A CHOICE, NOT AN ECHO
“A choice, not an echo” was the motto of the defeated Republican presidential candidate. More realistically it should have read: “Not a Choice, but an Echo.” For the Republican party is but an echo of a Democratic voice that fang out twenty-five years ago. The Republicans and Democrats are both on the same spectrum but only at different points. Conservatism is conserving today what was progressivism a quarter of a century ago. To take but one example, Social Security, opposed by the conservatives in the thirties, is now defended by the same party. Both major parties are basically the same in that they are secularistic rather than being Scripturally oriented. The Christian God and the Bible are never the norms of their platforms. To make them so might offend the Protestant Modernist, the Secularist, or the Orthodox Jew. In elections the vote of the people is much more important than the vote of God.
What the electorate should have is a real choice and not an echo. Not a choice like that between a donkey and an elephant, but like that between an animal and a man. Not a choice between two points on the same spectrum but between two different spectra. Not a choice between con· servatism and progressivism, whose goals change with the times, one party being only faster than the other, but a choice between a party that is consciously Scripturally oriented and one that is not. Then we will have a real choice and not the echo of the past campaign.
EDWIN H. PALMER
The underlying thesis of this little piece is that the Christian’s conception of God spares him or should spare him from much faulty thinking. To be more precise, I should say that it is the biblical representation of God’s being and character that spares the Christian from slipping into such byways of thought.
Of the very essence of the Godhead is that He is simple. This means that God is not divided into parts. There is no “compositeness” in God. This means to say that the being of God is not Bt together like a composite of pieces or parts in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle. “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah” (Deut. 6:4). God’s being is not composed of a number of parts called holiness, righteousness, justice, love, truth, compassion, sovereignty, etc. Rather, all these divine perfections are wholly fused into one. Our finite intellectual equipment cannot fathom this utter oneness or simplicity of the divine being. We have to think of God in terms of various attributes or qualities which in reality are one. This is part of the wondrous mystery of the Godhead. This mystery of the divine simplicity has been well illustrated by saying that God actually has but one glorious attribute, perfection, which is like the brilliant light of the sun. When this bright light passes through a prism, it breaks up into the various colors of the spectrum. God’s infinitely wonderful and mysterious perfection strikes the finite mind of man in the blaze of His glory and on passing through man’s mental prism it breaks up into what are called His various attributes.
The faulty thinking that must always be avoided comes from a failure to do full justice to this sublime simplicity of God. We fail in this high duty when we take some aspect of the divine character and stress it in such a way that it takes a position out of the integral, interlocking unity of all of God’s perfections. Such thinking we may call “hypostatic thinking.”
An hypostasis, says Webster’s International III, is a “reified abstraction,” that is, an abstraction given the position of a reality by itself. An attribute of God’s being stressed to a degree that it is pushed out of its interlocking relationship with the rest of the divine perfections becomes such an hypostasis and thus represents faulty theology, faulty thinking.
A look at three illustrations ought to clarify the point.
Our first illustration is suggested by a favorite scripture text at a Thanksgiving Day service. The reference is to I Thessalonians 5: 18 – “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to youward.” This is God’s will of precept or command to men. Does this represent God as authoritarian, demanding, bossy? Men commonly think of commands and those who give commands in this way. Manifestly it is absurd to think of such an expression of God’s will for us as something that can be described by terms like authoritarian or demanding or bossy. God’s will is the expression of his very character as both holy and loving, as both righteous and gracious. Those who know him as he should be known, namely, in Christ Jesus, know that God’s will that they be thankful not only reflects his sovereignty but also reflects his love. For to live a life of gratitude in all things is to live not only in obedience to God but also in the richest and most ennobling manner in which man can live.
In modem times we have seen a whole philosophy of child training built upon a sharp distinction between authority and love. Is this a valid distinction? Definitely not. This sharp distinction has its roots in an unchristian perspective on life. He who knows God. aright knows that God’s commands are not only expressive of his sovereignty; they are also expressive of his love. It was to those who were the objects of his love that God gave the decalogue, as Exodus 20:2 makes quite clear. Adherence to a sound theology would have spared our modern culture from a philosophy of child training which was false in its very character and disastrous in many of its results. Adherence to such a theology would have led men to realize that the God whose glory must be life’s highest concern is God of absolute authority and of matchless love.
The second illustration is closely akin to the first. Some years ago when the undersigned was taking graduate courses at Columbia University, New York, he noticed something very striking and revealing in the questions and comments of the students in the classes. Many of these students just could not understand. it appeared, that authority and love could go hand in hand in the parent-child relationship. It was clear from the questions and remarks that to these students authority and discipline always represented something restrictive, harsh, negative, forbidding and unloving. As I listened to these rather revealing comments and questions, I came to a conclusion that has never left me. My conclusion was that a true understanding of the interrelation of authority and love is a Christian achievement, a Christian achievement which eluded these neo-pagan minds. And this is a Christian achievement simply because of the Christian’s biblical conception of God, in whom all authority and love are perfectly and inseparably intertwined.
