CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONS
Is the Christian day school a selfish institution, that is, an enterprise purely for local benefit? When we give our dollars to this cause, are we merely “doing something for ourselves”? Shouldn’t the church be more interested in doing things “for others,” especially for the teeming millions seemingly bound for everlasting punishment? Isn’t Missions really much more important than Christian education? Suggestions of this sort are being made nowadays, even within the areas usually regarded as most vigorously pro-Christian School.
The predicament created by these suggestions is a false one.
The Christian School is not to be seen as a pet project for the benefit of “our children.” It is the embodiment of faithful devotion to Christian calling on the part of parents, who understand that theirs is the calling to be vice-regents of God with respect to the training of Covenant youth, a training which must equip them to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Nor is Christian Missions a kind of benevolence for less fortunate peoples, preferably in far distant lands. It is the carrying out of the Great Commission given to the church, from which she can never escape without losing her essential character as the apostolic body of Christ.
There is only one solution to the problem of how much stress ought to be placed on one or the other of these necessary Christian activities. It is not to playoff the one against the other. It is not to divide the church into Christian School and Missions enthusiasts. It is rather to see the proper and pressing demand of God upon the Christian to serve his God in every sphere and according to the nature of that sphere.
Anything else will result in a narrowing down of the range of the Savior’s benefits, and of the Lord’s calling. And this is fatal, for he is King of kings!
John H. Piersma
“Education which is simply intellectual taxidermy—the scooping out of the mind and the stuffing in of facts—is worthless. The human mind is not a deep~freeze for a storage but a forge for production; it must be supplied with fuel, fired, and properly shaped.” So says Father William A. Donaghy, President, Holy Cross College, Massachusetts.
Wrong and inadequate concepts of education and faulty practice in teaching are often the result of implied concepts of erroneous views of mind. Mind is not a container into which we siphon knowledge by teaching. Mind is not a recording tape on which we transcribe what we will for reproduction. Mind is the active self in his thinking, feeling, and willing. One “gets educated” in one way and in one way only: by actively exploring his experiences for right ideas, supporting feelings, and desirable goals.
That education is basic which activates the learner to seek right ideas, provides the content in which these ideas can be meaningfully explored with a feeling of achievement, and directs the will-function to attain desirable goals.
The implications of this concept of education can lead to far-reaching reform in Christian education. We need more effort to understand it, and more determination to apply it in the Christian school. It can make education distinctively Christian.
HOW LONG A VACATION FOR MINISTERS?
A preacher’s work is never done. Two man-size sermons a week demand much energy in preparation. Society meetings require much effort. The individual care that must be given to those in need of spiritual help, both inside and outside the church, is never~ending. A minister can never go to bed and say: “I am satisfied. I have done all that I can for the day. There is nothing more to be done.” For there is always more studying in the Word to be done so that the sermons can be more profitable to the congregation. There are always more visits that can be made so that the seeking will be more firmly entrenched in the Gospel. You will never find a harder working man than a conscientious minister. For that reason it is wise that he be given a worthwhile vacation each year. The period of two or three weeks that many ministers get is too short. They should be able to enjoy nothing less than four weeks a year. And the congregation will find that when they are liberal with the vacation time for their minister, they will profit, too. For the minister will even be studying and reading theology for recreation and pleasure on his vacation. I can freely advocate this longer vacation now since I am no longer in the preaching ministry and since my former consistory, the one at Ann Arbor, was so generous along these lines. I was better the rest of the year because of a full month’s vacation, and I am sure that the church was, too.
Edwin H. Palmer
PREACHING ABOUT POLITICAL AND SOCIAL ISSUES
No one can deny that the Nixon-Kennedy presidential race is at least very exciting. And one of the facets of this campaign which stimulates as much discussion as anything is the role of the Church in matters political. Mr. Kennedy’s affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church has already provoked a flood of anti-Romanist literature, and provided many a pulpiteer with “material” for his sermons.
All of which raises (or, has raised, see The Wall Street Journal, editorial: “Who’s Meddling?”, p. 14, Sept. 21, 1960) the question: What maya preacher properly discuss in the pulpit? Or, more broadly, what maya clergyman say or do in connection with any live, controversial, social issue at any time?
The safest answer to this question today is the one which describes the office of the minister of Word and sacraments in terms of a religious lowest common denominator. This means that the minister must deal only with such matters as are usually and predictably inoffensive to the congregation one is serving. It seems to me that many a modem preacher is past master of the art of being attractive to all and objectionable to none.
The safest answer is not usually the right answer, however.
