AMERICA’S DAY IN SPACE
Few Americans are unaware of what happened on February 20, 1962. As a matter of fact, it is probably correct to say that few people in the free world are unaware of the dramatic events of that day.
On that day, in the open view of all mankind, America s successfully launched a man into orbit around the earth in a space capsule, and after he made three trips around the earth he was brought back into the earth’s atmosphere and retrieved from his predetermined landing place in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was indeed a thrilling: day. To be sure, there may be misgivings as to the fantastic cost of these activities. There are questions as to where these adventures in space will lead. But history has a way of moving on in disdain of those who have misgivings. Space exploration with its unlimited challenges and adventure is here and men will go on into space so long as God permits them.
Certain facets of this stirring event are especially gratifying. We can find satisfaction in the fact that the United States did not seek to launch a man into orbit until all was in readiness. Although our nation chafed under the “fact” that months ago Russia had already done this twice, still those in charge of the project waited until all conditions clearly said Go. There was something solid and mature and reassuring about this deliberate action in the face of frustrating delays.
As many have pointed out, the openness of this performance was most refreshing in the present world situation. Without question the free nations gained a tremendous propaganda advantage through the complete openness of the events of February 20.
The third aspect that is especially gratifying is that the central figure in this tremendous event, John Glenn, is a sincere and humble Christian. His public utterances leave no doubt as to his Christian profession. There is something most fitting in the fact that the first representative of our nation to travel through the outer reaches of space should be one who honors the Creator and Lord of all the universe. The combination of scientific knowledge and humble Christian faith that Glenn has demonstrated has added a special dimension of deeper wisdom to this historic development. It is particularly at this point that we endorse the words of those who speak of this event as our nation’s “finest hour.”
“AND YOUR CHILDREN”
This is the promise which God makes to believing parents. How deeply we ought to appreciate this promise. It is a promise for the children whom we love more than anything else in our lives. Concerning these children we have to confess by nature they are children of wrath and therefore subject to all misery, even to condemnation itself.
How wonderfully this promise changes that sad picture! God declares that he will be their God as well as ours. We cannot begin to measure the difference; by nature children of wrath—but by this promise sanctified in Christ and assured that God will be their God.
To understand the riches of this promise it is necessary to know who God is, to know him as the exalted One, who nevertheless is willing to dwell with his people. It is equally necessary that we know who man. is, especially in the state of sin. We must understand the redemptive work of Christ as well as the sanctifying labors of the Holy Spirit. Such knowledge can be gained only from the revelation of God.
Is it not strange that often we find so little interest in the study of the Word of God? The complaint about the lack of interest in the study of the Scriptures is general; but how about you, my reader? Are you eager to enjoy the blessings of God included in his promise: “and to your children”? And are you determined to bring your children to an understanding and appreciation of these blessings? God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth that shall be also reap. God expects of us as parents that we shall instruct our children not only in the riches of the promise but also in the demands which this promise implies. We should do this not occasionally but constantly. There is always need of self-examination. Are we really trying to search out the depth of God’s love in giving this promise? Are we continually busy to make our children understand their privilege? Indifference will result in the changing of the blessing into a curse.
ARE MOST PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS ATHEISTS?
We often hear it said that our public schools are atheistic and that we Christians for that reason should provide Christian schools for Our children. If by the statement “public schools are atheistic” we mean that the majority of teachers in a typical public school in America are atheists and are deliberately trying to make atheists of our children, we arc saying something that simply is not true. I am sure the number of teachers attempting to do the thing mentioned above is very few. Indeed, I believe the number is so few that we make ourselves ridiculous in trying on that basis to build a case for the Christian Day School System. It is far more in keeping with the facts to build an argument on the basis of sccularism in our public schools. Here is something actual, something that can be proved. There are many teachers in our public day schools who after hours and particularly on Sundays take an active part in church work. They are Christians. Somc of them are Sunday School teachers. Some sing in church choirs. Not a few of them are faithful worshippers in orthodox Christian churches. But when they function as school teachers, they work under a system which in most instances forbids Christian interpretation and Christian emphasis in teaching. They must talk about man, about the world and about world events without talking about God. TIley must teach history without saying anything about the God who makes history. And in all this they necessarily give the impression that God doesn’t matter. The minute they say He does matter, they may be accused of sectarianism. That is the secularism of public school education. And that secular· ism is as much a world-view to be taken by faith as is the world-view of Calvinism. Here we have a much better argument for the Christian Day School System. It is not the best argument, but it is a good one. Its main thrust is against the familiar contention that public school education is neutral. It is nothing of the kind! One is not neutral when one gives the impression that God does not matter!
