THE PRIMACY OF SECULAR EFFECTS
In the current church-state debate regarding education an important doctrine is evolving. It could be called the doctrine of the primacy of secular effects. Much government aid is being given to Christian colleges and universities in the form of scholarships, tuition grants, research grants, and grants for the construction of classrooms, dormitories, libraries, and laboratories. Fundamentalist Protestants, modernistic Jews and secularists have been quick to charge a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Aid, they say, has been given either directly or indirectly to the support of religion and therefore is unconstitutional.
The courts, however, are ruling that education is education, regardless of the by-product effects upon religion. A significant precedent was established by the Supreme Court in the McGowan decision concerning Sunday closing laws. The Court recognized that Sunday closing laws would benefit Christianity, yet this fact “does not bar the state from achieving its secular goals,” namely the rest of the laborer.
In the 1963 Schempp Bible-reading case the court stated the doctrine very clearly when it said: “What are the purpose and primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion, then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the stricture of the establishment clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion.” Although a primary secular purpose and effect could not be found in Bible reading, the norm was expressed whereby government aid to education would not be unconstitutional, even if indirect aid was given to “religion.”
This rule of the primacy of secular effects has found its most recent expression in the Maryland case of March 11th. The State of Maryland has given grants of $2.5 million to four church colleges; Hood (United Church of Christ); Western Maryland (Methodist); and St. Joseph and Notre Dame (Roman Catholic). Circuit Court Judge O. Bowie Duckett used the same terminology that the Supreme Court had used when he wrote that the test that must be applied is “that if either the legislative purpose or the primary effect of the enactment advances or suppresses religion, the legislation is invalid; otherwise it is valid.” If the grants had been “for the construction of a church or chapel at any of the institutions,” the grants would not have been allowed, but they were intended for rooms and dormitory buildings, “all of a secular nature.” Therefore, he ruled that the state aid was constitutional.
It is this doctrine of the primacy of secular effects that has permitted the government to grant $117,000 to Dordt College for its new library. That Dordt is Calvinistic in its educational orientation makes no difference. The primary effect of the grant is not the advancement of Calvinism but of education, and therefore the grant is constitutional. Calvin College should also take greater advantage of these government grants. Already, 34 students are receiving approximately $800 a piece from the State of Michigan to attend Calvin. According to present plans this figure may well be tripled next year. To be sure, Calvinism is abetted by these grants, but the tuition grants are not ruled unconstitutional because the primary effect is what the courts call a secular one. The same principle was followed in the G.I. Bill of Rights.
From a Calvinistic standpoint, the terms secular and religious as used by the courts are most inaccurate. Secular is not the opposite of religious. Secularism is a religion just as much as Calvinism or Roman Catholicism. But with this reservation in mind, the Calvinist can appreciate this important court principle that is the legal basis for governmental aid not only to religiously-oriented secular education, but also to education oriented toward Christianity or Judaism.
EDWIN H . PALMER
As soon as man sinned God announced to Satan, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This is often called the “Protevangelium,” and rightly so. It is the first announcement that God will save his people. But there is more here, for these words remind us of the antithesis which now exists by the appointment of God. This is not a fact unrelated to the gospel; it is involved in the gospel and it was clarified in the very first proclamation of the good news.
Not long ago, a young man remarked that this word is almost foreign to an up-to-date vocabulary. Could it be that with the addition of new words to our vocabularies some words must go? Or could the reason for the unfamiliarity of the word “antithesis” be deeper than that in a Satanic conspiracy to rid our minds of very basic theological concepts? Most likely the latter is the case because Satan is cunning and crafty.
Simply put, “antithesis” is a contrast between two very different things. When God spoke to Satan in judgment he said that there was a difference between Christ and Anti-Christ; that God’s revelation was to be seen in contrast to human reason; that the condition of regeneration was contrary to man’s depravity. It is true that there is a constant contrast between the kingdom of light and the powers of darkness.
Sad to say, this battle line between darkness and light is no longer being sharply drawn. Here is a blur brought about by a so-called “good-will” which is to be among men. No longer do we seem to listen to the admonition to “walk as children of the light.” In the whole area of Christian living insufficient care has been exercised to apply the idea of antithesis. We no longer care to see ourselves in opposition to the powers of darkness. When we hear that Christ will say to some in the final judgment, “Depart..,” we find ourselves shuddering because these words are contrary to the idea of a “good” God. While the words “brotherhood of man” and “fatherhood of God” are somewhat out of date. the ideas behind them are very up to date. We are told that we must believe these ideas. Could it be that the modern concept of love has its roots in the repudiation of the very basic Biblical doctrine of antithesis?
Synod has warned us about weakening the antithesis. Have we listened? Or, are we so busy talking about the gospel and its modern-day implications that we have forgotten the very clear implication of the first proclamation of the gospel back in the Garden of Eden? As we are experiencing the tide of new opinions on the shores of our denomination and feel their effect, is it perhaps time for us to return to that Biblical teaching of antithesis which has been shelved for a broader but unbiblical view?
Do you remember what this term means? No, we are not inventing a new language. nor are we trying to revive Esperanto. This is One of three terms invented by the military in the early days of World War II. Everything was confusion thrice confounded. But we had a name for it! Three terms, and here they are:
S N A F U: Situation normal: all fouled up.
T A R F U: Things are really fouled up.
F U B A R: Fouled up beyond all recognition.
This last term is a rather accurate description of the modern scene in our land. In the Great Society which our President envisions, we see a giant—frustrated. groveling in the dust and bleeding from a thousand wounds.
