“The Christian Duty Toward Society”

Under this heading The Reformed Journal published a statement over the signature of the Rev. George Stob, Christian Reformed minister in Passaic, N.J., which is an attempt to describe the Christian social objective, to which, no doubt, determined opposition will arise from those who have ever read anything in the field of truly Christian social action. It is really incomprehensible that this article could have been written, since it ignores and neglects everything which has been published in this field for more than a century, a volume of effort which is by no means small. In fact, the writer’s picture of the Christian’s social task (Is this a deliberate change of the expression “Christian social task?”) has, in my opinion, been wrongly drawn and is in urgent need of being redrawn. To that end the following statement may be useful.

When I read the article referred to above my thoughts wandered back to the first phases of a book which began by putting the question, “What is Christian social activity (het Christelijk Sociale)?” and then answered this question as follows: “The German Kaiser once answered this question briefly and clearly: ‘Christian social activity is nonsense.’” (Dr. J.R. Slotemaker de Bruine, Christelijke Sociale Studien.)

The answer given by the writer of the Reformed Journal article seems to differ little from that given by the German Kaiser, while he states that the social goal (is) the maintenence of the common life of our present society” (p. 8). Everyone has that same goal, and everyone can perform this task. Why then talk about ‘Christian social activity’? Indeed, why then “assume that the Christian is the only one who can perform this task” (p, 9) . “The non-Christian, too, does what is needful for the life of our present world” (p. 9).



In other words: “Christian social activity (het Christelijk Sociale) is nonsense.”

Dr. J.R. Slotemaker de Bruine is of another opinion. And his words, written more than 10 years ago, have inspired thousands upon thousands of workers. His words have been communicated with good results to Christian churches and, men-and are still up-la-date now! Evidence for this can he found in the memorandum issued by the Study Department of the World Council of Churches in preparation for the Second Assembly (1954) entitled: “Social Questions Responsible Society in World Perspective.” On page 10 of this report we read, “The very riches of the modern world demands fresh Christian thinking about the relationship between material goods and the Christian life.”

And here is the answer to the question, “What is Christian social activity (het Christelijk Sociale)?” as given by Dr. Slotemaker de Bruine:

What is the true reason why we exert ourselves to strengthen the weak, to stay the ruin of those who are perishing, and to lift them up if possible…? Only the preaching of the Cross of Christ can provide help : the preaching of him, who, for the salvation of the lost and the redemption of those in bonds sacrificed his own blissful life for the disgrace of the Cross. There is the point from which the fires of a true social strength can be stirred up.

Because this is what matters: in the preceding pages nothing has been demanded that is now to Christianity; for the putting forth of our social strength not a single outside element has to be added. What is necessary is simply that it (Christianity) becomes what it already is.

To promote such a purification in all of our spiritual and social life, in individuals. in churches. throughout our people…to work for the rebuilding of our national existence as a people, by the power of Jesus Christ…to seek the liberation of those in bondage and the lifting up of the fallen, not only in the way of charity, but especially in the way of justice…to work for the manifestation of the forces of the Gospel…to desire the Glory of God everywhere. that is Christian social activity (het Christelijk Sociale).

Now, what is the striking difference between these words and the description of the social goal given in The Reformed Journal?

As I see it, the difference is that the Rev. George Stob includes in statement only the creation and the destruction of the world, whereas Dr, Slotemaker de Bruine, and hundreds of thousands with him, also know of a redeemed world. The difference is that the Rev. George Stab has apparently been struck by the idea that we live in a lost world, whereas those who believe in Christian social action believe that we live in a redeemed world. Mr. Stob apparently does not expect much from the cross of Christ and his resurrection for our present world and for social life, whereas the Christian social ideals are based upon and inspired by faith in the power of the cross. Therefore, how could Mr. Stob write:

“…it seems hardly right, even as a counsel of perfection, that we should intend more with this world and its life than God intends” if as I believe with my whole heart and I hope Mr. Stob also does, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten SOil, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Our intentions with the world will and can never be higher than God’s intention who sacrificed his only begotten Son for it.

The Rev. Mr. Stob doesn’t see any other aim for this world than to preserve what we have in it: a completely materialistic aim, which is also the aim of the neutral union; the maintenance of the common life—whereas Christian Social Action intends to follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who not only healed the sick, but also preached the Gospel. The Rev. Mr. Stob is certainly will ing to heal the sick and to preach the Gospel. However, he makes a sharp distinction. The healing of the sick is the duty of mankind. It has nothing to do with the Christian faith. The preaching of the Gospel is the duty of the church—it has nothing to do with the social life.

Clinging to his idea of the preservation of this present world he does not see its connection with the redemption and restoration to God through Christ. He says that they are different things.

As I see it, this opinion is closely related to a heresy which came up in the church of the early days of Christianity (Gnosticism), which separated the spiritual from the material and valued the former much higher than the latter. The material things are necessary, there is no doubt about that, but the Rev. Mr. Stob says they have been set for destruction. Well, if that is true, the Christian has no other aim than the preservation of these things as long as they are indispensable for human life. He can do that with the godless in one organization, because there is no higher aim.