A third illustration has to do with frequent emphasis on the love of God. In my judgment the love of God is often represented in such a way that it has lost its integral interlocking relationship with the rest of the divine perfections, and is therefore a faulty representation of that love. I see such fault in the declaration that “the most basic and comprehensive of all missionary principles is the love of God.” Indeed. missions are carried out at the impulse of tIle love of God. But equally missions are carried out at the command of God. When the church carries out its high God-assigned task of evangelizing the world, she is standing in the presence of God, the God of the Bible, the God who is at once terribly sovereign and greatly compassionate, absolutely authoritative and gently loving, perfect1y just and wondrously merciful. When the love of God is dealt with as an intellectual datum, a “principle,” it can easily be pulled out of its integral relationship with the other perfections of the divine being. A faulty representation must inevitably be the result. One result could very well be a practice of evangelism which fails to do justice to the call to repentance in the address of the evangelist to men. Repentance underscores the ethical quality of the love of God, an ethical quality rising from the fact of the full interlocking of love and righteousness in the being of God. May I suggest that such faulty hypostatic thinking may have more than a little to do with the problem of the love of God and missions with which the Christian Reformed Church is engaged?
We may never forget that basic to sound child training, to missions, to educational theory and practice, yes to all of life, is a sound theology, a theology which does not permit us to stress some significant element in the divine being at the expense of the integrity of the Godhead. The profound significance of the simplicity of God should never be lost on us. Due respect for this important fact of sound theology will spare us from losing our way in many misleading byways of human thought.
A NOTE ON MEDICATE UNDER SOCIAL SECURITY
Over the past three years or so I have made it a point to ask a number of older people about Medicare, that is, the proposal that people over sixty-five years of age be given certain benefits by way of medical and hospital care, such benefits to be paid for out of Social Security taxes. I would say that the majority of these people have been, not from the poorer classes of society, nor from the richer classes. but from the whole broad spectrum of the middle income group, with most of them favoring the modest income bracket.
The number so approached probably number some thirty-five or forty people. This is not many, of course. But the Significant fact is that with perhaps one or two exceptions the reaction was that the person approached did not feel he needed such assistance and did not particularly wish to have such a program enacted.
What does this prove? Nothing perhaps. But even such scant and cursory research does raise the question of the ethical factor involved in providing such assistance for all when there are many who do not need it. It is understood on all sides that the introduction of such a program will call for a sharp raise in social security taxes. These added taxes will be taken most heavily from those younger people who are in the expensive years of life when homes and education have to be paid for along with all the other expenses involved in raising a family. Should these citizens be taxed. for the maintenance of a program for all citizens over sixty-five (when will it be made sixty?) when many in this age bracket do not need these benefits—whereas the families of the younger taxpayers do need plenty of money for many things, including medical costs?
The pressing problem involved was brought home to me in another way recently when I asked a man running a small business what he thought of Medicare under Social Security. He flared up at once and said something like this, “I am against any more deductions from wages for taxes of any kind. They will drive us little fellows to the wall.” I felt for him. Such payments out of the salaries of his employees would have to be made up by higher wages. It is not hard to understand how big labor can endorse Medicare under Social Security. These bigger unions can readily threaten to strike or strike for mare pay to offset the deduction from their wages for Medicare.
It would appear perfectly obvious that the burden of carrying Medicare under Social Security will weigh most heavily on the shoulders of people with lower incomes, people with heavy responsibilities for growing families, and people with small businesses. This is a considerable and valuable segment of the population. Is it just to tax this group more heavily to carry a program that many in the age group to be benefited do not need?
What about those who do need such assistance as that envisioned under Medicare? Such assistance, and more than the rather meager amount provided in past Medicare bills, should be available to those senior citizens who need it. Some method that escapes the inequity involved in Medicare under Social Security (as heretofore proposed) must be contrived that those who need such assistance to meet medical and hospital costs can get that help in a way that is free from much red tape and from any blow to the beneficiary’s seH-respect. There is criticism of the programs under the Kerr-Mills legislation that these programs do not meet these requirements. I am not now in a position to assess such criticism.
One older person whom I approached on this matter had this to say, “It would be nice to have.” This person positively did not need such help. But that’s the way with across-the-board assistance programs. Those who don’t need them take advantage of them because such benefits are usually “nice to have.” This is one reason why the irreversible changes wrought under socialism move relentlessly on.