Elsewhere in this issue is an article by the Rev. John De Kruyter on sabbaticals for ministers. He has amply established the value of such periods of study. We can be thankful to the Seymour Christian Reformed Church and other churches in taking the leadership in this. Such a policy that enables a minister periodically to replenish his resources is of benefit not only to the local congregation but also to the denomination as a whole.
If this policy is really valuable—and we believe it is—this should be made a denominational policy. The value and desirability of periodic stimulation does not depend upon whether or not a minister has just moved. He, the congregation and denomination still need that sabbatical, wherever he is. Nor does the desirability depend upon whether or not he is a pastor of a congregation. Our ministerial denominational editors and full time board servants also need to replenish their intellectual and cultural wells. Nor does the need depend entirely upon whether or not one is ordained. Our lay missionaries who work so faithfully year after year also need time away from the pressure of work to study.
If sabbaticals were made a denominational practice, they should conform to the regular practice of one out of seven years. They should be uniformly financed, perhaps in the same way that the ministers’ pension fund is being financed today, partially by the ministers and partially by the denominational quotas.
Some far-seeing consistory ought to make a study of this with a view to overturing Synod. In the long nlll the quality of the ministry would be improved and the congregations would be better served.
EDWIN H. PALMER
EVOLUTION – THE CRUX OF THE QUESTION
The problem of origins is widely discussed nowadays and it appears to enjoy general interest. Of course, the problem does not first of all concern the destiny of man and of the world (though that is not to be excluded altogether), but far more and even first of all the origin of all things. The questions, where did man and the universe come from and how were they brought into being, are asked.
Those questions are more complex with such as believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible and in its infallibility that is, in (organiC) inspiration of the Bible and in its infallibility in the accepted orthodox sense of those terms than with unbelievers. Persons who do not believe in the Bible us “the Word of God written” naturally have full sway. They are in no way restricted in their views and interpretations, since they deny and, therefore. ignore the fact of God’s interpretation in the Bible. But those who believe that God has revealed Himself in nature (general revelation) and also in Scripture (special revelation) are restricted. Unlike many unbelievers, who are unwilling to concede—that they are biased, believers openly confess that they are biased and that they have presuppositions. Believingly, consciously and willingly they start from information supplied supernaturally in the Bible. This is not burdensome to them and neither is it unscientific. In fact it is more scientific than the method of the unbelievers. The Bible is a fact; to ignore it or to disbelieve it is anything out scientific.
It wouldn’t surprise me if nearly all believers, at least a11 Reformed believers, agree with the above statements. They, I think, will likewise hold that Scripture is to be normative and/or corrective whenever God’s general revelation is studied or investigated. The conclusions drawn are at least not to clash with the knowledge imparted by Scripture. However, when some of these believers search for an answer to the question of origins, they hold that the Bible does not tell us how all things were brought forth by God. Of course, they admit that God “created” all things, but they deny that Scripture gives information as to the manner in which God did it or does it (for some seem to hold that creation is continuous).
Such a view of the Bible with its implied approach leaves room for the teachings of evolutionism. This conception, even in its theistic form (theistic evolutionism), invariably fails to separate God’s work of creation from His work of providence (d. Gen. 2:1, 2) and accepts the evolutionistic idea of uniformitarianism. This is the view which holds that the forces operating now in the realm which we call God’s providence and which is often designated as the realm of natural law have also produced the world and man. They thereby subscribe to the so-called law of continuity—all “living” things are linked so that one form of life has produced the other form in some way or another. By that view or interpretation of the Bible it is claimed Scripture and science can be harmonized.
However, frank (materialistic) evolutionists will admit that their views are speculative and hypothetical in character (cf. Torch and Trumpet, Feb., 1966). There are no hard facts supporting their views. One stumbles over such adjectives as “possible” and “probable” reportedly in evolutionistic literature. It is, moreover, generally known that the “links” between the various categories of creatures are indeed “missing.” By this time search has been made for them for at least a century. Yet nothing substantial has been discovered. One may call evolutionism a view or a philosophic concept, but it cannot lay claim to the term “science.”