Very logical indeed! However, if it is true, as I believe it is, that creation has been redeemed and the Kingdom of God has come, the Christian will relate the material things to God, in Jesus Christ. They have been sanctified by God revealed in the flesh. He cannot, therefore, consider the material things as neutral and of less importance, but will use them and deal with them to the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

To what purpose? Not to build a new earth in which righteousness dwells, because that will be brought down from heaven by God in the fulness of time, but to erect signs of that Kingdom in this world, that the world may see them and believe. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

So, what is “good”? The lax definition given by the Rev. George Stob certainly does not do justice to this word. If there is some good even in the wicked, I have learned already in the catechism class that such good has no value before God. God may work with this kind o[ good for his own ends. That—let me say it respectfully—is up to him. That is not for us to judge. But it has certainly not been given us as a standard. The standard set by Mr. Stob, namely that because God uses the “civil” good of godless men, this should induce us to follow these men (that is, to join a neutral union) is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures. Jesus Christ set for his disciples and for us a different standard.

The Rev. Mr. Stob says: “And there is reason to believe that it is right to cooperate in a common social task with those whom God has commandeered for and empowered to a needful service for this is world and its life.”

However, how do I know that God has commandeered and empowered them? What is the measuring-rod he would use?

I know of only one measuring rod: the Word of God. It says: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16).

What are the fruits of the neutral unions?

First of all, they have led the workers astray from the church and from religion. Further, they have led them to communism, and they do so today.

The C.I.O. was one of the labor organizations which volunteered to establish the World Federation of Trade Unions in 1944 and to take put in its board, yes, helped to elect the General Secretary (Saillant) who was and is a recognized Communist, receiving his instructions from Moscow. They saw their mistake when it was too late and the millions o[ workers o[ Asia were brought under communist domination. A new International Federation was set up, the International Federation of Free Trade Unions (in which also the A.F.L. took pan) with which all the large socialistic labor unions of Europe are affiliated. May I ask the Rev. Mr. Stob whether they have done so “according to the grace that is given them?” Or did they rather abuse the gifts of God in order to establish their own power?

There is no common aim between neutral unions and Christian unions except on sub-ordinate, well-outlined points. The principal aims are completely different. The neutral unions strike for higher wages, better working conditions. They have certainly achieved results in this respect. However, at what price?

At the price of the souls of large numbers of members. At the price of the rights and the freedom of those workers, who are not convinced but forced to join. At the price of a disrupted society, for which the employers are likewise to blame and which calls for governmental measures to check the power on both sides, which is often used for selfish purposes.

The Rev. Mr. Stob approves of the fact that the C.L.A. is willing to cooperate with neutral unions in working for the removal of racial discrimination in society. Has the Rev. Mr. Stob the opinion that these neutral unions will also be prepared to cooperate with the C.L.A.? He should know better! They are prepared to accept the affiliation of Christian men in their own unions and on their own principles. Complete surrender is all they ask for. Is that acceptable for a Christian? Therefore, which one is exclusive? The C.L.A. or the other unions?

However, the Rev. Mr. Stob supports neutrality and, therefore, opposes Christian organization. He is of the opinion that you don’t need the Bible in social action. Either he neglects the fact that the Bible is full of social implications, or he believes that it Christian is able to bring these principles to be in a non-Christian union. For the latter he cannot be blamed too much because he has never had the opportunity to try it.

However, as a scholar he should know that it is irresponsible to send isolated soldiers with the weapons of the original natives of this country (bow and arrow) into battle in a modern war. He should also know that the big struggle between the powers of Satan and the redeeming power of Jesus Christ is being fought nowadays in the social field. He should, therefore, know that it is irresponsible to send a plain worker with nothing more than he learned in the catechism class into the modern war between today’s philosophies.

What is most grievous, however, is the Rev. Mr. Stob’s insinuation with regard to the C.L.A. He writes:

“And if, by improbable circumstances (what is the use of suggesting improbable circumstances?) the C.L.A. should become the dominant labor organization, there would be brought into society the reverse of the mark of the beast-non-Christians would be starved out of the world or be forced to live by the charity of Christians, unless they should imitate, in reverse, some early Christians and produce a Christian God.”

Blind to the fact that neutral It is abundantly clear that the Rev. unions are starving Christians out of Mr. Stob has made up his mind in their jobs (and nevertheless, the Rev. favor of neutral labor unions and Mr. Stob is still advocating everyone that further discussion is useless to join them) he insinuates that unless he produces the good will to Christian unions might do so, for which there is not a splinter of evidence in he world, and which, besides, would be in flagrant contradiction to their very principles. This is no longer argumentation.

It is abundantly clear that the Rev. Mr. Stob has made up his mind in favor of neutral labor unions and that a further discussion is useless unless he produces the good will to study the Christian social movement before writing further articles as referred to above, which, to say the best, show a complete ignorance of the principles and the practice of the Christian social movement.

*Vol. 4. no. 2, Feb., 1954, pp. 8 ff. Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.