Consider for a moment the race problem. I am well aware how dangerous it is to take a critical attitude towards the so-called Civil Rights movement. Anyone who posits the idea that the problem is somewhat bigger than the color of skin is immediately regarded as a “nigger-hater.” Well, this writer feels constrained to be critical but he does not hate anybody. Is it not high time that we deliver ourselves from an orgy of emotional tensions which only leads to greater difficulties?
We all know what is happening in one of our southern states. Demonstrations take place everywhere. At a moment’s notice Dr. Martin Luther King can assemble hundreds, if not thousands. for a demonstration. Don’t those people ever work? Where do they get the time for all this marching? And where do these preachers get the time? Evidently the work in their parishes is not particularly important or pressing. Of course. we strongly condemn the violent attack on three preachers which ended in the murder of one. But was he a martyr or foolhardy? Certain neighborhoods in the city of Grand Rapids are not considered safe at night. We are warned not to go there alone. If I walk there anyway in defiance of every warning and am attacked, does not some responsibility rest with myself? Certainly I may feel free to go there, but…!
We talk about segregation. Who wants segregation? Here is a factual account based on personal observation. Some decades ago this writer lived and worked in one of our great metropolitan centers. Negroes began. slowly at first, to infiltrate the neighborhood. Before long it was completely taken over by the colored folks. Many of our Christian Reformed people wanted integration. When approached to sell their property, they informed prospective purchasers that they did not intend to move. They were told: “You’ll move all right. We’ll make you.” And they did. One friend persevered to the bitter end. He rented his upstairs Hat and lived with colored folks under one roof. Until recently that is, when his wife was attacked, robbed of her purse, dragged over the cement until her arms were raw with bruises and she was sent to the hospital with a broken shoulder. Now he has moved! No white person. man or woman, is safe on the street there. Now people clamor for integration and want Negro children bused to schools far removed from their own neighborhood. They claim to be fighting against de facto segregation.
Our President presented the cause of Civil Rights to the Congress. Insofar as he refers to injustices which must be removed, we all agree with him. But would not his discourse have been far more effective if he had emphasized that privileges can be enjoyed only in proportion to the discharge and acceptance of responsibilities? Injustice. he said. will be stopped. So far. so good. He also said that freedom of speech does not give one the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre; freedom of assembly does not mean freedom to sit or lie in the street to block traffic during the rush hour. Did be say: And this too must be stopped? He did not. Demonstrations right within the White House itself were tolerated. mind you, for a whole day; could anything be more disgusting than that? We have seen the authorities drag some of these demonstrators from their places. Some people call this police brutality. What must they do—try to lure them the way a zoo keeper tempts a monkey with a banana? These street situations could be stopped in five minutes. Let them be given fair warning that in five minutes squad cars will open up the street to traffic. If anyone wants to commit suicide the responsibility is his. And don’t take comfort in what you consider police brutality.
‘What good are these demonstrations? To dramatize the cause of negro oppression, you say. Perhaps. But they also serve the purpose of alerting hoodlums and radicals of all kinds and thus encourage lawlessness and confusion. As I write this. reports come from Cleveland that a high school had to be closed for the day because of racial trouble.
Let us not be misunderstood. Many negroes ask just to be accepted all their merits, live and let live, and live honorably with their families.
The war on poverty is in full swing. It has all of my sympathy. You see, I have been an active combatant in this war since I was eleven years old. Then I was a herdsman for 35¢ for a twelve hour day, rain or shine, seven days a week. Though I have not retreated or lied from the combat zone, my advances have been very moderate. But we have found a way to lick it. I could stand a supervisory job for $25,000.00 a year. I will settle even for an assistant for $18,000.00 a year. With that kind of pay I’ll have this war won very shortly. And with very little sacrifice or effort on my part.
As we scan the landscape and see our nation bleed from a thousand wounds: racial violence, lawlessness, crimes steadily on the increase, we can only look to Him, the God of our fathers, to help us back to godliness and sanity. But as of now this land is fouled up beyond all recognition. Nor will there be improvement until the nation respects its own laws.
THE PURPOSE OF A CHURCH LIBRARY
The purpose of a church library should be in accord with its name church. It is not a public or school library and therefore its purpose is not to duplicate them. It has a distinctive role to fulfill, namely, to meet the needs of the church as an ecclesiastical organization. The Reformed distinction between the church as an organism and the church as an organization must be kept in mind. The church as an organism is the invisible church that manifests itself in the church as an ecclesiastical organization, or in the home or in the school or in business or in cultural activities, etc. The church as an ecclesiastical organization
is only one expression of the church as an organism. It has a limited and well-defined nature and task. Accordingly, a church library should not try to satisfy the needs of the church as an organism in all areas of life, except by way of necessity. It should not attempt to duplicate the area of the home and school by providing reading material for these areas, such as Shakespeare’s plays, Churchill’s Memoirs, nature books, science, history or good fiction. Its task is not to provide books produced by the common grace of God, by non-Christians, however noble and enriching these books may be. Nor should it furnish books in the non-ecclesiastical sphere, even if they are produced by Christians.
The church—i.e., ecclesiastical—library should meet the needs of the church as an ecclesiastical body. This means that it should provide materials to help the elders and deacons perform their work better; to assist the leaders of the Bible societies and Sunday School in the preparation of their lessons; to assist the members of these societies to follow the teaching better; and to help all the church members in fulfilling their Christian obligations in all spheres of life. This latter goal is broad and yet distinctive. It would include materials for a Christian’s personal growth in spiritual matters, such as books on prayer, Bible reading, devotions and sanctification. It would include all kinds of study aids on the Bible, including commentaries and doctrinal studies. It would also include books revealing the principles and practices of a Christian world-and-life view. Religious periodicals would also fit into the category of legitimate materials for a church library.
EDWIN H. PALMER