THE GREAT INFLUENCE OF SONG AND MUSIC
Both music and song play a vital role in our lives. We are influenced by what we hear and we influence others by what we sing or play in music. Scripture is concerned to spell this out for us, how we must use song and music. Of music it says, “let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp,” while of song it says, “singing with grace in yours hearts to the Lord,” and of both it says, “singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ps. 149:3; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). According to Scripture singing is “speaking to one another” and “teaching and admonishing one another” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Singing and music are both means of conveying thoughts and moods, of influencing one another for good or evil.
In our New Psalter Hymnal the importance of this is also stressed. On page v under the heading “Statement of Principles for Music in the Church” we find these statements concerning church music: Church music should be “in harmony with the whole counsel of God” “free from association with currently secular or with anything that does violence to our Reformed conception of worship” and “expressive of our Reformed tradition.”
Many judge that what we sing in church need not necessarily be sung in the home, school, societies, Sunday School, etc. Prof. M. Monsma, in De Wachler of June 9, 1965, warns against the consequences of our not using strictly Reformed songs at all times. He is rightly concerned about our losing “taste” for the rich heritage of Psalms and hymns in our Psalter Hymnal and wonders why it is not used in all our gatherings. Instead of using our Psalter Hymnal (which has more than enough psalms and hymns for all occasions) many arc using other hymns and song books, some decidedly Arminian in words and music. By the use of these we are developing a taste for the more simple subjective type of religious hymns and losing taste for truly God-centered Reformed hymns. Beside this, the choice of records we play has much to do with this. Are we not often letting Arminians, or even Methodists teach us in the songs we sing and play?
In this dangerous trend ministers especially must take positive action. They must teach the congregation to see the great influence of song and music and lead them in developing a taste for what is truly Reformed, that is, Biblical. And together we must insist that our children learn to appreciate our Reformed heritage of song and music. We must by all means remain a Psalm singing church, and all our singing must be God glorifying. The alternative to that is a superfical worship in song, a speaking to one another in song and hymns and spiritual songs that are less than Biblical, with a resultant lack of appreciation for what is sound in doctrine. Perhaps we are in dire need of a good house-cleaning in this important phase of our Christian life.
CECIL W. TUININGA
TEACHING CHILDREN TO PRAY
It is commonly agreed among us that there is but one who can teach a person to pray. Everyone, man or woman, adult or child has to be taught to pray. Both the inclination and the ability must be given. This instruction comes only from the Holy Spirit of God.
Paul slims up the Scriptural instruction concerning instruction in prayer most beautifully in Romans 8. We know not how to pray. Nor do we know what to pray for. It is the Spirit of God who teaches us to pray. This Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God. This Spirit makes us to call out: Abba, Father. This Spirit teaches us to pray according to all the will of God. And therein we have the assurance that our prayers are most certainly heard.
In this too, the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and brings them home to the hearts of the children of God. Jesus’ instruction in prayer is the Spirit’s instruction in prayer; and, the Spirit’s instruction is Jesus’ instruction.
We who are thus Spirit-taught seek to share our instruction specially with the children given us of God. Our special instruction book, the Heidelberg Catechism shows us the way. It gives us to see the opening address of the Lord’s Prayer as profound in instruction and rich in assurance. The Father, who is our Father, who is in heaven is all in all for us. On that sure basis that, as almighty God He is able and as faithful Father He is willing all our prayers are based.
These truths, so well-known among us, raise a serious question in my mind as to a recent turn in instruction in our catechism classes. The synodical Committee on Education is putting out books for the catechetical instruction of our children. Every lesson closes with a prayer—which may be permissible. It is a prayer for the children—and at the same time a lesson in prayer for these children.
What is so perplexing about these prayers is that, almost exclusively, the children are taught to address Cod as “Dear Father” or “Dear God.” In other words, these prayers do not proceed on the assumption that the children are dear to God, but God is dear to them. They do not build on this, that God loves them, but that they love God. God’s love is not primary, nor basic; their love is. One wonders—why this complete change of emphasis? Why must children be persistently and consistently taught to base their prayers on their love for God, rather than on His love for them?
This reversal is the more remarkable when you consider that there is not one prayer in Scripture using this type of address. Nor is there one prayer in Reformed liturgy using this form of address. Just what impels the Committee to discard all Scriptural and confessional example and instruction, and go off on this tangent? Is there any advantage in it for the children? or for the church? Is not the address “Loving Father” far more proper and appropriate than “Dear Father”? Is it not far more in line with the instruction of Christ? and of the Holy Spirit?
A. A. KONING
THEOLOGY OR CHRIST – A FALSE ANTITHESIS
A Presbyterian minister, speaking to a Christian Reformed audience recently, commented on its program of Christian education. He expressed the wish that all Protestants would come to see what a boon Christian education is to the spiritual life of a congregation and society. He feared for this ever happening, however, because of the type of training leaders were receiving in many theological colleges. As an example he referred to his own training in Knox Theological College in Toronto, which he judged as exclusively Barthian, where the professors were concerned to stress that “It’s not theology we need, but Christ.” The speaker saw this as a false antithesis and said that for him theology and Christ were the same thing.
