Survey…An Annotated Guide

REFLECTOR August American Reformed Church, P.O. Box 7321, Grand Rapids, Mich. Subscription Price: not mentioned

This is the least impressive typographically of any Reformed periodical known to us (stenciled). We welcome its re-appearance, however, after some months of absence from the journalistic scene. Rev. A. B. Roukema, pastor of the Grand Rapids’ American Reformed Church, R. Faber and B. Postma comprise the Editorial Board. The editorial viewpoint is that of the Gereformeerde Kerken a.h. Art. 31 D.K.O. (“Reformed Churches upholding Article 31 of the Church Order of Dordt”) in The Netherlands, whose counterpart(s) on this continent are known as Canadian or American Reformed churches. TORCH AND TRUMPET is sincerely glad to see this publication again, having enjoyed a congenial and profitable contact with the former editor, Rev. H. Van Tongeren, now returned to The Netherlands.

The intention of this issue is frankly controversial. Its tone, however, is not unbrotherly, and, I believe, its motivation obviously sincere and well-meant. This issue purposes “to show that the Christian Reformed Churches have been misled about the real church-struggle in The Netherlands.” The struggle referred to is the one usually identified with the late Prof. K. Schilder, which included a major split within the Gereformeerde Kerken.

It would be very difficult to summarize fairly the material presented here to validate this thesis. I would suggest that we read it carefully, that our American Reformed and Canadian Reformed brethren continue to explain carefully and patiently, and that we ask ourselves if we as Christian Reformed people ought not to give heed to the points made. After all, we are being advised nowadays to give careful attention to Christians considerably more distant from us traditionally and doctrinally than these!

STANDARD BEARER August, September 1, 15, October 1 1236 W. Butler, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan, $5.00 per year

These four issues of the Standard Bearer include comments by Editor H.C. Hoeksema on the “so-called Dekker Case in the Christian Reformed Church.” In August Hoeksema opined that the matter has been rendered even more dangerous by virtue of its postponement by the 1966 Synod. Here is the way Prof. Hoeksema sees it:

Any kind of decision in this crucial matter…has simply been postponed until 1967. Moreover, there is no guarantee whatsoever that there will be a satisfactory decision at that time; in fact; the possibility is very real that there will either be further reasons for postponement or an indefinite postponement (as the Reformed Journal has proposed), or even a turning of the tide in favor of Professor Dekker’s position. For: 1) If the Study Committee could not produce a satisfactory report in two years, what reason is there to believe that they can do so in one more year? 2) Additional problems have been assigned to this Committee, some of them, as for instance, the one concerning election and the sincere (why not “well-meant?”) offer of the Gospel, knotty problems. It is indeed likely that when this Committee reports on these . there will be more problems and further disagreement, with the attendant necessity of postponing a decision for another year. 3) There is a very vocal segment of the Christian Reformed Church that has already expressed itself as in favor of the propositions of Dekker…In other words, there is radical disagreement as to the recommendations themselves. If this is true…then no amount of clarification and reformulation will avoid the necessity of a showdown decision. Such a showdown decision, if its consequences are accepted, will require either cleavage or a complete retraction on the part of Dekker and those who agree with him. Neither of the two can I envision in the Christian Reformed Church. The alternative is the course followed up to the present time: postponement…

In the September 1 issue Hoeksema begins an article printed in installments under the heading, ‘“The Nature of the Atonement, Limited or General?” A few quotations: “To speak of an atonement that is not efficacious is a contradiction in terms: an atonement that does not actually atone is no atonement” (p. 464); “…it is very evident that this element of substitution forms a distinct element in the nature of the atonement” (Sept. 15, p. 489).

