THE NEW BIBLICISM – II
Those who take the words of Scripture literally concerning such basic doctrines as creation, election, atonement, virgin birth, resurrection. etc., are scornfully referred to by the liberals as ‘literalists.” However, when they themselves draw on the Bible for support of some of their ideas they also take the teachings of Jesus literally and, strangely enough, find no contradiction in the procedure.
Reformed scholars, on the other hand, have always accepted the plain didactic, prose statements of the Scriptures in their literal sense, leaving room for poetic and symbolic language. Biblicism, then, is the frame of mind which rejects any doctrine which cannot be directly proved from Scripture by a plain reference in so many words. This has characterized many of the sectarian groups but was not characteristic of the Reformers and of Protestantism in general.
Of late, however, some voices have been heard in Reformed circles rejecting the doctrine of eternal reprobation on the ground that it is not explicitly taught in Scripture. God, it is allowed, did choose some before the foundation of the world; but to conclude that he rejected others, they say, is an unwarranted inference. If the ultimate ground of man’s fall and of his eternal destiny is the will of God, man is said to be robbed of his freedom and God must be the author of sin. This is the conclusion of the new biblicism!
However, Calvin, in rejecting the distinction between doing and permitting, contends that men “can effect nothing but by the secret will of God, and can deliberate on nothing but what he has previously decreed,” which he proves by “innumerable testimonies” from Holy Writ (lnst. I, xviii, !). Calvin indignantly rejects the idea that God chose some because he foreknew that they would be deserving of his grace, and devoted others to the damnation of death bccause he foreknew they would be inclined to wickedness and impiety. Thus Calvin follows Paul who attributes both election and reprobation “to the mere will of God. If, therefore, we can assign no reason why he grants mercy to his people but because such is his pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but his will for the reprobation of others” (Ibid., III, xxii, 11). In the next chapter Calvin goes on to say that election implies reprobation. “Whom God passes by, therefore, he reprobates: and from no other cause than his determination to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestinates for his children” (Ibid., III, xxiii, 1).
With this position of Calvin the Reformed Creeds agree. “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree…What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal decree; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, has decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and Dot to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion” (Canons of Dort, I, 6, 15). “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death” (Confession of Faith of Presb. Church, Ch. III. Sec. 3). As in the days of Calvin, “When the human mind hears these things, its petulance breaks all restraint, and it discovers a serious and violent agitation as if alarmed by the sound of a martial trumpet” (Inst. III, xxiii, 1). And ‘“Reformed scholarship” turns biblicistic!
Henry R. Van Til
COMMUNISM AND THE BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE
Happenings at the Tenth Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, held this past summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, furnish an alarming example of Communist infiltration of ecclesiastical organizations. Dr. Jacob I. Zhidkov, a Russian Baptist, who was re-elected as a vice president, said in an address at the Congress: “In September, 1959, the Soviet Government submitted to the United Nations a Declaration for universal and complete disarmament….This Declaration must be dear to the hearts of aU Christians, as dear as the words of the Bible in the book of the prophet Isaiah (2:4)….This most human Declaration can become the only base which will unite all Christian churches for activities in one direction—to beat all swords into ploughshares, and all spears into pruning hooks, that is, the destruction of all types of weapons.”
We are told in a release of the ICCC (International Council of Christian Churches) that Zhidkov’s speech was received without applause. One delegate from Sao Paulo, pastor of the First Ukrainian Baptist Church of Sao Paulo, declared after one of the delegates from Moscow presented the Hammer and Sickle on the platform: “The red on that Bag is the blood of my people.” But the official communist publication in Brazil, NOVOS RUMOS (New Directions), in a full-page spread, presented the picture of the Russian Hag, commended Zhidkov for his accomplishment, and in a streamer headline said: “Baptists Preach Peace.” The ICCC release adds: “It was their agent who did the preaching.”
Two representatives of the ICCC presented a petition to the Congress, charging that Zhidkov and his companions were agents of the Kremlin, but the petition never came to the attention of the delegates. Dr. Theodore Adams, past president of the Baptist World Alliance, who just retired as president, made the statement in the July 20, 1960, edition of the News-Leader of Richmond, Virginia: “I am delighted that the Alliance showed faith in the Russian delegation by re-electing Dr. Jacob I. Zhidkov a vice president.” This was perhaps one of the things that leads the ICCC release to state that “the victory which the communists won in this Alliance was complete.”
