The June 7, 1963, issue of Christianity Today is in the main devoted to ministers and the problem of preaching. The common complaint is that ministers do not have time to make sermons. That is quite an anomoly. Imagine a physician saying that he was too busy to practice medicine. For us in the Christian Reformed Church the duties of ministers are rather clearly defined. According to our Form for Ordination a minister is an ambassador of Christ; he must refute false doctrine, engage in the ministry of prayer, administer the sacraments, and keep the church in good discipline. And consistories are to see to it that he does just that.

Today something new seems to be added. Counseling has become a byword in seminaries and among preachers. Some pastors seem to pride themselves on it that they have to spend so much time in individual counseling. Now. of course. there always have been and always will be souls that need special pastoral care. But it seems we are going entirely out of bounds in this matter. And there are people with problems, imaginary or real, who seem to think that the minister has a sort of magic touch.

I like to pose the question whether this fad, if it be a fad, is not a serious indictment upon the poverty of the preaching and the spiritual poverty of the church. If the Word is properly preached. if the whole congregation is properly counseled from the pulpit, if the keys of the Kingdom are properly exercised in the preaching, will not many of these individual problems be resolved? And what of the spirituality of the church? We read of the early church that they continued stedfastly in the fellowship. The early Christians talked together of spiritual life, and is there a better way to strengthen the Christian life than that of such fellowship? In the days of the cold formalism and dead orthodoxy of his day, the prophet Malachi tells us, “Then they that feared the Lord spake often to one another.” Is the church so poverty stricken that there are no seasoned saints to whom troubled souls may turn for counsel and advice? And are not many of them far better equipped to do this than a young pastor whose knowledge is still largely academic? Or is “the fellowship” non-existent?

The next thing that enters into this counseling program is a smattering of knowledge about psychiatry. Admittedly, this science has made great forward strides in the last couple of decades. We gratefully acknowledge it. But what shall we think of a preacher who takes a course in anatomy or pharmacology and now starts to dish out medical advice to his parishioners who are ill? Would not the professional physician regard this man with contempt and remind him that a little learning is a dangerous thing? Will not the same apply to psychiatry? We better leave it to the professionals. Let ministers be ministers and not become quacks in psychiatry.

Let no one conclude from this that ministers can afford to be indifferent to troubled souls. If a personal testimony may be permitted, for now going on 38 years my door has stood open for such day or night. But let’s be ministers. A prayer in your heart, your Bible under your arm, and a good dose of sanctified common sense will be more becoming than posing as a psychiatrist. Leave that to the professionals. One charge remains forever true: PREACH THE WORD!



The easy conquest of American thought by the ideas of the Pragmatists undoubtedly reSects a predisposition on the part of the Yankee for things practical and demonstrable. The “show me” attitude was native to the American way of doing things long before Charles S. Peirce (1893–1914) began to propose a pragmatic way to truth. Among Peirce’s followers, James stated clearly, and later Dewey abstrusely, ideas which were already part of the American credo. Americans had long acted on the notion that a belief ought to come to expression in practical ways. This was clearly apparent in the ways in which they worked out their ideas in business and industry.

Pragmatism also affected American religious life. A large part of the American religious community has enthusiastically accepted the pragmatic emphasis. It has assumed that the proof of truth can be found in results. This emphasis was not entirely wrong. Error crept in when various criteria were chosen by which one would choose the kind of works that could pass as proof for one’s Christian beliefs.

Some church members chose social amelioration as an area of work that was demonstrably Christian. Many chose toleration as the proof of Christian beliefs, though in many instances the specifically Christian beliefs had already been abandoned. Many others have backed the movement towards ecumenicity even though they can no longer abide those tenets which have given Christianity its name.

There are also those with the pragmatic emphasis who seem to fix on the notion that the proof of one’s Christianity can be found in work as such. The thing that counts is to be doing something in the church. This approach brings about an activism which sets off church programs in all directions. These may include brotherhood breakfasts, fellowship lunches, and unity suppers; church bazaars, church bake sales, and church banquets; ladies’ aids, ladies’ circles, and ladies’ socials. Objectives need not be clear. The relationship to the work of the kingdom may be remote or nonexistent. The real work of the church may be obscured or come to nought. No matter. Everyone is doing something. All members have a sense of belonging. A sense of togetherness is being developed which may even pass for the communion of the saints. All systems are go. Pragmatic Christianity has been successfully launched.

By contrast, there is a segment of the Christian community, the Reformed segment also in large part, which opposes the kind of pragmatic enthusiasm which completely loses sight of principle. It sees that Pragmatism as a philosophy is based on a godless naturalism. It objects to the humanism and ethical relativism of Pragmatism. Those of the Reformed approach believe that non-Christian principles cannot furnish the theoretic basis for the active, sanctified life. The Reformed Christian believes that there are eternal verities which are not subject to change through variations in the practical situation where these verities are to be applied. He wants truths that are eternal, unassailable, forever fixed in the heavens. No pragmatism here. No pragmatic emphasis either.

In digging through the whole mountain of Pragmatism, the Reformed Christian seems to have encountered nothing but dross. He has thrown aside the naturalism, the ethical relativism and also the Progressivism. But in all this spade work, it may be that he has also missed Pragmatism’s one nugget of shining truth, namely, that actions mean more than words. He may have failed to learn that a doctrine is useless if it does not become the springboard to effective action.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Nicholas S. Green, one of the Harvard pragmatists, who said that a belief is something which one is willing to act upon. That early Christian “pragmatist,” the apostle James, said, “Faith without works is dead.” One can scarcely imagine what astounding results would follow from a general application of these principles.

