Many a labor union has become nauseatingly corrupt because of the good people in them—because the good people rarely attended the union meetings and rarely spoke up. Similarly, many a church has become modernistic because of the silence of its good members. A lucid example of this is seen in the history of the last 100 years of the big Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. At the turn of the century the conservatives were in the vast majority. They even made such strongly conservative pronouncements as the Portland Declaration on infallibility of 1892. But, as Prof. L. A. Loetscher points out in his The Broadening Church, the conservatives kept quiet. They were indifferent. They did DOt speak out on the incipient non-orthodoxy of the day. They were slow in bringing heresy charges. As a result the church broadened (hence, the title of Loetscher’s book) and even reversed itself so much that it became intolerant of the orthodoxy that it once cherished and forced out of the church leading Calvinists. What is the cause of the corruption in once good labor unions and the cause of modernism in once orthodox churches? Not necessarily or chiefly the direct onslaught of a brazen racketeer or an outspoken modernist but a union and church membership that is oh, so orthodox but one that does not trumpet forth its Biblical convictions. This silence of good orthodox people is one of the greatest dangers facing orthodox churches today.
LEAVE ROOM FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT An elderly pastor, about to retire from the active ministry, one evening had as his dinner guest a young pastor serving his first church. Said the older minister, “You have recently entered the ministry and I am soon to retire. May I ask, What do you find your greatest difficulty?” The young man replied, “To make the congregation see and experience the Gospel.” His host was quiet for a moment, and then said, “Would you leave nothing to the Holy Spirit?”
Apparently, the older pastor had detected in his guest an excessive self-concern about the immediate results of his preaching. Here is an observation that can be profitable for parents. preachers, and teachers. Excessive self-concern may lead to neurotic anxiety. In our eagerness to get results quickly we put too much confidence in our own methods, plans, and programs. We become exhausted trying this and that. We act as if nothing is to be left to God’s Spirit. One writer accuses today’s ministers of having a “trade journal complex.” They spend too much time with the latest devices, stratagems. and promotional ideas. We might all profit from less of this hurrying about to conferences and conventions and more of a quiet waiting upon God. It is He who gives the increase. Work hard? By all means! Study? Of counsel but never as a substitute for prayer. An old adage puts it this way: “Work as if everything depends upon you; pray as if everything depends upon God.” Finally, everything does depend on Him!
L.G.SELF-CRITICISM There are two kinds of critics: those who feel free to criticize others but resent criticism when it comes their way and those who not only criticize the views or lives of others but also welcome criticism of themselves as one of the means toward self-improvement.
We need critics. Literally a critic is one who judges. As human beings endowed with intelligence and foresight and with a stake in the conduct of others, we cannot escape the duty at times to differ publicly with those whose views clash with ours. But we cannot justly claim to be sincere in our criticism unless we are willing to be on the receiving as well as the giving end. Especially those of us who participate in the activities of the church and seek to give guidance should never resent criticism, especially when it is of the constructive kind. As we get older and review our past life we feel we at times should have been criticized in love for the things we now criticize in our own past conduct and views! Whether minister, professor, elder, deacon, or leading layman, we would have done much better work for the kingdom and might have overcome serious faults or weaknesses in our work if only those near us had been frank enough to correct us. To welcome criticism does not necessarily mean that we must agree with every unfavorable judgment about our views or our work. But it does mean that we shall not react in anger or hatred against those who express disagreement with our views or see weaknesses in our conduct or mistakes in our policies. The very fact that correction is so seldom received gracefully explains why so few Christians ever undertake to offer it. Apparently we are not sufficiently mature spiritually to admonish others in love or to receive such admonition in the same spirit.
H.J.K.“AMERICA IS A CATHOLIC COUNTRY” So says J.J. O’Connor, chairman of the Catholic Committee for Historical Truth, according to an article in The Church Herald of August 5, 1960. We quote the following paragraph: “We now have more than 100 Catholics in Congress, 18 or 20 Catholic governors and thousands of Catholics in our state legislatures. If these Catholics would forget the by now meaningless designation of ‘Republican’ and ‘Democrat’ and work together, keeping in mind the social and economic doctrines set out through the generations by the Church since at least the days of St. Thomas Aquinas, and if we elect a Catholic as president to take his place at the head of the Army of God, we cannot only march triumphant against the scourge of Communism but we can bring a true and lasting peace to the entire world and make the United States a Catholic country in a real sense, and the greatest nation of all time. We are at a crossroad now. We can take the road to destruction and damnation, or we can take the road to God and glory. And we must do it at the ballot box.”
