Last week a Calvin seminary student was teaching a catechetical class in a Grand Rapids church on the authority and accuracy of the Holy Scriptures. During the explanation one of the catechumens, a lad about nine years of age, raised his hand and upon given permission to speak announced that the Bible contained errors. Surprised, the teacher asked him to point to some of the supposed inaccuracies. Glibly the boy mentioned two or three instances where the numbers (concerning ages of kings and size of armies waging war) mentioned in parallel accounts do not coincide. And apparently to clinch his argument he announced, “That what my teacher in…………..Christian school told us this morning!”
Now long before anyone of us was born and began to face any of these questions, the church has been aware of and clearly recognized such issues. This is not something new. But what is new is the approach which some teachers in church and school feel they must take. In the past consideration of these matters was reserved for those who had attained to some measure of spiritual and intellectual maturity. Wisely the church through Bible-believing parents and teachers and preachers took the position that the unique glory and grace which permeates every page of the sacred record deserves emphasis. This was not prompted by fear, much less by a stubborn refusal to acknowledge the fact that there are questions concerning Biblical data to which we have no fully satisfactory answer. Rather, this methodology sprang from the deep conviction that only the committed and con· firmed believer, not an immature child of eight or ten or twelve, can rightly face the secondary issues raised by the boy.
Today many teachers, seemingly even a few in our Christian churches and schools, assume that true learning cannot take place unless everything is first rendered questionable and suspect. Such teachers, we are convinced, betray a lamentable ignorance of the fundamentals of sound teaching. With all their supposed understanding of learning theory, psychological development of children. and the significance of group dynamics in the learning process, they foist upon impressionable and immature minds issues which can be grasped and evaluated only by the mare mature. But what is far worse is the attack on the child’s faith which such an approach involves. Instead of helping children to take the first firm steps in faith which is well-pleasing to our God, they may easily albeit unwittingly instill doubts which will fester for many years and produce suppurating sores of unbelief, cynicism or despair. All who seek to teach children do well to heed our Lord’s words, “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me; but whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.”
Few programs connected with our Christian institutions for higher learning are so often ridiculed and vehemently opposed as compulsory attendance at “chapel exercises” which are ordinarily held each day. It must be admitted that some of these sessions devoted to prayer and praise are less than they should be. It is difficult to maintain an honest and wholesome sensitivity to things spiritual at a stated hour day after day.
The critics and the challengers, however, should and need not have the last word.
That “chapel” can provide an instructive, inspiring and illuminating experience for all who come with ears attuned and hearts set aright is demonstrated by a volume which has recently appeared and deserves high commendation. It is the product of Professor Calvin Seerveld of Trinity Christian College of Chicago, Illinois, and presently studying for one year at Heidelberg, Germany.
Take Hold of God and Pull introduces the reader to “moments in a college chapel.” Here are arresting translations in modem idiom of several Old and New Testament passages prepared by the author. On these he comments penetratingly to press the claims and comforts of the God of our salvation upon the students’ minds and hearts. Chapel exercises come alive. Those who listen with the inner ear will recognize and respond to a prophetic voice which speaks n language which cannot be misunderstood. It probes with soul-searching authenticity when, for example, in speaking about the Jabbok-experience of father Jacob it says, “…If you get hurt by God, that seems to give one the grace to speak truthfully when you are asked, ‘What’s your name? What’s your line?’; so a person can say, “My name is—self-seeker, hot-shot, loafer.’ What’s your name…And when such confession of guilt is wrung out of a person, God changes the name. Maybe you limp ever after, but what of it compared to having wrestled with the living God and received surely his benediction!”
Every family with teen-age son or daughter does well to make this volume available in the home. Its robust language makes Scripture come alive, especially to young people who often think much more deeply about God and his will for their lives than we suppose. Meanwhile the book will also be a blessing to readers whose years are more than twenty or thirty and who feel the need of spending “moments” with the God of the living word.
(This volume can be obtained only from: Trinity College Bookstore, 6600 West 123rd Street, Palos Heights, Illinois, 60463, and Speelman’s Bookhouse, 10 Golfdown Drive, Rexdale, Ontario. Price $2.50 (Amer.) $2.75 (Can.)
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By the time this issue reaches you an important conference wHl be in session several thousand miles away. We refer to the World Congress on Evangelism scheduled for Berlin, Germany, from October 26 through November 4. More than thirteen hundred delegates from some ninety countries will gather together to hear what the Bible has to say about worldwide evangelism for our day.
It goes without saying that this gathering should be greeted with praise and thanks to God. In no area of church work today is there greater confusion and contradiction than in that of Christian missions. Ours is an age of increasing apostasy among those who still name the name of Christ; an age of spiritual bankruptcy for hundreds of millions throughout the world. Yet the churches which still profess to believe Christ according to the Scriptures fail to preach him as clearly and continually as they ought.
Recognizing that here lies one of our greatest weaknesses, evangelical leaders have been planning and praying for this conference during many months. The program for the ten-day meeting has been clearly outlined. Among other things it will seek to define Biblical evangelism for our day, to establish its relevance and underline its urgency in the face of much apathy and perversion, to deal in depth with resistance to the gospel of our God which seems so characteristic of our contemporaries.
We are grateful that among the delegates will be a sizeable number from Reformed churches which still take their confessional standards seriously. We pray that their presence may be a blessed influence in the Berlin meetings, that they may return safely with renewed strength and refreshed vision. From them we will look for reports which will inspire the churches to proclaim the pure, full gospel of God’s sovereign grace in Christ faithfully, fearlessly, fruitfully throughout the whole wide world.
– PETER Y. DE JONG