MAN-POWER FOR EVANGELISM
Very notable and commendable among us is the S-W-I-M (Summer Workshop In Missions) program of evangelism. It taps our youth-power resources for present mission effort and (often we hope) for future careers.
It suggests still wider study and effort in enlisting manpower for evangelism. One area now comes to mind: that of our still-healthy, retired, or more-leisured men.
One said to me recently: “Our church ought to do more to provide activities for its senior men.” The answer is: “God has provided them a grand over-all program, ‘Ye shall be my witnesses’.” The Bible calls us “a people for his own possession that ye may show forth the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
This, of course, is not to suggest that special charts on behalf of the aging are needless. But, surely, we should do all we can to activate and carry on the best possible use of this splendid kingdom man-power.
The Mormons, and others, push their programs very aggressively and very largely by the use of their laymen. The New Testament holds before us the ideal of an all-member-including evangelism: “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
Among our older men is much love for the Lord, much. zeal for the church and kingdom, a great concern for souls, a goodly maturity of insight and approach, and a still-large reservoir of mental and physical strength.
Surely, these men will let their light shine individually. but let the church also do all it can to harness this manpower for evangelism. In this will be rich blessing for those who take part in the program and for those reached by it; and glory to our God.
WHAT IS THE ANTITHESIS?
Today the antithesis cannot mean that we sound an empty, belligerent note. Today as in any day it can only be rightly confessed in full consciousness of the complete solidarity of Christian and non-Christian in the sin and guilt of mankind which has brought the earth to the very edge of disaster.
For the antithesis goes right through Christian life itself! In personal life, Christian family life, Christian organizations and political parties, and even in the Christian Church—everywhere we find, alongside of the gratifying appearances of real life, the disquieting symptoms of apostasy or of schism and dividedness, which arc manifestations of the turbulent spirit of darkness, which especially in these areas carries on in the most shocking way the fight against the Spirit of Christ.
The antithesis is not a line of demarcation which places the so-called Christian people over against the anti-Christian part of the population. It is the irreconcilable conflict between two opposing types of spiritual principle, which goes through the entire nation, yea, through all of mankind, and which honors no so-called “safe” places or patterns in Christian life.
If ever the Christian idea of the antithesis should find its root and nourishment in man, then it would be a discovery directly traceable to Satan, and a source of all kinds of hypocrisy and Pharisaic pride.
But whenever it still senses that its working is indeed a struggle between the Spirit of Cod and the spirit of darkness, then it must out of a spirit of deep humility thank God for the grace which he thereby shows to the world, and acknowledge that this is not to be attributed to us as Christians.
–Herman Dooyeweerd, Vemieuwing en Bezinning om het Reformatorisch Grondmotief. pp. 3, 4 (tr. by J. H. P.)
NEW PATCH – OLD GARMENT?
There seems to be a strong tendency today to practise what some choose to call “Christian liberty.” But in many cases it requires little sober thinking to question whether these practices can honestly be classified as “Christian” or as “liberty.”
No one will deny that the life in Christ is indeed one of liberty rather than that of bondage. And this liberty of the Christian is exceedingly wide in scope, not only because “every creature of God is good,” but because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (1 Cor. 10:28b). The whole world, and everything in it, is Christ’s (Matt. 28:18), and therefore the Christian who reigns with Christ has free use of all, for “in Christ we are persuaded that there is nothing unclean of itself” (Rom. 14:14, 20). And in this fellowship with the Savior nothing is excluded, “all are yours: the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come” (I Cor. 3:21, 22). This gives each individual Christian such personal liberty that Paul denies others the right to infringe upon it by making their conscience a .rule for his life (I Cor. 10:29).
It becomes disturbing and spiritually dangerous, however, when church members appeal to such passages as the above as if they give them a divine license to do whatever they find gratifying, pleasant, and relaxing. These members commit the error of cutting a patch from a new garment to mend the old (Luke 5, Matt. 9). Such, at least, was Christ’s answer to the disciples of John and those of the Pharisees who were perplexed because Jesus and his disciples went on eating and drinking as if no obligation rested upon them to fast.
