The Editor’s Page…

The 1966 synod of the Christian Reformed Church will within a few weeks convene in the First church of Pella, Iowa, this year celebrating its centennial as the first congregation organized west of the Mississippi River. Just yesterday the first copies of the Agenda, indicating materials submitted for synodical action, became available to the church. Much praise is due our diligent Stated Clerk and the staff at the Publishing House for preparing such a large volume within so short a time.

And now, what does the Agenda contain?

Although this question should have highest priority at this time of the year among the delegates, we trust that thousands of members of the Christian Reformed Church will also eagerly ask and seek answer to it. Synod is not a gathering of individuals; it is the official assembly of all the congregations (hence, also of all the members) through their chosen and accredited representatives. Here in prayer for the Spirit’s guidance and in obedience to God’s Word, which is the rule for faith and practice, the church engages in the business assigned to it by her heavenly Savior and Lord. What synod does all the churches are in a very real sense engaged in doing. Thus interest in and prayer for that work are incumbent on us all. This year’s Agenda is a sizeable volume. It contains so much material, that we can alert the reader only to some of the more salient reports and recommendations in the hope that this will stir many to read all the material with care and proper judgment.

Much of the material consists of reports by the several boards and standing committees of the denomination. Several of the recommendations will likely occasion spirited discussion; such as,

1) the elimination of interviews with applicants to Calvin Seminary by the Board of Trustees;

2) the plan to provide worship services for students residing on Knollcrest Campus;

3) the endorsement of a plan by which the CHWRC will give assistance to congregations “with unusual (diaconal) needs” in cooperation with classes and diaconal conferences;

4) the request by the Sunday School Committee for “a full-time editor for Sunday School materials and leadership”;

5) the reorganization on the Nigerian field of our mission administration, together with the relocation of the main offices.

Several Church Order matters will also demand attention. Besides material found in the overtures, there is the revised draft of “Rules for Church Visiting” which concerns in the nature of the case every consistory. Much more far-reaching, however, is the proposal of the committee reporting on “the delegation of deacons to major assemblies.” Its position is argued in the light of Scripture, the Reformed principles of church government as found in the creeds and Church Order, and the experience and decisions of a sister-church dealing with the same matter. The committee recommends “that Synod declare that, in the light of Scripture and the Reformed confessions, it judges that there are no lawful objections to the delegation of deacons to the major assemblies of the churches.” Should this be adopted, the committee further urges that its additional recommendations, dealing with implementation, be referred to the churches prior to any final decision. This appears highly advisable, especially in view of the fact that what is envisaged is a radical change from past practice in the Reformed churches.

Undoubtedly much careful attention will be given matters concerning our relation to other denominations. Much of this is incorporated in the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Church Correspondence. It requests that the president of Calvin Seminary be sent as an observer to attend meetings of the Theological Committee of the World Presbyterian Alliance. Attention is also directed to fruitful contacts with representatives of the Reformed Church of America, which led the committee not only to bring forward recommendations to the coming synod but also to address several denominational agencies to explore the possibility of contacts and cooperative efforts with their counterparts in the R.C.A. Attention is also directed to the recent decision of the Reformed (Gereformeerde) Churches of the Netherlands regarding membership in the W.C.C. The committee recommends that a study committee be appointed to evaluate this action. Three overtures deal with the same matter and urge synodical decision. From the report it seems evident that at present closer contact with the Reformed (“Liberated”) Churches of the Netherlands is not possible, since these churches regard our relationships with “the synodically bound churches” as “an insuperable obstacle.”

A very comprehensive and readable report is presented by the Committee dealing with “The Church and the Film Arts.” It presents a more explicit formulation of the Christian’s relation to the world in general and to the film arts in particular. In contrast with previous decisions this accentuates the positive role which, in the committee’s mind, Christians may and should assume in the area of these arts as a cultural medium. Lest this brief comment be misconstrued by someone, we hasten to add that much attention has been paid also to the pastoral task of the church in guiding its membership in this field.

By far the longest report is that of the “Doctrinal Committee” appointed by the 1964 synod. In more than seventy pages it reviews and analyzes carefully the matter entrusted to it for study. Although the recommendations can be properly understood and evaluated only in the light of the report itself, we present them here for our many readers who have no immediate access to the Agenda. Said committee recommends that synod adopt the following recommendations:

“I. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, there is a qualitative distinction between the general love of God for all His creatures and His special love for the elect.

“II. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, the doctrine of a definite or particular (limited) atonement must be maintained.

“III. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, it is unwarranted to posit a universal atonement and a particular redemption.

“IV. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, it is unwarranted to say to each and every man without distinction ‘Christ died for you.’

“V. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, the doctrine of definite atonement is an incentive for rather than a hinderance to mission enthusiasm and endeavor.”

For these propositions clear and comprehensive grounds are adduced. The delegates will be compelled to devote much attention to this report, both because of the voluminous amount of material which it contains and because of the concern with this issue which the churches have displayed. If this is done, there should be little desire or need to postpone a decision on the recommendations.

The subject of “theistic evolution” and its incompatibility with the Scriptures and the creeds is raised in three overtures. One classis has directed its attention in some depth to “Inner City Policies” and “Campus Ministry Policies” and asks that synod adopt its formulations. The “Resolutions on Race” prepared by the Reformed Ecumenical Synod have also been subjected to careful scrutiny by a committee which urges that “synod provisionally approve resolutions 1–6…and receive No.7 as information…”

Mention has been made only of some of the many matters which will engage synodical attention and for the resolving of which in obedience to Christ Jesus all of us ought most earnestly to pray. We close with the observation that this Agenda is printed and distributed in such large quantity, in order that all consistory members (and, hopefully, many not serving in a consistory) may read and reflect on that which concerns the church today. Especially those delegated to the coming synod will need much time to prepare for their important assignment. Perhaps their consistories should consider the advisability of relieving them for a time from some of their customary duties. The witness and welfare of our denomination as part of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ requires such patient and persevering and prayerful preparation. May with one heart and voice the Christian Reformed constituency testify to their interest in the synodical gathering of their churches in the words of Psalm 122,

“For all my brethren and companion’s sakes My prayer shall be, Let peace in thee abide; Since God the Lord in thee His dwelling makes, To thee my love shall never be denied.”

