The Revolution is Now! (2)

The last time we traced some revolutionary trends in society and other denominations. Also our Christian Reformed Church and our Christian organizations are not immune to the revolution epidemic.

A controversial book – Recently a highly controversial book, Out of Concern for the Church, was published in Canada. It contains five essays by key figures in the Association for the Advancement of Christian Scholarship in Toronto. This is a controversial movement, even to such an extent that Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois felt constrained to publish the following:

“Declaration of Christian Academic Freedom Be it resolved by the Board of Trustees and the Board of Curators of Trinity Christian College that, since Trinity Christian College was conceived by its founders as an independent educational institution, subject only to God and His revelation in His infallible written Word, as defined in the historic Reformed confessions, that we reaffirm our historic independence from any man-made philosophic system. We do hereby declare that we will not tolerate the dominance of any such man-made philosophic system within the faculty, curriculum, and related activities of Trinity Christian College. We hereby mandate the President of the College to develop an administrative and academic climate conducive to these objectives. Adopted unanimously by the Board of Curators and the Board of Trustees to joint session. Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Ill. December 16, 1970.”

A veritable storm has raged around this publication (Out of Concern for the Church) in the pages of Calvinist-Contact. An interesting full-page advertisement was placed by an unknown group of people who complained that the AACS is driving a wedge between parents and children, a wedge between school boards and teachers. a wedge between consistories and church members (Calvinist-Contact, January 7/14, 1971). Ironically. the “Concern” book was published by the Wedge Publishing Company, Toronto. In the Calvinist-Contact issue of January 21, 1971, the “Concern” book is mentioned in no less than five articles from different contributors.

Kingdom Idea – Much of the criticism is directed against the Kingdom Idea as developed in the book. It has been called a Christian version of Marxist Utopia on this earth. Rev. F. Guillaume writes in his review (p. 10, Calvinist-Contact, January 21, 1971):

Out of Concern for the Church pictures a vision of some earthly situation. The chapter on page 20 is called ‘A Dream: which describes a future continental position in which Christian action of today will have developed into an almost perfect reality. For instance, the Christian political party has become the official opposition. Christian politicians are witnessing to the redeeming and reconciling responsibility of Government -the task of creating a just society. There is also one world-wide Christian institutional church. There is Voice, the Christian daily newspaper and there is Meaning, the Christian weekly, ‘which has replaced Playboy as the top circulation North American Magazine.’ In that manner the dream goes on and on. At the end it is stated: ‘My heart is full of joy, for America is a good place to live, a free place, free for all people to live out of their convictions. It is a place where God’s name is honored and revered; for His people arc honest, open, good representatives of Christ.’ And the application of this fantastic dream is most serious: ‘Our Christian historical understanding tells us that much hard work remains if we, with God’s blessing, are to realize this vision.’”

This is all linked with the cultural-mandate concept. In Out of Concern we read: “While God is the sovereign creator, Man is the maker of history.

“Man’s path through time is . . . the cultivation of the garden into a city: the City of God . . .” (p. 82). “That is the vision of the Kingdom which Christ followers may dream, may live for” (p. 89).

Rev. Guillaume writes in the same issue of Calvinist-Contact:

“Let us not forget that the Bible never gives us occasion to work towards a perfect place to live in this world. Revelation 12 teaches us that the church has to live in the desert, chased by Satan himself. Often the church of Christ has been tried in the crucible. It is certainly not without reason that we are called ‘pilgrims on the way to a better fatherland.’”

Rev. P. L. Van Katwyk writes (Calvinist-Contact, p. 2, 3, Jan. 21, 1971):

“Mr. John A. Olthuis in his contribution to the AACS publication lets us in on his ‘dream’ of walking along the strcets of Ottawa at a time when the Kingdom of God has come to expression in the system of North American society. What should he pointed out is that in Christ’s teaching of the Kingdom of God the ‘mustard seed’ is mentioned exactly to point to the hidden and secret nature of the Kingdom in our present dispensation before Christ’s Return, rather than Christians getting together to pool their mustard seed resources to make the Kingdom visible. That Christ said that His Kingdom is not of this world; that the Kingdom ‘is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Lo, here it is,” or “there!’”

Yet AACS lecturers go around preaching this kingdom of this earth. The influence can be seen, e.g., in the following letter of a fourteen-year-old boy (quoted in AACS Perspective newsletter of January 22, 1971):

“I can’t want to wait around. I want to do something NOW. Maybe this is because I’m a teenager, but this is still how I feel. A student of yours, Mr. Judd, came to our school and gave an excellent, inspiring, get-up-and-go-ish type of speech he should be commended upon. I want to help start His Kingdom.”

Caricature – Another revolutionary trend is the merciless lashing out at the establishment, in this case the institutional church. Ironically someone has renamed the book “Without Concern for the Church.” One certainly gets that impression. No one will want to pretend that the church is perfect, but what about the following caricature found in this book?

“The church is dead” (p. 32). “The church is quite dead” (p. 32). “You are dead” (p. 85). “The Church as apostate establishment” (p. 33).

“The church of today is unwilling to examine its response to its calling. It is comfortably assured that it is the most important institution anyway. Such a church becomes an establishment in the worst sense of that word . . .” (p. 34). (See also for this “establishment” p. 33, p. 97; and for its defending of the status quo position, p. 95.)

Concerning the evangelical churches, we find this remark: “The decision-makers are interested in maintaining peace, in keeping the bureaucracy alive, in lubricating the ecclesiastical system” (p. 96).

The following sentences are from a poem which is called a “fitting symbol of our situation” (p. 30):

“We are the dead
The very essence of our faith
has drained away . . .
You sit upon your blubbered bums
And whisper sweet pious nothings . . .
Better to have no God at all than to worship
That cotton-batting King that pats you on the back” (p. 29).