Not long ago a prominent Anglican minister gave me his view on ecumenicity. He was excited about what was happening of late, and saw modem developments as a great and guiding work of the Holy Spirit. Among other things he said, “What our modern world needs is not theology or doctrine, which have failed and proven divisive, but a demonstration of the power of Christ.” As he saw it, we all have to begin to live Christ. He put it this way, “We have to be Christ incarnate.” He was convinced that the Holy Spirit, now thoroughly disappointed by our fumblings and failings, was taking things in hand in His way, and was effecting true unity in His own way. “Hence,” he concluded, we have to let the Spirit lead us, and we have to dare to set aside our traditions and man-made theologies and listen to the Spirit, Who will lead us in Christ to true unity.”
In the new curriculum of the United Church of Canada one can find a similar vein of thinking. In one of its manuals, The Word and The Way we read statements as the following: “Christ did not say that the Bible would take his place, but that the Spirit would” (p. 182), and, “The Church is put under the power of the Spirit to do the will of the Spirit, which is the will of Christ” ( p. 186), and, “The Bible is the word of God only as the Spirit testifies in and through it. The church is a divine society only as the Spirit dwells in it and works through it. To claim divine authority for the Bible as a human book or the church as a human institution is idolatry, and God will disown it” (p. 186), and, “When God’s word comes to man, God is giving man himself. What he reveals is not something but someone: himself. The word of God is only one thing and it is always the same: God’s own nature and being and character made clear to us. When God gives us his word, he gives us himself. So the revelation of God can never be merely something written in a book; it must be always a meeting with a person” (pp. 94, 95).
So one could go on quoting from this new curriculum, but already the Neo-orthodox pattern of thinking is evident. In it we find a discounting of the Bible as God’s authoritative self-revelation to man, and a mystical reliance on the Holy Spirit to lead one in the truth, which is God Himself. It must follow that those who so believe have little use for dogmas, confessions, creeds, or theology. Dr. Runia has made a statement concerning Neo-orthodoxy that is significant in this connection. He writes of it, “New ideas are launched under the cover of old formulations. Quite often the terminology used is identical with that of the older orthodoxy, but the contents arc quite different. Usually one will not hear an outright denial of truths accepted by the Church for many centuries. They are simply passed by in silence. As one has aptly remarked: You do not find the heresies in what is said, but in what is omitted!” (I Believe in God, p. 51.)
When we see the tremendous world-wide influence of Neo-orthodoxy we are wise to be on our guard. We can better be too cautious than too complacent, too critical than too charitable or indulgent. Here, too, the price of liberty is vigilance!
I believe we have to do a little soul-searching, for arc there not already among us those who largely discount creeds, confessions, doctrines, etc.? And are we not hearing in one form or another; “It’s not theology we need, but Christ?” And arc there not also voices arising concerning the reliance we should have on the Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth, aside from creeds, confessions, theologies, etc.?
When Fundamentalists insist on “No creed but Christ,” we can appreciate their motive. They want to serve God according to His Word, and for that they do not want to rely on the works of men but on the Holy Spirit. But in doing so they impoverish themselves. They lose the guidance in the truth that the creeds of the historic Christian Church give, and reject this royal gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church through the Church. It is not that they have no creeds! They are forced to formulate new creeds that come centuries short of the glory of the historic creeds.
When Neo-orthodoxy sets aside the historic creeds (actually it amounts to that) and turn to the Holy Spirit to guide them, they have an entirely different motive. They want to be free from the living God who speaks in the Scriptures, and to make man the end and goal of things. Neo-orthodoxy jumps off the steep cliff of hell-inspired mysticism. They insist that man can meet Cod anywhere, at any time, in any way. And since we do not know the way, when, or where, we must always have our souls wide open to receive the influences the Spirit is pleased to work in us. Yes, the Bible may be such a way, but it is only one of many. One must not see it as God’s Word that comes with divine authority, but only a book of human experiences in which God may speak to us.
We may well ask ourselves how deeply we are influenced by this type of thinking. Listen, for example, to statements such as these, “The starting point of Christian philosophy is, therefore, the regenerated heart of the believer. In his heart the believer participates in the Revelation of God in Christ,” or, “Philosophy is not based upon theology or any other special sciences, nor docs it rest upon theoretical thought proclaimed to be sovereign. It rests upon religion and religion spans the entire life of man’ (An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, by J. M. Spier, pp. 16, 17), or, “For dogmatic theology is a very dangerous science. Its elevation to a necessary mediator between God’s Word and the believer amounts to idolatry and testifies to a fundamental misconception concerning its real character and position. If Our salvation be dependent on theological dogmatics or exegesis, we are lost. For both of them are a human work, liable to all kinds of error, disagreement in opinion, and heresy. We can even say that all heresies are of a theological origin,” or, “It is beyond discussion that the actual Christian faith in its true sense can only originate from the operation of God’s Word, as a central spiritual power, in the heart, i.e., the religious center of our existence,” or, “All such theological problems as the significance of the IMAGO DEI before and after the fall, the relation between creation and sin and that of particular grace to commOn grace, that of the union of the two natures in Jesus Christ, etc., can only arise in the theoretical opposition of the faith-aspect to the logical aspect of our thought. They are certainly legitimate problems of theological dogmatics, but exactly as theological problems they do not concern the central basic motive of the Holy Scriptures as it is operative. in the religious center of our consciousness and existence. This spiritual basic motive is elevated above all theological exegesis, since its radical meaning is exclusively explained by the Holy Spirit operating in our opened hearts, in the communion of this Spirit. This is the only really ecumenical basis of the Church of Christ, which in its institutional temporal appearance is hopelessly divided, and it is the ultimate divine judge both of all dogmatic theology and of all philosophy” (In the Twilight of Western Thought, by H. Dooyeweerd, pp. 135, 137, 147), or, “By nature the Church and theology are enemies” (Levensbeschouwing, by Prof. Dr. K. J. Popma, p. 54).