The other day my wife sent me to a department store for a few articles. I went armed with the seemingly indispensable charger-plate. Having selected what I thought she wanted. I presented the plate and was kindly but firmly asked by the clerk to “sign” the charge account. This I did, knowing that I could not exercise the privilege of so doing business without proper evidence of my willingness to assume the responsibilities.

No one seems to object to such “signing” when making a purchase Without paying cash on the line. The signature is a solemn and binding pledge that the account will be paid at the proper time. And anyone who fails to keep that promise will be called to account!

Of course, relations to a department store cannot be equated with relationships within Christ’s church. But that there is some parallel can hardly be cogently denied. The privilege of serving Christ’s church involves high and holy responsibilities. And that these may be recognized by both parties the church requires also the “signing” of the Formula of Subscription.

In this day, when even the most solemn agreements among individuals and organizations and nations are flouted, it appears necessary to insist in season and out of season that all office-bearers in the creedally committed church have bound themselves by pledges which no one forced upon them. When anyone fails or refuses to live up to his pledge, the church is compelled to call him to account. Failure to do so is dereliction of duty!

In two recent, well-written articles in The Banner the Rev. Conrad R. Veenstra directs our attention to what is involved in such subscription. Some two years ago Torch and Trumpet was privileged to publish two articles dealing with the same subject from a slightly different aspect by Dr. Louis Praamsma. Likely many have read all these articles. A thoughtful second or third reading, however, deserves to be commended.

What is at stake in this for the preservation and propagation of the Christian faith is far more than many seem to realize. It involves the recognition that serving in the Christian Reformed Church is not anyone’s “right”; it is a God-given privilege which entails serious and solemn responsibilities. It is an acknowledgement that “the communion of the saints” is directly and decisively involved in the church’s witness to the gospel of God’s grace. It is a hearty admission that all of us need this fellowship to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Savior. It is a sincere confession that the truth in Christ Jesus is not the preserve of a few theologians by profession.

Have you read the Formula of Subscription recently?

Whatever has been alleged against it or its use, it remains one of the defences which Christ’s church has against the inroads of error and the lie. And the necessity for such a safeguard is imperative in our day of doctrinal confusion, contradiction and chaos.

In today’s world strident voices clamor that the Christian gospel is completely out of step with the times. It is accused of being old-fashioned, impractical and irrelevant in a world which faces problems and perplexities unknown before. Large numbers lend their ears and hearts to such criticisms, with the result that we witness an alarming shift away from the doctrines; and moral patterns which the church has so long championed.

One of the most subtle attacks has been launched against the Christian home.

We are told that the family is becoming outmoded. It can’t be held together, no matter what valiant attempts are made. Self-styled leaders arc even arguing that it may well be expendable as “the basic unit which lives and works and plays and worships together.” They allow it little more responsibility than that of bringing children into the world in a socially respectable way and providing them with a name. For the rest baby-sitters, nurseries and play schools can take care of our offspring in their earliest years, to be replaced later by the schools and a host of community enterprises. Thus the home becomes little more than a place where occasionally people may hang their hat and eat and sleep.

Much of this deprecation of the home, we believe, is the result of the insidious propaganda which argues that “home-making” is really unworthy of a woman’s energies; that it stifles her individuality and creativity; that it robs her of an opportunity to be of influence in the world. And what is more tragic, some sincere Christian believers seem to be of the same opinion.

The Bible has such a different estimate of the role of women in the home. Here she makes her unique and most permanent contribution to society and to the Christian church. Although this is by no means the only sphere in which believing women can truly and happily serve their Lord, its importance can hardly be overrated. Much of the decline of Christian conviction in churches, schools and community must be traced to a weakening of covenantal homes. Much of the mounting delinquency and degeneration which characterizes the so-called Christian nations must be traced at least in part to a loss of consecrated Christian living in the homes. And shall there be a reformation of life and morals in our time, not a little of the momentum will have to be generated in Christian families, in which the mother plays so large a part.

Because these arc our convictions, we are pleased to present elsewhere in this issue an interview with an outstanding Christian wife and mother to whom high honors have recently come. This we do not to praise her but to thank our God whose grace she experiences and seeks to extol.

Likely an article of this sort comes as a surprise to those who think of Torch and Trumpet as solely interested in the “theory” of the Christian faith. Rather, we are convinced that sound doctrine bears the fruit of tried and true godliness. Thus the gospel of our Lord and Savior is far from irrelevant and impractical. Only the gospel transforms lives and makes them consistently useful in the service of God and fellow-man. Likewise, it makes the Christian family a unique instrument in God’s hand to witness to the grace and glory of the Savior.

This interview docs not imply that all Christian women should marry and become homemakers. Nor does it seek to argue that all Christian wives and mothers can and should imitate Mrs. Vreeman. God gives each of his children a unique calling and position and responsibility. We do well to recall the child’s hymn which many of us learned when very young,

“Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light, Like a little candle burning in the night; In this world of darkness we must shine, You in your small corner and I in mine.”

And for the Christian mother the first and foremost place to shine is in the home.