In the same issue of The Wall Street Journal which we mentioned above I read, “At the organization’s (United Steelworkers of America, JHP) biennial convention in Atlantic City, a union member from Pennsylvania, disagreeing with the United Steelworkers leadership, circulated pamphlets among the delegates. Four sergeants-at-arms promptly moved. in and beat the daylights out of him. His clothes ripped. his face and body badly bruised, the dissident member was taken to the hospital.”
If today’s pulpit does not prophesy in the face of such and all social inequities, it truly deserves the contempt which tho tens of thousands of feet of empty pewing evidence most every Sunday!
John H. Piersma
“IF IT’S DOUBTFUL, IT’S DIRTY”
That’s what a wife said to her husband when he called to her asking whether he could wear his white shirt another day. “If it’s doubtful, it’s dirty” is a slogan or motto which can be applied with safety to questions of ethical import when we are perplexed about the right answers. Many things that pertain to matters of conduct are not doubtful at all but sinful, though we may raise doubts concerning them and even declare that as long as they are doubtful they are permissible! That would be like saying that when a man is not sure but merely doubts that it is safe to wear his shirt another day it must be clean. Strange logic! If we are intent on pleasing God with our walk of life we shall desire to have full assurance that our practices and habits are clean in his eyes. If we lack this assurance, our conScience, if it is properly enlightened, will bid us to refrain from them. The “benefit of the doubt” should not be given to questionable practices. If they are doubtful they are dirty.
Is this principle in accord with Scripture? Most assuredly. Paul teaches with respect to ethical questions on which there is room for a difference of opinion among Christians -the so-called adiaphora or “things indifferent”—that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). These words are often misinterpreted as if they prove that the unregenerate can do no outward or moral good. That they were written with a view to adiaphorous moral questions is very clear from the context. The apostle deals in this chapter with matters of conduct in which the “strong” appeal to Christian liberty while the “weak” have scruples of conscience. The issue concerned the eating of meat that had been offered to idols before it was offered for sale in the markets. In warning the “strong” against stretching their conscience to justify a certain custom or course of action he writes : “But he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; and whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” But this warning holds just as well for the “weak.” They should never follow the example of the “strong” if in so doing they violate their conscience.
If in doubt. abstain. That is the Word of God in all such matters. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” If it’s doubtful, it’s dirty!
Henry J. Kuiper
EXAMPLES OF DOUBTFUL PRACTICES
Let us mention a few of the many examples of ethical acts or practices which belong to the doubtful class. There is, first, the matter of questionable speech. The apostle Paul warns his readers against “corrupt speech” (Ephesians 4:29) and in Colossians 4:6 commands: “Let your speech be always with grace. seasoned with salt…” Suggestive remarks are often made and shady stories told in conversation among Christians. Who of us has never been guilty of this, or at least of “the foolish talking, or jesting” which the same apostle condemns (Ephesians 5:4)? Such things often creep into our Christian festive gatherings, especially when it is felt that a toastmaster is needed and the latter thinks he must follow the prevailing custom of presenting “canned” jokes. Sensitive souls sometimes squirm at banquets because risque stories and dubious jokes are dispensed. Others will overlook what is in poor taste if it affords them a good laugh. At times the words spoken are not even doubtful but admittedly dirty. Shame on us that we find it so hard to make our festivities positively Christian! To be sure, there is a place for humor and merriment that is not sinful in itself but we should learn how to express our joy and good feeling without imitating the world.
The principle that whatsoever is doubtful is dirty applies also to our amusements. It is a good rule by which to judge all theatrical performances, television programs, radio songs, and even the more “innocent” forms of the dance. If we love God and our souls we shall avoid every~ thing that exposes us to the danger of moral contamination.
The same principle applies to various kinds of Sunday activity. Our fathers taught that only those activities are lawful on the Lord’s day which constitute worship, deeds of mercy, and works of necessity. This distinction has the official approval of the Christian Reformed Church. (See Schaver, The Polity of the Churches, Part 11, page 33.) The category of “works of necessity” is a broad one and has no clearly defined limits. Not all will agree on what is necessary on the Lord’s day. For one thing, personal needs differ. For example, the aged and those who perform strenuous manual labor during the week probably need a long nap on Sunday afternoon to be fit for worship in the evening and for work the next day, while those who lead a sedentary life and are young may need a long walk. But today even orthodox Christian people do things on the Sabbath (Yes. we still have a Sabbath; read Lord’s Day 38 of the Heidelberg Catechism) which are doubtful, to say the least. There is much unnecessary travel—travel for pure pleasure, sometimes for hundreds of miles. merely to visit relatives or friends, while the conscience is salved with a hurried church attendance in the morning or evening only.