By comparing the subject in question to a new patch on an old garment, Jesus actually tells them that the matter of fasting is only a small part of a far greater subject. And Jesus goes on to suggest that his eating and drinking, and that of his disciples, could only be explained in the light of Jesus’ entire work of salvation, and when seen in that connection it is not just a mere patch but a part of the whole garment of redemption. In fine, to eat and drink apart from redemption’s plan is ruinous. It is like cutting a patch from a new garment and applying it to one that is old and worn thin. This ruins the new and also the old garment. In the case of the Pharisees Jesus pointed out that the life which springs from grace and faith (new cloth) cannot be combined, even in a small part, with the formalistic fasting of Pharisaic Judaism. The proper thing to do is to put away the formalism of this Pharisaic Judaism in exchange for the whole new garment of redemption in Christ.
The same parable may be applied to Christian liberty. True Christian liberty springs only from the life of grace and faith in Jesus Christ (new cloth). It cannot be combined, even in a small part, with the old garment of self-gratification of any sort. This liberty is designed solely for God’s glory and the neighbor’s salvation. All other so-called “Christian liberty,” though supposedly licensed and protected by such texts as those quoted above, is not really new cloth but a patch cut from what only appears to be the garment of redemption in Christ. It is placed upon the vesture of one’s old nature only to give it the appearance uf being Christian and to soothe an accusing conscience. This ruins both the new and old garment. It makes a shameful show of the garment of redemption in Christ, and for the individual who seeks a Christian patch for an old sinful nature it tends only to console him on the way to certain ruin.
The beauty of Christian liberty, it has been aptly said, is “not that Christ allows me to do everything, but rather that it is impossible for me to do anything without Christ.”
MAN IN SPACE
I am writing this during days of much excitement and wonderment. Colonel John Glenn has orbited the earth three times. He was shot up into space by a tremendously powerful booster, attained weightlessness, and was hurled around the earth at the incomprehensible speed of more than 17,500 miles per hour. While all America and a great part of the world watched, he made these orbits in less than five hours. However, all the while he was in radio contact with several stations placed around the world, as well as with all those who had the time and opportunity tu tune in. According to reports, thousands of men were involved in (he project, either directly or more remotely.More than 400 million dollars were expended to attain the goal. After the Bight Glenn appeared on television and seemed altogether normal. Moreover, his demeanor and modesty appeal.
Naturally we wonder about the purpose and result of all this. Have we gone to all this trouble and expense merely to maintain our prestige and national pride? Are we only vying with Russia or merely engaging in “acrobatic stunts” to display our ingenuity to the world? I can’t make myself belie we that nothing more than this is involved. In fact, we are assured that the scientific significance of these feats is very great indeed. Experts testify to this. But we as laymen wonder whether there is any military significance in this event. Are international boundaries now practically being obliterated and will an enemy be able to rain terrible destruction upon us and upon all the world?
Moreover, some have asked whether man has any business to enter regions where he can breathe and maintain life only by artificial means. If, so the argument runs, God had intended man to travel through space, he would have equipped him for that purpose. The argument may sound plausible; but neither is man equipped by nature to cross oceans, to travel in submarines, to fly in the sky, to live in arctic and antarctic regions. Man must maintain himself in these places by artificial means. No, I am not ready to say that man has no business in space; that he goes beyond God’s intent when he explores what is above the earth’s atmosphere.
Looking at this event from a “layman’s” point of view, I should like to make two observations.
First, it must be that new avenues and new frontiers are now being opened to man. At the “calculated” risk of his life he is trying to detect what is in God’s universe, how it has been constructed, how it works. That should be all to the good. As Christians, who believe in divine creation and providence, we shall not only watch these explorations with intense interest, but we shall also try to discover for what purpose the newly acquired knowledge will be used. Will God be acknowledged and honored, or will puny man exalt himself over against his Creator? Think of Romans 1!
Second, all of us have been able to observe with how much diligence and effort this enterprise was undertaken. The keenest minds have been employed; preparations have gone into minutest details; no stone was left unturned, no effort was too painstaking to make sure of success; objectives were well considered and established; the utmost was done to protect the life of a single astronaut, and no amount of money was spared. Of course, no one finds fault with all this. That’s the way it should be.