H.J.K.A NOTE ON “ACTUAL HISTORICAL INACCURACIES” With regard to the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures the 1959 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church adopted the following statement: “It is inconsonant with the Creeds to declare or suggest that there is an area of Scripture in which it is allowable to posit the possibility of actual historical inaccuracies. (Cf. Article V, Belgic Confession, ‘believing without any doubt all things contained therein.’)”
The very right of Synod to adopt such a statement has been challenged on grounds we need not discuss here. But the Synod of 1960 set this challenge aside. However, the statement as such has also been challenged. A criticism leveled against it is that the statement fails to indicate whether it applies to the original manuscripts of the Bible or to the Bible we use today. (See such criticism in the Yearbook 1960 of the Christian Reformed Church, p. 294.)
It is farthest from my thoughts to suggest that the statement in question is beyond criticism. However, it must be said that the particular criticism mentioned above is beside the point. The statement applies to the original manuscripts, of course, and also to the Bible we use today. In neither case may we speak of “actual historical inaccuracies” (italics mine, E.H.).
The statement manifestly expresses the conviction that the Word of the God of truth cannot contain “actual historical inaccuracies.” The Holy Spirit did not and could not author actual error or untruth. So it is plain that the original writings could contain no such thing. It should be perfectly evident that this is what the 1959 statement says first of all. We note that the statement speaks of “Scripture.” This is quite in line with the Belgic Confession, which always speaks of “His holy and divine Word,” “this Word of God,” “the Holy Scriptures,” “the truth of God.” Such designations can apply, strictly speaking. only to that which the Holy Spirit authored.
Now what about the Bible we use today? The Holy Scriptures have been marvelously preserved through the centuries. However, the possibility must be allowed that minor and inconsequential errors or inaccuracies may have crept into the text during the long process of transmission. But such things do not belong to Scripture. If such minor faults can be shown to exist in our present Bible, they were imported into the original pure text of Scripture through human error and frailty. They are not truly part of the Holy Word of God. Therefore, they are not “actual historical inaccuracies.” An actual historical inaccuracy in “Scripture” would be one that was part of the original text and thus authored by the Holy Spirit. The faith behind Synod’s declaration says that this cannot be.
E.H.CONFUSION IN REGARD TO ORTHODOXY One of the ways in which some lead the church astray is to put new meanings into old terms without indicating that they are used in a novel sense. A few weeks ago one of the writers of the Daily Manna Calendar, which many of us have been reading for years and practically always with much pleasure and profit, persistently used the word orthodox in a sense which could easily make it odious in the minds of the readers. The writer was Rev. Leonard Verduin, our fellow–pastor of Ann Arbor, Michigan. In seeking to explain what moved Jonah to refuse to preach to the people of Nineveh. he pointed to the prophet’s “orthodoxy!” The Pharisees, too, we were told, opposed the teachings of Jesus Christ because they were orthodox; also that Simon Peter’s “orthodoxy” made him recall from fellowshipping with the Gentiles who believed in Christ The implication of the writer’s constant play on the word “orthodox” seemed to be: Beware of orthodoxy; if you are orthodox you are on the wrong track! The use of the word in quotation marks scarcely concealed his apparent distaste for the term. Instead of charging Jonah, the Pharisees, and Simon Peter with dead orthodoxy or false orthodoxy, thereby safeguarding the proper use of the term and creating a favorable disposition toward genuine orthodoxy, the writer cast reflection on a word that should be precious to all who love the truth of God. For to be orthodox means literally to be straight, correct, in our thinking. Orthodoxy is conformity to the plumb line, the perfect standard, of divinely revealed both. It is not easy to draw a perfectly straight line; neither is it easy to be orthodox. This term is not used in the New Testament but Paul does speak about “sound doctrine” (I Timothy 1:10; II Timothy 4;3; Titus 1:9). This means literally “healthful teaching.” If a doctrine is orthodox, it is the product of straight, God-directed thinking. and is sure to be spiritually healthful. Heterodox teaching is health-destroying, death-producing.