Or consider this diagnosis:

“Today we can no longer speak of a Christian church … the internal decadence of the Christian community is so great that the very word ‘Christian’ is meaningless” (p. 100).

“I believe that the institutional church in America has failed . . . with no denominational and few local exceptions” (p. 15).

Now these brethren go traveling across the North American continent with their lectures on “The Institutional Church.” No wonder certain consistories have decided not to place the announcement of these meetings in their bulletins.

Christian Schools – The Christian Schools and school boards do not fare much better in AACS thinking and arc all put in one heap:

“The Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and the Christian Reformed Church have largely looked upon the Christian schools developed in their milieu as extensions of the denominations and not as avenues of re-directing the educational enterprise in the larger national setting” (p. 97). “These schools are often afraid of ‘outsiders’” (p. 18). How unfair such a criticism is can be seen from the fact that although most Christian schools welcome “outsiders,” who of these outside parents are willing to pay the high tuition?

And there is Marx again: “Needless to say, with this background the Christian student has far less to contribute to the current debate about the nature of the university and the structure of society than his Marxist counterpart” (p. 99).

How do you like the following plea for dirty books at Christian Schools:

“Isolation-ward schools often attempt to ban so-called ‘dirty’ books in a naive attempt to protect students. Perhaps books containing four-letter words are often ‘cleaner’ than the sweet, sentimental, pseudo-pious, Christian life distorting publications that are often passed off as Christian literature” (p. 18).

“Is there preaching support for learning how to Christianty read dirty books?” (p. 52).

“I believe Christian education contributes to the collapse of the Christian community” (p. 18).

According to AACS thinking, the final decisions whether students should read dirty books is decided by teachers, not the school board.

Small wonder that certain school boards take a second look before hiring an AACS teacher in their system.

Just take this example taken from a liturgy at a Christian high school:

“If you’re looking for a heaven like a fairy painting scene,
With battlements in Omo-white and pearly gates all clean,
If you shrink from all the dirt and sex and sin you’ve seen,
then there’s nothing for you here,
You’d better go, you’d better go.”

Or this:

“We’ve got to get moving now if we want to see God’s Kingdom come.”

Social Structures – Along with the above goes a negativistic view of present day society. Again we meet Karl Marx:

“While the church philanthropically fooled around with symptoms, Marx tackled the economic disease. . . While the church polished its treasures and engaged in periodic heresy hunts, Karl Marx worked on a program to replace the inhuman social and economic system, if necessary, by means of violent revolution” ( p. 13).

Karl Marx is further commended for having said the following:

“The Social principles of Christianity encourage dullness, lack of self-respect, submissiveness, self-abasement, in short, all the characteristics of the proletariat” (p. 13).

Accordingly, shots are fired in Out of Concern for the Church at the “capitalist establishment” (p. 33); the “Industrial establishment” (p. 90); and “that Great American Bitch: the Democratic Way of Life” (p. 33).

Authority is undermined by quoting such slogans of humanists as:

“A trigger-happy police force, a prime reason for black anger, and youthful dissent” (p. 11, cf. p. 14).

There is a pat on the shoulder for those “revolting young Marxists” (p. 31). And we are told: “The spiritual bankruptcy of our lives is powerfully apparent in the sadistic stupidity of Judge Julius Hoffman” (p. 31).

Class Struggle – Marxist influence is also evident in that famous class struggle idea, between those who have the wealth and the producers.

“Class struggle is waged between kinds of owners of wealth and production, to see to it that the right class owns it all while we ought to ask whether ownership is important at all” (p. 10). I have the impression that the writers do not even realize how much they have been influenced by the spirit of the times.

Also not all writers of the book stress revolutionary ideas in the same degree. They do denounce Marx once in a while (e.g., pp. 77, 81) but then some go on borrowing from his basic thought patterns.

Tracing revolutionary influences in other publications or institutions might be an interesting task, which I rather leave to someone else. Just a few examples from Canadian publications:

“In an article in a youth magazine (Credo, p. 19, Jan. 1971) we read: “The free trips to Heaven are a myth we Christians have touted for a long time . . . live on earth while it is day . . . and live without any escapist dreams of an unreal heaven.”

In The Guide, official magazine of the Canadian Christian Labour Association (Vol. 18, Number 8/9, 1970, p. 18), I found an article which makes social concern the central message of the Gospel. Soul salvation is called an echo of the Goodnews. The church is accused of diverting the hungry people of the world by the echo instead of bringing the proclamation. That proclamation of the Goodnews is bread.

“People who want bread say bread. People who have bread say salvation.

“‘Well,’ the churches say, ‘we’re not in the business of providing bread, we’re in the business of preaching salvation. Who will buy our sweet salvation? We need some money to keep the salvation machinery going so that we can make more salvation for everybody . . . ’”

It cannot be denied that accepting revolutionary thoughts gives anyone a contemporary flavor. Whether it is a Christian flavor, may be left to the reader to decide.

We certainly need to multiply our prayers for Christ’s church, for Christian organizations, and for the world. Pray also for our oppressed brothers and sisters in Communist prisons, and thank God for the freedom. of worship in our Western world.

The answer to Communism is not imitating its goals or covering its materialistic mind with some Christian varnish.

We must work for social justice, but that is not the central message of the gospel. Let us not make the mistake of the disciples who looked for an earthly kingdom.

Paul says: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (I Cor. 15,19).

Let us not be ashamed of Jesus’ statement; My Kingdom is not of this world . . . (John 18:36).

Leonard T. Schalkwyk is pastor of the Christian Reformed Church of St. Thomas, Ontario.