However, I cannot suppress the question why we do not put forth greater effort to labor with the Word which God has spoken. It is proper to be interested in the works of God, but first of all we should be concerned about the Word of God. Only in the light of his Word are we able to understand his works. The world should be interested in the Word of God but, being estranged from God, it cannot be expected to show any interest. But we, the people of God, should be deeply interested in it. If only half the energy which is expended to put men in space would be used to study and understand the Word of God, the church would become a mighty force in the earth. Instead of that, many speak of the truth of God, the teaching of Scripture, the dogmas of the church, as dry and sterile. Colonel Glenn was willing to wait patiently day after day for the opportune time for his flight. I wonder how many among us would be willing to exercise such patience to discover the precious treasures which God has revealed to us in his Word.
DEITY, TWENTIETH CENTURY SPECIFICATIONS
As is its wont, the British periodical, Twentieth Century, devoted several articles in its autumn issue to a special treatment of a particular subject. This time the subject chosen read, “The Gods.” Contributors included such well known names as Arnold Toynbee, the historian; the sociologist, Bryan R. Wilson; Christopher Isherwood, one of the British left-wing intelligentsia; Sir Julian Huxley, the noted evolutionist, and others.
These men came to several noteworthy conclusions concerning the status of deity in this second half of the twentieth century. They are quite fully agreed that the devotee of religion, of whatever faith, makes his gods after his own image. Nor may Christianity plead exception in this respect. It is a universal practice. Bryan R. Wilson suggests that “as social systems become rational so rationality is ascribed to the godhead, and becomes an attribute of the divine. Thus in Western Christendom God’s nature is fixed, his attitudes, at the most general level at least, are permanent; he is as much caught up in the prevailing morality as are men themselves” (p. 20).
We may also conclude from this Twentieth Century report that the gods of the twentieth century are gradually being pushed into impotence and obscurity by the advances of science. Julian Huxley expresses it as follows: “With the development of human science and learning, this universal or absolute God becomes removed further and further back from the phenomena and any control of them. As interpreted by the more desperately ‘liberal’ brands of Christianity today, he appears to the humanist as little more than the smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat, but one which is irreversibly disappearing” (p. 13).
A third characteristic of the twentieth century gods is their equality of status. In an article entitled. “Discovering Vedanta,” Christopher Isherwood describes his experiences in following the way of the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, as he joins a California Hindu cult. His experiences lead him to conclude, ‘The Christian religion has only one flaw; its claim to uniqueness. In every other respect, it’s marvelous. Naturally, as a Vedantist, I cannot admit that any religion, including Vedanta, has a claim to uniqueness. It is contrary to our deepest beliefs” (p. 66). Another writer, Edmund Rubbra, sums it up this way, “But fundamentally all religions say the same things; it is simply that for the West one technique is necessary, for the East another” (p. 73).
With the above specifications for his deity, it can be assumed that twentieth century man will not honor Christ’s claims to deity and special revelation. Arnold Toynbee gels rid of both within the compass of a few sentences. He writes, “We know, from the New Testament, the claims that were made for Jesus by his followers, and it is obvious that these claims are irreconcilable with monotheism as Judaism understands it. But the statements put into Jesus’s [sic] mouth in the Gospels are not evidence that Jesus himself ever made these claims on his own behalf” (p. 130).
In view of the above, perhaps the twentieth century Christian might be tempted to detachedly quote, “He that sitteth in the heavens shaH laugh.” Those given to a scrutiny of the signs of the times may conclude that we are in the age of the Great Apostasy. One conclusion we certainly cannot avoid. It is this, that man’s god-making hasn’t changed much in the twenty centuries which have elapsed since Paul first described man’s God-denying thoughts and ways. Another conclusion we cannot avoid: Man in this second decade of the second half of the twentieth century, as much as at any time in history, must be challenged with the message of the full-orbed gospel.
WIND AND WHIRLWIND
Stealing used to be considered a crime. Many no longer so regard it; like drunkenness, it is considered to be a disease.