Again, “whatever is doubtful is dirty” applies with special force to our personal habits, our private life. Sometimes we are perplexed because we are not sure what is the will of God with respect to a certain custom or habit. We may find reasons to justify our action and yet there is a lingering suspicion in our minds that we may be displeasing the Lord with our indulgence. We are reminded perhaps of the stern warning against being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
Remember the rule: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
“If it’s doubtful, it’s dirty!”
Henry J. Kuiper
IS OUR FREEDOM AT STAKE?
The above line of reasoning does not in any sense invalidate, nullify, the principle of Christian liberty. Paul’s rule that whatever is doubtful is sinful does not mean that every act of mine which is doubtful in the eyes of others is sinful. It applies only to acts concerning which my own conscience is uneasy. The area of practices which others pronounce doubtful-from the use of automobiles and wedding rings (condemned by certain sects) to the preparation of warm meals on Sunday (frowned on by some narrow Calvinists)—is s0 wide that fault could be found with almost any act or custom.
True, Paul seems to justify such an interpretation in I Corinthians 10 where he discusses the same problem as in Romans 14. We read in verse 28: “But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice, eat not, for his sake that showed it, and for conscience’ sake: conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other’s; for why is my liberty judged by another conscience?” It seems that Paul is saying the very opposite of what we were trying to say; namely, that in the circumstance he is considering the “strong” are to be guided by the conscience of the “weak” brother. But notice the concluding words: “for why is my liberty fudged by another conscience?” Some question this translation because it seems to contradict the first part of the verse. But if we connect this clause with verse 27 and regard verses 28, 29a as parenthetical (thus the Revised Standard Version) then this translation can well stand and the connection is as follows: “Whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no questions for conscience’ sake…for why is my liberty judged by another conscience?”; or, as the R.S.V. renders the latter clause: “For why should my liberty be determined by another man’s scruples?” To sum up the meaning of these verses: My acts in such “indifferent” matters are sinful only when my own conscience condemns them. But there is one exception: If by obeying the dictates of my own conscience I wound and bruise the conscience of the brother who is at my side, let me abstain for his conscience’ sake. For I do not lose my liberty by voluntarily refraining from using it. The latter thought is expressed by Paul in chapter 9:12. There Paul asserts his right, his liberty, to live from the gospel instead of earning his own livelihood. He writes: “If others partake of this right over you, do not we yet more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right; but we bear all things, that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.”
Our conclusion? Let your conscience be your guide in matters indifferent; but do not violate your conscience. For “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Do not in such matters make the conscience of another your guide, except when your behavior tends to make him stumble.
Henry J. Kuiper
THE LAW OF LIBERTY AND THE LAW OF LOVE
Many wrong ideas are current about the nature of Christian liberty. Some interpret it as the right to live as we please; which of course is the devil’s substitute for moral freedom. Others hold that Christian liberty is the right to let our conscience decide in all matters what is right or wrong conduct. This sounds much more respectable but is hardly less dangerous. It substitutes the fallible opinions of man for the infallible Word of God. Such liberty is not freedom but lawlessness. It is not only a denial of God’s right to direct our lives. It also ignores the fact that even the enlightened conscience of the Christian is subject to much error and an exceedingly imperfect reflection of the law of God. Christian freedom is freedom under the law of God. What that means becomes clear only if we know what freedom really is.
Christian liberty is a very comprehensive term. It means, first, that we are freed from the curse of God’s law since Christ has borne its curse for us. Second, it means that we are delivered from the obligation to keep God’s commandments perfectly as a condition for obtaining eternal life. Third, it signifies that because of the renewal of our hearts we are now able in principle to moue without constraint in the sphere for which God designed and created us; namely, the sphere of voluntary obedience to the law of God. As a locomotive moves freely only when it can run without hindrance on the two rails for which it was made, so man is truly free only when he can move without constraint on the track of the two tables of God’s holy law. Hence Christian liberty is a1ways freedom under law. All other freedom is slavery.
Finally, Christian liberty is the right to let our sanctified conscience be our guide only in those matters of conduct concerning which we have no clear divine command. Such matters are usually called adiaphora, things indifferent, though we must add that there would probably be no adiaphora if we understood all the implications of God’s law. But Christian liberty even in this sense is limited by a higher law, namely the law of love for the neighbor and the brother. This is one of the. things Paul stresses in his discussion of Christian freedom. On the one hand, Paul maintains this freedom, for example in the words: “Let each man be fully assured in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). On the other hand, he exalts the law of love above that of personal liberty when he declares: “If because of meat thy brother is grieved, thou walkest no longer in love” (verse 15). And again, in verse 21: “It is good not to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor to do anything whereby thy brother stumbleth.” (See also I Corinthians 10:23–33.)
After all. the greatest thing in the world is love, not our personal freedom.
Henry J. Kuiper