The term “orthodox” was misapplied in each of the instances discussed in the series above mentioned. It was not Jonah’s orthodoxy but his narrow patriotism, his conviction that Nineveh’s might was a threat to Israel’s safety, which moved him to refuse to preach against it, knowing it might then repent and be spared. If he was also motivated by the belief that God was only the God of Israel, that belief was heterodox, not orthodox, because it was contrary even to the Old Testament Scripture. Though the Pharisees were the strictest sect among the Jews in our Lord’s day, their doctrine of salvation by good works was heretical. not orthodox. Simon Peter’s reluctance to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, without insisting on circumcision and other provisions of the ceremonial law, was surely not the fruit of orthodox Christian belief.
Liberals in theology often speak unfavorably and even scornfully of orthodox Christianity. It is hard to understand why brethren who confess the orthodox faith should do this.
W.K.–H.J.K.THE HISTORICAL PROTESTANT VIEW OF SCRIPTURE “Modern Protestantism rejects the historic Protestant account of the authority of the Bible.
“The old view, not merely of historic Protestantism, but of the Scholastics, the Fathers, and, as can be easily shown, of Christ and his Apostles too—was that the authority of Scripture derived from the fact of its divine origin, the fact that, in Calvin’s phrase, ‘it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God’ (Institutes, I, vii, 5). In other words, Scripture is authoritative because it is, as Article XX puts it, “God’s Word written.’ What Scripture says, God says; the narrator of the histories, the poet of the Psalms, the theologian of the Epistles, the speaker of the prophecies, the instructor in the Wisdom books, is in the last analysis God the Holy Ghost. ‘The words of the Scripture are therefore to be revered as the utterance of God. true, trustworthy, and divinely authoritative, and all sound Biblical study must be founded on the certainty that this is the deepest truth about the writings under examination.
“It is disconcerting to find that these professedly reformed Liberals still follow their predecessors in rejecting this view as untenable—not on the grounds that Christ and his apostles did not actually teach it (scarcely a scholar nowadays denies that they did), but on the grounds that modern biblical scholarship has shown it to be false. This, of course, was precisely the contention of the older Liberalism, and it is interesting to see that it is presented today in a form that is virtually unchanged from that which it took seventy years ago, in the days when B.B. Warfield hammered it so hard. No new arguments seem to have been produced to support it; all that is said in its favor has been said many times before, and refuted no less often.” Dr. J. I. Packer in The Bible TimesHOW MODERNISM ENTERS THE CHURCH Last November a special convocation was held in the University of Chicago Chapel to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species. The lecturer for the occasion was Sir Julian Huxley. He spoke on the topic: “The Evolutionary Vision.” Said he, “Religions are destined to disappear. As once, some 300 million years ago, the amphibians left the water and learned to live on land or in the air, so now man has made a break-through to psychological evolution...Our feet still drag in the biological mud even though we can lift our heads into the conscious air…To really free himself man must stop creeping for shelter to the anus of a divinized father-figure whom he has himself created and stop trying to escape responsibility by sheltering under the umbrella of divine authority.”
That was said, mark you, in a chapel erected and dedicated for Christian worship. It was said in a place where a Bible rests on an elevated pulpit and where anthems and hymns of the Church are sung every Sunday. It was said in a chapel whose hand–forged carillon bells daily send out Gospel tunes. What incongruousness! People bowing their heads in prayer to the God who is said to be on His way out! Fact is, He never really was in, says Julian Hurley. That an atheist is permitted so to speak in a “chapel” is utterly beyond our understanding. But it happened in Chicago. True, such situations do not develop overnight. Timothy Dwight, once president of Yale University, wrote a respectable Systematic Theology. It still is respectable but no longer is respected at Yale. Theological giants once lectured in Princeton’s classrooms. Among them was Robert Dick Wilson who said to his students as he paced back and forth before them, “Gentlemen, I find it reasonable to believe that God created the heavens and the earth, as Genesis says He did.” That was at Princeton, but not today’s Princeton.
No, it doesn’t happen overnight It is a slow, macerating process. And that is precisely its treacherousness! Here and there a conservative Bible–believing teacher hangs on. One wonders how long he will remain. Certainly he needs our prayers. When such religious deterioration seeps into academic circles, it is only a question of time before its corruption spreads everywhere. Dr. John E. Kuizenga, who once taught theology at Princeton, said to a class of which the writer of these paragraphs was a member, “Modernism in a denomination doesn’t work from the bottom up. It works from the top down. It doesn’t start with the grass root constituency in a western prairie church. It filters in on high academic levels and then works its way down.”