Now it would seem that, such being the case, all who confess to believe in the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible should repudiate the philosophy of evolutionism. Yet (theistic) evolutionists do not do that. They adhere to the evolutionistic philosophy, but interpret the Bible in such a way as will leave room for that philosophy. For years Scripture has been treated in that manner by many. Comparatively recently, however, that method has been adopted by some Reformed scholars. As is known attempts are being made nowadays to separate the so-called real message of Scripture from what is said to be the cloak in which it lies enwrapped. For that reason “saga” and “myth” are said to be found in Scripture, and some passages heretofore considered prose are now said to be poetic. It is claimed that one of the first questions which should be asked when attempts to interpret a given section of Scripture are made is, What type of literature am I dealing with in this passage? I think this is called “form criticism.” External evidence (hence evidence outside of Scripture) is frequently used to mark a section either as prose, saga, myth or poetry. At any rate, such a section as the first part of Genesis is in that way said to be non-historical. It does not, according to this assertion, purport to impart knowledge of facts which have actually occurred. In that manner the way is cleared not only for the philosophy of evolutionism, but for many other views as well. The Bible is thus conveniently exposed and made adaptable to whatever man wishes to suggest. Today it is evolutionism, but no one can tell what it may be tomorrow.
This shows that for the Bible believing Christian the crux (the pivotal point) of the question of evolutionism is not located in the realm of the natural sciences. It is found in the realm of the principles of Biblical interpretation. This branch of theological science is called hermeneutics. For that reason it can also be understood easily why that discipline has received so much attention of late. And it is no wonder at a11 that when believers seek to defend the theory of evolution and to integrate it into Scripture, one of the first things they do is to engage in the specialized field of Biblical hermeneutics. Christian men, whose field of specialty is that of the natural sciences and, therefore, of God’s general revelation, and who favor evolutionism, will enter the theological field of hermeneutics before they even discuss nature. They will attack views of professional theologians and exegetes. Dr. J. Lever does that, for instance, in the first chapter of his book “Creatie en Evolutie.” In itself there is nothing wrong with attempts made at Biblical interpretation by anyone. How could there be? But the point I desire to make is, that the question of evolutionism is for the believer above all theological and hermeueutical in character. For that reason no one should ever think that the truth or falsehood of the theory of evolution is decided by natural scientists alone. The question of origins lies beyond the realm of that which is phenomenal and perceptible. The question cannot be taken into the laboratory. We depend upon God’s special revelation and should listen to it believingly. As is true of practically all problems, the question of evolutionism remains basically theological in character.
NICHOLAS J. MONSMA
WHOSE GOD IS DEAD?
There was the time when Job was moved to cry, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him! That I might come even to His seat!” Job, finally, was given to know the answer to his complaint for he trusted in God who had spoken to him.
The same basic question is being asked by many people today and a variety of answers is being given. Where is God to be found and upon what basis can we have any knowledge of Him at all?
How often it is heard that we can gain no knowledge of God from the past and from the things of the past. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ who came and suffered and died and rose again is quickly dismissed and the word of Scripture is rejected. God can only be known from our own present experience. It is asserted that we must discover God in our own experience and in our own consciousness. It is in this way that we can come to a knowledge of Him.
Now it is true that a Christian comes to experience the Spirit’s presence in his own consciousness for the “Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are children of God.” We come to see His hand in our every experience for “He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul.” We by his .grace live our lives ,in the light of the Word of His love revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ. When the truth and the light of His Word fills our lives then even in the darkness of our experiences there is the light of His love. This Job experienced, finally.
If, however, human experience is cut loose from the Word of God in Christ Jesus, there can never be a discovery of God in human consciousness and life. The apostate heart cannot discover God. When such a heart studies experience and life the only conclusion that can finally be reached is that God is dead. What ought, more precisely, to be said is that such a man is dead to God.
Presently no small stir is being caused by this “God is dead” theology. It is, in my judgment, the only kind of thinking that remains to those who cut themselves off from the revelation of God in Christ Jesus according to the Scriptures. It is no theology but, rather, the philosophical presentation of atheism using the vocabulary of the church. It is not new in its basic motif. It is new in that it uses the vocabulary of the church to a greater extent than before. It is new in that it seeks a place to speak within the framework of theological science. It is new in that it is an attempt to say these things within the church and as a part of the church.
I am sure that their god is dead. He always was! The advocates of the “God is dead” theology are hardly in a position to identify the corpus delecti of the historic Christian faith because they never knew Him to begin with. Had they known Him in the glory of his grace in Jesus Christ they would speak with Job. “But He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held fast to His steps; His way have I kept, and turned not aside.”