This “disease” has its victims among all ages and classes of our society. We are not thinking only of masked bandits who hold up a bank or supermarket. Constantly newspapers report the breaking up of rings of thievery by children of ten to fifteen years of age, not to mention worse juvenile crimes. How oFten we read of men or women regarded as leaders in the community, “respectable” citizens who supposedly set the pace in civic and social life but succumb to the lust for money and plunder their employers. Here are just a few samples selected at random. A couple of years ago a number of executives of large corporations had to be sent to prison for price fixing and monopolistic practices. A public official of lllinois is behind the bars for abscending with one and a half million dollars. Bernard Goldfine, the darling of some politicians, until recently languished in a prison cell for income tax evasion to the tune of three to four million dollars. A finance company in Gary, Indiana, was found to be short over a million in its assets. Just recently an insurance company in Chicago was ordered to suspend operations because a million of its assets could not be accounted for. Seven officials. administrators of the funds of the Sister Kenney Foundation—a charity fund are under indictment for diverting $360,000 to their personal use. In Chicago, Denver, and Owosso, Michigan, even the police force joined the underworld. A union of electrical workers in New York managed to get a new contract granting more pay for 25 hours of work than previously for 40. 1s there a great deal of difference between this type of extortion and that of a bandit who confronts you with a gun?
In the midst of all this the church seems so strangely silent. One should expect the pulpits of our land to thunder the judgments of Cod upon n society that hides such corruption behind a cloak of respectability. But many churches are only too proud to count these “princes” of finance .among their members. Moreover, many leaders and members of the church do not regard the Decalogue as being of divine origin and authority. And don’t we in the end all go to heaven anyway?
And what about our schools? If we examine the curricula and extra-curricular activities of our schools, whether high schools, colleges or universities, we find that the whole educational program is divorced from all that savors of the Christian religion. There is no standing room for God or his Word. Nelson Bell states it succinctly in Christianity Today, Feb. 2, 1962, p. 24. Says he, “In many places we are confronted by the tyranny of an infinitesimal minority who would eliminate from all schools even n prayer or the reciting of the Ten Commandments.” Do you think our founding fathers ever dreamed, when they insisted on separation of church and state, that this would open the door to the “tyranny of an infinitesimal minority” who want an educational system divorced from all religion?
Well may we wonder whether our nation—and the church with it—will ever wake up to the fact that when, we have no divine law to obey, no God to fear who holds men accountable for their deeds, and no hell to dread, neither life nor property can be safe. As in antediluvian days, the earth is filled with violence. We have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. The real tragedy is that we keep right on sowing. And the harvest will not fail.
The responsible exercise of Christian stewardship in the matter of giving is becoming more and more complicated. Appeals for contributions come to us from many quarters and the number of these appeals is on the increase. As stewards of the Lord’s goods we must determine where our contributions can be used best for the furtherance of the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is indeed true that many requests for funds are sent out by organizations which deserve our support and consideration. Such organizations have the moral right to solicit the gifts of God’s people. It is also true, however, that there are many religious racketeers and opportunists who have found this to be a very lucrative business. This type of individual often has a nation-wide base of operation, and we as responsible stewards should be extremely selective in the causes to which we make financial contributions.
Many religious organizations address themselves especially to our church-going public for financial support. Every imaginable gimmick is used to persuade people to give. Appeals which fairly drip sentimentality and pull on all our heartstrings have proved to be most effective. The results of such high pressure tactics have been amazing. Thousands upon thousands of donors are being given to such causes by our Christian people even though they have no idea how much money is being collected and just how it is being used.
Our diaconales, too, are faced with an ever-increasing number of appeals for financial aid. In most instances they use a rather specific method to determine whether an appeal merits confidence. This same method is being used by classical and synodical assemblies of the church and should be used also by church societies and individuals. The method is really quite simple and effective. Any organization which makes an appeal for funds must declare its organizational structure and purpose. For example, it must be known who are the members of the governing body and to whom they are accountable. Furthermore, a financial statement must be available which shows exactly how much money is being collected, how it is received, and where and how it is used.
There are therefore specific questions that should be answered before we should feel free to respond to a request for a financial contribution. Is the cause a worthy one? Is it important enough to deserve our wholehearted support? Is it being sponsored by reliable persons? Is it controlled by a responsible body? Is a complete financial statement available—one that shows clearly all receipts and disbursements? In short, is there a responsible exercise of stewardship within the organization itself?
It cannot be denied that there are religious racketeers and opportunists who make appeals for funds in the interest of causes that may seem worthwhile and urgent. They are experts in the business of solicitation. But if we are good stewards of the Lord’s money we shall be careful not to fall for their line. Before you give to any cause which is not well known to you, consult your pastor, the stated clerk of our Synod, or, if the appeal is made to the general public, the Better Business Bureau of your community.