Prof. Hoeksema does not do all the writing in the Standard Bearer. Here is a list of articles appearing in these issues: “The Divine Calling in the Preaching” by Cornelius Hanko; “Billy Graham’s Methods and Doctrine” by R. C. Harbach; “Barth’s Doctrine of Scripture – The Scriptural Basis” by D. J. Engelsma; “Ecclesiastical Censure” by Gerald Vanden Berg; “The Growth of Lawlessness” by Herman Hanko; “Holiday or Holy Day?” by John A. Heys; “The RES Ecumenical Conference” by Gise Van Baren; “The Providence of God (Preservation)” by Herman Veldman.

An announcement of interest to many readers is the forthcoming appearance in print of the late Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics. It can be ordered $12.95 until Nov. 15; $14.95 after that date) from Reformed Free Press Association, P.O. Box 2006, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501.

In the October 1 issue Prof. Hoeksema continues his series of editorials on “The Nature of the Atonement, Limited or General?” This contribution deals with the “third element: definite and personal.” Here sharp issue is taken with Prof. Harold Dekker:

In fact, it may safely be said that if Prof. Dekker’s position is the correct one, the entire position of the church and the entire attitude of the church on these matters must be radically revamped. And I sometimes get the distinct impression that this is exactly the intention of Prof. Dekker and those who hold with him…

Hoeksema’s conclusion is clear: “the atonement of Christ in its very nature is for the elect alone.”

An interesting contribution is that of Prof. Hoeksema under the title, “That Bothersome A.C.R.L.!” “A.C.R.L.” is the Association of Christian Reformed Laymen. This Association circulated a letter to Christian Reformed consistories in which they urged that careful scrutiny of the books for catechctical instruction prepared by the denomination’s Committee on Education. This seemed to irritate the editor of the Christian Reformed Church Dutch weekly, De Wachter, Rev. William Haverkamp. Hoeksema chides Haverkamp,

Why is the Rev. Haverkamp apparently particularly bothered by the A.C.R.L.? And why does he limit his criticism to them?…For example, I recall that recently in The Banner someone made mention of instances of violation of the Formula of Subscription without having himself Sled a protest. Then I read no criticism from the pen of De Wachter editor, Not long ago the Formula of Subscription itself came under public attack, and then I read no criticism from the Rev. Haverkamp. Others can spout open heresy, as in the Reformed Journal, or may strongly suggest something that sounds very much like doctrinal freedom; and in such cases the editor does not seem very eager to take up the editorial pen…

BLUE BANNER FAITH AND LIFE April-June J.G. Vos, Editor and Manager, 3408 7th Ave, Beaver Falls, PA., $1.50 per year

The lead article is “Surrender to Evolution: Inevitable or Inexcusable?” by the editor Prof. J.G. Vos (which appeared earlier in TORCH AND TRUMPET, of which several thousands of copies have been distributed in pamphlet form ). “Instrumental Music in Public Worship” by John L. Girardeau is the concluding installment in a lengthy defense of the Reformed Presbyterian Church’s stand against the use of instrumental music in church worship. The root principle in this argumentation is, “Whatsoever, in connection with the public worship of the church, is not commanded by Christ, either expressly or by good and necessary consequence, in His Word, is forbidden.” “What does it mean to abstain from all appearance of evil?” is a question answered in another J. G. Vos contribution. It concludes (after an excellent exposition of I Thess. 5:21): “Criticism of fellow Christians for doing something which is not really evil, and concerning which they are acting in good conscience, is really a grievous wrong.”

CHRISTIAN HOME AND SCHOOL September, 1966 865 Twenty-eighth St., S.E., Grand Rapids, MI, $2.50 per year

“Sex Education – Whose Responsibility?” by William C. Hendricks argues that the school can assist and support the home in this very important task. “Today’s goals and ideals for sex education can best be attained in the Christian school, a school operated through the joint efforts of Christian parents to provide for the education of their children.” Dr. Clarence J. De Boer, prominent Grand Rapids area surgeon and active supporter of the Christian day school movement, writes a thought-provoking article under the title, “Football and the Evolutionary Concept of Man.” Football has just begun to make its way into Christian schools of the kind erected by Christian Reformed people, and Dr. De Boer has the courage and stamina to hold out against this most-popular American “sport” with vigor! Dr. De Boer’s article is a reply to an earlier contribution by a fellow physician, Dr. Roy A. Davis. Apparently the thesis of Dr. Davis’ article was that football was desirable to satisfy the desire and need of students for “man-to-man contact,” and as “a symbol of masculinity.” Over against this De Boer states:

To say that the violence of man-to-man contact is necessary to demonstrate manhood we have to switch from thinking of man as being created by God and in His image to an evolutionary concept  of man, where aggression and exhibitionism are normal expressions of man’s relationship to the animal kingdom.

Dr. De Boer sees a basic difference between a non-Christian and Christian view of recreation and play. Instead of something carried over from our “ancient past,” from our animal heritage, play for children is an expression of imitation and creativity, and for adults a re-creating force to enable greater service of our Lord. He concludes:

The fact that we have spent a great deal of time rationalizing our desires for the rugged physical contact of football, and using our brains to kill our conscience, does not change the basic concept of the game. You cannot give a Christian witness to a community by sinning with them. Even if you try to do it in a gentlemanly way.

THE CHRISTIAN VANGUARD August, September 11914 50th Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, $2.00 per year

This “little journal” (5 1/2″ x 8″) continues to demonstrate vigorous writing from a position of commitment to the Biblical vision of Christian action in all spheres of life. John A. Olthuis, Canadian barrister, asks “By What Standards?” His answer, in part:

Can anyone who is sincere in confessing the name of Christ deny that the Christian life should be earmarked by the spontaneous response of God’s people to the commands of His Word, to His command that we are created to walk before His face as obedient servants? Christian life is not composed of a series of optional, take or leave services. There are no minimum standards in the Christian life. The only standard, the maximum standard, is complete service to God. There is no place in the Christian life for the arbitrary setting of standards, standards which the individual feels will be high enough so that we will escape punishment on the day of Judgment. God demands nothing less than that we give our bodies a living sacrifice. The question is not whether people who are unfaithful in church attendance, who do not support Christian education, Christian labour, and Christian political action are as good as those who do. The question is whether obedient living means apathetic or faithful church attendance, the support of schools where man is King or the support of schools where God is King, the support of labour unions and other organizations which demand allegiance to false gods or the support of Christian labour unions and other organizations where the Kingship of Christ is the guiding principle, the support of political parties where man is sovereign or the support of Christian political action where the basic commitment of the sovereignty of God is confessed.

The standard is complete service, nothing less. The question must always be how may I better serve my King, not is it necessary to do this also. Christ not only died for us he arose for us, arose victoriously, arose so that we might lead a life of service. Is your life a life of service, service that is worthy of the name of Christian?

“The A.R.S.S. and the Death of God” is a two-part article written by James Van Oosterom as review and commentary of an address by Dr. H. Evan Runner of Calvin College to the Michigan Chapter of the Association. It is not possible to give a fair indication or summary of this profound and thorough study, and we urge readers to write to the Christian Vanguard for a copy of these issues! Van Oosterom appears to do a commendable job of reproducing in brief this address. Just to illustrate that this lecture and its Vanguard report “packs a wallop,” take note of this sentence:

“We may have academic or functional excellence, we may gain recognition, but we are not forming a Christian mind in our Current educational institutions.”

THE GUIDE August/September 1058A Albion Road, Rexdale, Ontario, Canada, $2.00 per year

“Christ or Culture: must we choose?” is contributed by James H. Olthuis, a Free University, Amsterdam, student. Its thesis: “The Kingdom of God may not in any sense be limited to the institutional church, nor may it be confused with it. The Kingdom of God is to embrace -and will in the End -the entire cosmos, whereas the institutional church is but one of the spheres which reveals the Kingdom.” By church here Olthuis means “the institution ordained by Christ to proclaim the Gospel on earth.”