The incident suggests many comments. For one thing, it shows how completely even leaders of the free churches in Russia have been brainwashed by the Communist bosses in Russia and that it is possible for an atheistic, anti-Christian world power to infiltrate Christian churches to such an extent that they speak with the voice of the great Dragon while still imagining that they are representing the cause of Christ. We are reminded of the words of Jesus that in the last days false prophets will arise and, if that were possible, would lead astray even the elect. And how is it possible even for church leaders in the U.S., like Dr. Adams, to be so gullible as to swallow whole the pious words of the wolves in sheep’s clothing who praise the hypocritical disarmament pleas of the Soviet rulers! Truly, the penetration of Communist influence into churches and church councils in the United States is not a bugbear of flighty alarmists. It is real. Let us be on our guard.
Henry J. Kuiper
HOW CONSISTORIES CAN ENABLE MINISTERS TO BUY BOOKS
A Minister must have many books -books on systematic theology, books 00 church history, books on the application of Christianity to everyday life, books on philosophy, ethics, apologetics, modem theological trends, etc. He needs basic reference works in which he will read only a paragraph one month and a page one year. He needs commentaries on all the books of the Bible—old classics and modern ones built on the latest findings. He needs magazines of Reformed thought—both those within and without the denomination—and magazines by others who think differently from him so that he can be aware of the issues of the day. He needs some non-theological magazines and books so that he may be well-rounded. But this costs much. Year after year this writer has spent $400 annually for such books and periodicals. This has been possible because of his church, which provided a large enough salary. Other ministers are not so fortunate and are reluctant to spend money for books when they need it elsewhere. One practical help along these lines would be for a congregation to allow its minister a $200 budget each year to be used only for the purchase of books and magazines. This is not wasted money. Just a few extra worthwhile ideas that may come from this encouraged reading will be worth many times more than the $200.
Edwin H. Palmer
TOTAL DEPRAVITY AND COMMUNISM
Never be ashamed of what is characteristically Calvinistic. In a day when lukewarm Calvinists—those half-and-half brothers -make apologies for whatever is distinctive in our Confessions, support for our glorious heritage comes from all kinds of quarters. Who, for example, would ever have expected such support to come out of “A Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, United States Senate, 85th Congress”? Yet, there it is. Before this subcommittee Ira H. Latimer, Chicago, Illinois, stated the following:
“I have thought a great deal about this phenomenon of popular American disbelief in the dirt and murder of communism. It is so striking that I have tried to delve deeply for an explanation. I think there are two religious and philosophical foundations involved…The first foundation is the optimism of Americans who have been trained to believe…that in the end they will always win.” He then issues the warning, “Pride goeth before a fall.”
He continues, “The second foundation, upon which the acceptance or tolerance of communism rests, is a belief in the natural goodness of man. Our forefathcrs did not so believe. They were profoundly skeptical of the trustworthiness of any man or men, themselves included…Unless the churches recover some measure of the skepticism about human nature, entertained by great doctors of the Catholic Church like Augustine, or by Protestants like Calvin, Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards, I fear we are all comfortably resting in the shooting gallery of Communist materialism.”
Have you ever thought of it in this way, namely, that the preaching of the doctrine of total depravity is also a good remedy against the danger of the infiltration of Communistic error? Don’t sell Calvinism short.
“FRIGHTENING MORAL SLUMP”
The “frightening moral slump” observable in our land today was the topic of ex-president Hoover’s address at the Republican convention in Chicago last July. The speaker minced no words in describing the all-time low in moral behavior which characterizes American life at the present time. Mr. Hoover must have known in advance that to sound such a note amidst the whoopla of a political convention would not be hailed as an example of appropriateness. As a matter of fact, the audience paid little attention to what the speaker said about the appalling indifference to law and morality which disgraces our country today. One could tell that he failed to strike a popular note. It must have taken great moral courage to sound an alarm at an occasion which seemed to call for nothing but praise for political accomplishments during the Eisenhower administration. However, when Mr. Hoover stated his reasons for believing that America would recover from its moral slump, such as the spirit of nationalism and our contributions to the well being of other nations, he was not convincing. Nothing short of a true religious awakening, national repentance, and a return to the commandments of God and the teachings of the Bible will lift us up out of the morass of moral indifference into which we have sunk. May God’s people in our land set an example of true repentance, of renewed devotion to the law and the service of God, and of fearless testimony against all the putrid things in our national life.
Henry J. Kuiper