of murder, stealing, and adultery is meant. He says, “But I say unto you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment” (Matt. 5:22). He adds, “But I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Plainly then, any use of force against our neighbor’s person or property or family (all of which represent rights here respected by Christ) is a violation of the law of love.
To paraphrase what Paul says in Romans 13:8, 9 – “If you love your neighbor, you will not sin – against his family (adultery ), you will not use force against his person (murder), you will not molest him in the ownership of his property (theft), and besides that, you will not desire to do any of these things against him (coveting).” If we keep all these mandates, we are loving our neighbor in the Scriptural sense. “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
The foregoing is altogether consistent with the Golden Rule as Christ gave it in Matthew 7:12, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.” And what is it that one wants from his neighbor? That he respect family, person, and property; in short, that he respect one’s God-given freedom. The way to receive that sort of respect is to afford it to one’s neighbor as well. And that must be done even when the neighbor does not respond in kind.
At this point the defender of socialism will point out that this is exactly what a socialist program is trying to accomplish and that a government is better equipped to afford that respect, dignity, help, charity to all men. At least two flaws mar this argument. First, in no instance does Christ advocate the use of coercion in affording to fellow-man what one expects in return. Second, and very closely related to the illegitimacy of coercion, is the fact that at no time was Christ speaking to governments when he summarized the tables of the law. To be sure, governments may not violate moral principles, but Christ was addreSSing individuals when he demanded love. Love dwells in the heart, and no institution or group of men has a heart. Even the church exercises mercy only because it consists of individuals who have received new hearts from God and therefore love God, one another, and all men.
It makes no difference whether a man personally steals his neighbor’s property or does it more subtly through his vote or his representative voice in government. Stealing re· mains stealing, whether by overt act or by governmental decree. The government may indeed levy taxes but never for purposes that go beyond the functions ascribed to the government by the ‘Word of God. The levying of taxes for such purposes is theft. And, if one objects to this violation of the second table of the law and refuses to give up his property, the government will cast him into prison, thereby adding to the sin of stealing the sin of force against his person. Ultimately all of socialism is based on the sinful use of force.
Again the defender of socialism will protest that, if the government embarks upon a socialistic course of action, we must obey, since we have a Christian duty to comply. After all, Paul tells us to “be in subjection to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13: 1). Here also arises a flaw. The context may not be ignored. Paul adds immediately, “For rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good…a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:3,4). Here is a clear statement of the limited functions of government. Obviously, according to Scripture government has no business other than the maintenance of justice and the protection of citizens in the doing of good. Loving the neighbor is the responsibility of individuals.
Did Christ imply that we are to take from one neighbor his property or his enjoyment thereof in order to show to another neighbor the respect, dignity, help, charity required by Christian love? He said the exact opposite to the rich young ruler: “Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor.” The individual must sell, the individual must give. And what must he sell and part with, in the interest of fellow-man? The means that he himself has. He is not enjoined to take forCibly from others the means he wishes to employ in loving his neighbor as himself. For certainly then, while he might be thought to be doing good to some, he would be doing evil to others. He would not be keeping the commandments which make up the second table of the moral law.
Despite all of its religious overtones, then, socialism is man’s answer, not God’s. This is emphatically affirmed by socialists in the Soviet Union when, in their USSR Magazine, they state as their guiding principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, ALL IN THE NAME OF MAN.”
Socialists worship the word “unity”. Collectively they wish to worship, collectively they would work, collectively they would enjoy labor and its benefits, together they think to reform and ultimately to redeem mankind. The genuine Christian, who worships only God, realizes that the vertical relationship is basic. He knows also that the socialist’s unity means compromise, and knowing that, he must reject collectivism. The Bible speaks about compromise often and in many ways:
“What fellowship hath light with darkness, the believer with the unbeliever?” “Because thou art neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
“Beware when all men shall speak well of you.”
“I come not to bring peace, hut a sword.”
“Behold, 1send you forth as sheep among wolves.”
“If the salt hath lost its savor, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot.” In short, Scripture throughout stresses the antithesis of believers and unbelievers, the regenerate and the unregenerate.
Our concern is simply this: that socialism, representing as it does the apostate mind of man, seems to have become the basis for a good share of thought and action in our Christian Reformed community. For a Christian church this trend is tragic, because it shows a preference for the very godlessness we are supposed to be opposing. The outward signs are abundant;
A Christian Reformed minister prays from the pulpit for a chief spokesman of the ecumenical movement, Eugene Carson Blake, because Blake is jailed as a common lawbreaker (church unity).
A Christian Reformed college student defends socialism as the arm of the Christian (collective charity).
A Christian Reformed professor advocates a “Christian” welfare state, some sort of “benevolent monarchy” (collective mercy).
A Christian Reformed leader entertains the possibility that the World Council of Churches is “of God”; we should be part of it (church unity).
A Christian Reformed seminary professor advises his readers to vote for a socializing program; seminary students overwhelmingly vote for it.
Christian Reformed college students picket the appearance of a man of God who steadfastly resists the apostasy of the World Council and the National Council of Churches.
A Christian Refonned foreign missionary claims that new African countries need European socialism to develop.
The list could be much longer, but the point is made.
Taken singly, these incidents may not be especially significant. Combined, they add up to a grave implication for the Christian Refonned Church.
Is this to be our answer to a groping world?
Sincerely yours, The Association of Christian Laymen versus Socialism HENRY W. HOEKSEMA
CREATION vs. EVOLUTION
I was surprised to see in the January TORCH AND TRUMPET an article by Russell W. Maatman, member of the A.S.A., on “What about Evolution?” which distressed me. Maatman has a right to his opinion, but he should defend it honestly.
After a fine first paragraph Maatman cites two “extreme” positions with respect to Genesis I, first, creative evolution, and second, “a belief that the universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days no more than ten thousand years ago.” I hardly expected to see a description of the historic position of orthodox Christianity as “the other extreme approach” along with evolutionl By this strange logic Maatman has placed the evolutionist and the historic creationist in one common class as unreasonable and himself in the sane and sensible middle.
The fact remains that this “extreme position” has been the historic position of the church. Maatman ascribes it primarily to the ignorant: “Christians who themselves do not possess the skills necessary for exegeting the original text are nevertheless impressed with the testimony of those conservative scholars who claim the ‘day’ of Genesis 1 cannot be a long period of time.” This is a left-handed statement. Why not rather say that these conservative scholars have found no ground in the text for more than a normal day in the Genesis account? But Maatman’s sentence subject is “Christians who themselves do not possess the skills necessary for exegeting the original text.” And conservative scholars are reduced to having made a “claim” for their position, nothing being said of the exegetical weight of the evidence. Thereupon we have a manufactured problem about starlight which totally bypasses the plain fact that Genesis 1 and 2 give us a picture of a mature creation. By way of conclusion we are told that these conservatives are “too interested in defending preconceived ideas.” Could they not be interested in defending the text of Scripture?
What Maatrnan fails to state is that the text apparently is not decisive for him. He poses a “Scientific” problem which rules out in his mind the twenty-four-hour day. He “exegetes” not from the text but from science into the text of the Bible. And I submit that such a method smacks of modernism, the subordination of the Word to extraneous social, scientific, political, philosophical and religious standards.
R. J. RUSHDOONY