As I see it, these quotations represent a new type of thinking which if carried to its logical conclusions, must bring us to either a Fundamentalist or Neo-orthodox kind of subjectivism. It must result in endless confusion as each individual (or group) seeks to develop a theology or philosophy of his own, in a subjective optimistic reliance on the Spirit’s guidance in the Truth. We can understand then why these writers are almost completely silent on the Scriptural order as to how God’s truth is to be explained and proclaimed in and through the Church.
One extreme is to say “theology is Christ,” the other “the Church and theology are by nature enemies.” Theology as a “systematized knowledge of God, of whom, through whom, and unto whom, are all things” (Systematic Theology, L. Berkhof, p. 19), is “the system of truth as contained in Scripture which we must present to the world. It is the business of dogmatics or systematic theology to set forth this system under several main headings … In each case the Reformed position is shown to be that which Scripture teach” (The Defence of the Faith, by C. Van Til, p. 25).
Evidently those who have a similar view to Dr. Dooyeweerd reject or take serious exception to the above. They see theology as a theoretical exercise that one must keep quite distinct and apart from his being led in the Word by the Spirit. To say the least, for them theology is suspect, dangerous, while each individual’s obedient listening to the Word through the Spirit will evidently bring him to the living powerful Word, Christ himself (see Church and Nation, April 6, 1965, p. 35).
Once we posit such n dualism between man interpreting the Word and man listening to the Word, and conclude that man interpreting is engaged in an unreliable exercise (a theologian or exegete off on a dangerous theoretical venture), while that man listening is developing the pure Word revelation, it must follow that all formulations of man’s interpreting are dangerous, suspect, then it is not theology, dogmatics, doctrine, confessions, creeds, etc. that we want (these are man’s work, liable to all kinds of error) but we want Christ, the powerful Word. Naturally, the great gift of the historic Christian Creeds through the Holy Spirit’s leading also become suspect, limited at least to only one area of life. For it must follow that each listening individual comes to the truth quite independently of the other, each group or sphere independent of the other, and each must work out through obedient listening its own code of ethics, its own creed. By this marvelous road we evidently come to true ecumenism! That will depend on whether we are ready to listen obediently and let the life-ordering powerful Word, Christ Himself, lead us. We can come to true unity through obedient listening in spite of, and quite aside from, church creeds or doctrines.
Only in that way can I understand this statement, “Since Christian scholarship and learning is a part of the believers’ life of service in the world, the community of learning which Scripture requires is not cut along the lines of the churches with all their divisions. United action in university education should find its form of unity in a creedal expression by which Christians profess their common faith in a voluntary commitment of heart to Scripture’s ordering principles for learning and thereby bind together the faith of their hearts and the (educational) work of their minds and hands” (Scholarship in Biblical Perspective p. 10).
What shall we say to this? What conclusions must we draw? As I see it, we must conclude that on Sunday we must be Reformed but the rest of the week truly ecumenical, that is, undenominational. In our Church activities we must be soundly Reformed (here our historic creeds count) but outside of that each man or sphere for him or itself. In the church we may speak then with confidence and thanks to God concerning our Reformed creeds, confessions, and doctrines, but outside of it we develop our own creeds, confessions, etc. It seems to me that we have then compartmentalized life, cut it up into spheres, each one distinct from the others, among these the Church, not more, perhaps even a little less, important than the others.
Undoubtedly this is not the intention of those setting forth these new ideas, but can we escape these conclusions? I wonder too, if we really believe that our theology or philosophy rests on man listening, why such men as Dr. Dooyeweerd and Dr. Popma write volumes on philosophy and theology and expect us to listen to them. It seems to me, that to be consistent, they should write nothing. Why should I listen to Dooyeweerd or Popma when by obediently listening to the Word, the life-ordering and structuring powerful Word Christ, I can come (evidently purely) to a knowledge of the Truth? Surely I can trust the Spirit to do that, can’t I? But are we not ignoring the Holy Spirit’s method of teaching and indoctrinating? And are we not ignoring all that the Holy Spirit has been pleased, through that method (man interpreting through the Spirit) by which alone He works, to give to the Church through the historic creeds and confessions over the past 20 centuries? It is time we take a good hard look at this new type of thinking, for I am afraid it could be our undoing.
CECIL W. TUININGA