This is a very lengthy article packed with insight and instruction. It ought to be read widely, and dis. cussed carefully! It appears that in young Mr. Olthuis (and his brother whose Vanguard article is referred to above) we might see emerging a new group of Christian scholars dedicated to the propagation and defense of a radically reformational Christian commitment! That is good news! The rest of the issue is worthwhile. The Christian Labour Association of Canada’s forceful leader, Gerald Vandezande, offers a sharp, stirring editorial, “Labour Day 1966: The Beginning of a New and Promising Era?” He writes, “We had better recognize it, every labour problem is a human problem and every human problem is a religious problem.” “The Seductive Appeal of Contemporary Communism” is begun in this issue as contribution by Bob Goudzwaard, a graduate of the Rotterdam University of Economics. Communism is described in this first installment as “a Gospel after the Flesh,” “a substitute religion,” and “a religion of THIS world.”

THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL August 31, September 7, 14 Southern Presbyterian Journal Co., Inc. Weaverville, N.C. 28787, $3.00 per year

This 35,000 subscriber periodical concerns itself with problems of spiritual decline and apostasy as seen in the Southern Presbyterian Church. This makes the ecumenical problem something of first rank, and it is discussed in season and out of season by the Journal. To trace the discussion of this matter through these issues we list the following: In the August 31 issue Rev. Robert Strong’s letter is published in which he states that participation in Consultation on Church Union (called COCU) is by implication a betrayal of ordination vows. Strong offers:

Did our ministers and elders really mean it—do they still mean it, that they are Reformed (Calvinistic) in doctrine and Presbyterian as to order and government? How can they then urge that we become part of an episcopal body as COCU already is committed to be? How can they give up the Confession of Faith as COCU will certainly require? Where has integrity fled? Are we Presbyterian in fact or just wearing a mask?

G. Aiken Taylor, the editor, writes on the same issue under the title, “Can the Gulf be Bridged?” That gulf is the difference in viewpoint between those who are Reformed in doctrine and principle and believe that they must live accordingly as demanded, say, by ordination vows, and those who see a higher loyalty, a greater devotion to some kind of universal “Gospel” rather than to one’s denomination. Taylor sees an unbridgeable gap here.

In the September 7 issue the editor suggests that the National Council of Churches Labor Sunday Message advances the cause of radical socialism. In the same vein he calls attention to the depression one feels when reading such things as Dr. Tobert Theobald’s address to the annual assembly of the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches, in which he describes the forthcoming Great Society in which no man will need to work in order to receive resources for living cost. Man will then be free to do whatever is considered important without economic restraint and to “develope a totally different form of town, city or village…” Under “The Need for Revival” Taylor declares that the real problem today is that we are out of touch with spiritual considerations. Here is an interesting observation:

In a General Assembly meeting someone can raise a purely theological issue and the commissioners sleep on. But mention civil disobedience or Section 14 of the Taft-Hartley Act, and everybody comes alive.

We believe the vitality of religion is measured in spiritual terms. When spiritual (theological, doctrinal) considerations take a back seat in church, that church is in desperate need of revival.

Related to this general area of concern is an interesting report by “Clydie” in the September 14 issue. Its title is “Clydie’s Not for ‘Action’.” It is an account of the 1966 Montreat Christian Action Conference of the Board of Christian Education (of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. presumably). Evidently this Conference was pretty much under the influence of the kind of people one has learned to recognize easily (the inevitable beard, sloppy garb, ‘protest’ attitude, etc.“Clydie” tells us that one of the principal speakers addressed the gathering clothed in “madras shorts, no coat or necktie, and a wilted dress (not sport) shirt with the shirt tails hanging out,” and that “because of his attire he was refused admittance to the dining room of the Inn at lunch time”). The authoress was sickened by the now very “traditional line” of current criticism for “the institutionalized church” and everything else that has been around for enough time to be recognized.

The Church in turmoil!