Take the first statement of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” This asserts that in a practical way we believe in the providence of God. Acting on this belief, we would be more apt to follow the injunction of Jesus when he cautioned, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Acting on this belief, we would be less concerned about our provisions for things.

What of the belief in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord? That would make a practical difference too, would it not? Perhaps we would not be so busy with our own affairs in order that we may presently stand back and declare ourselves lord of what we survey. The practical way to assert our belief in the Lordship of Christ js to place our possessions at his disposal. That would certainly end all budget shortages and our mission coffers would be overflowing.

Then there is the Great Commission, “Go Ye.” How we fall short of practical application here. We profess that this is one of our chief Christian responsibilities. Yet we continue to find empty pulpits, unworked mission fields, closed Christian school rooms, and a reticence in personal witnessing.

We would consider a man to be mentally deranged if he stepped off the roof of the Empire State Building in the con6dent belief that he could defy the law of gravity. However, if this were his firm conviction, there would be nothing inconsistent about his action. He would only be acting on his belief. Communists believe that it is inevitable that they will eventually dominate the world. They act on this belief. Christians exult, “thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever, Amen [So be it].” They then proceed as if what they have said has no bearing on what they are to do.

Green said that a belief is something which one is willing to act upon. Perhaps we may assert the converse. If one is unwilling to act upon his beliefs he has no right to profess them. How much doctrine would that leave us? By how much would that shrink the body of our beliefs?

Do we want to be Christian Pragmatists or pragmatic Christians? Perhaps not. Maybe the designation is too fraught with unacceptable philosophic overtones. Perhaps we only have to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Practiced by all Christians, that would be enough to change the world, would it not?



One of life’s most painful and frustrating experiences must be the fruitless quest for employment. The gnawing sense of failure and the loss of self-respect that the truly unemployed must suffer are bitter rewards fo r an earnest desire to labor. Short of actually obtaining a job for such a person, the least that one can do is to extend warm sympathy and a sincere desire to be of help.

But who are the unemployed? This question deserves rather careful scrutiny. One has an uncomfortable feeling when politicians and others sometimes speak of the unemployed. One feels that the facts are often not precisely presented on this score. Different observers with different axes to grind seem to have varying sets of facts on the amount of unemployment. The political “ins” like to say that unemployment is comparatively low. The political “outs” like to say that unemployment is perilously high. One hears stories about people who are listed as unemployed when a realistic type of reckoning would not list them as such.

What are the facts in the case? They seem hard to come by. For this reason The Christian Science Monitor has rendered a significant service on this important social and economic problem by presenting a study in depth in a particular area in the State of Massachusetts. The May 4, 1963 issue of the Monitor carries a story of a project in North Adams, Massachusetts, conducted in the latter part of 1962 by Dr. Philip L. Gamble, head of the Department of Economics of the University of Massachusetts. The project sought an answer to the question who are the “hard core” unemployed.

The “hard core” unemployed are regarded as those who are still jobless after they have used up thirty weeks of unemployment compensation together with other government benefits. The survey team found that there were 1410 people in the area who had used up these government benefits in a period running from January 1, 1960 to June 1962. Of these 1410 people the survey team interviewed or received written responses from 663, almost one-half the total. This is regarded as an excellent response for such a survey.

When these returns were thoroughly sifted and evaluated the rather startling fact emerged that only 14.9 percent of these 663 persons were still seeking full-time work when their benefits were all used up.

The figure of 14.9 percent was arrived at as follows. Of these 663 people, 47 percent had obtained full-time jobs and another 5.1 percent had found part-time jobs, after they had exhausted their benefits and could no longer collect.

Then, another 28.9 percent indicated that they had taken themselves out of the employment picture. They no longer wanted work. Many of these, the survey indicated, were housewives who were not primary breadwinners, and many were retired people with pensions who simply had said that they wanted a job.

Thus 81 percent of the reportedly unemployed made other arrangements when the government benefits came to an end. Furthermore, another 4 percent were retired but “still seeking work.” It was stated that in most instances these people were reaDy just seeking part·time jobs. This leaves only 14.9 percent of those reported unemployed as the “hard core” jobless.

But, Dr. Gamble is reported as pointing out, the question still remains with regard to this much reduced group whether all these 97 people (the 14.9 percent) really wanted a job badly enough to take any work they were capable of doing regardless of the payor working conditions. And were all these 97 people really employable?

This report of the North Adams study is surely thoughtprovoking. To be sure, there may be questions raised by such a study of which the neophyte in socia-economics is quite unaware. And the present writer is certainly such a neophyte. But such a study in depth does prompt one to ask for clarification and full honesty in any reporting on unemployment conditions. For the truly unemployed one must have genuine concern. The Christian ethic with its call for love for one’s neighbor surely demands such concern. On the other hand it still seems true that in many cases the man who genuinely wants to labor by the sweat of his brow can keep himself out of the unemployment statistics.



Lamentably, Americans confuse the principle of separation of church and state with that of separation of religion and state. They believe that religion and politics do not mix.

Both Republicans and Democrats studiously avoid relating their platform and actions to the Bible. To do so might offend a Jew or a Unitarian or a Modernist. They do not even give a cursory thought about not offending God. It is the voter that counts in November, not God.

But the remarkable fact is that the only valid ground for the principle of separation of church and state is the Bible.

The average American would disagree. He would say that it just works out better to have this separation and that America has learned this by hard experience. But such pragmatism carries little authority with it.

On the other hand, the Bible, which is the only and the infallible rule of faith and practice, does give hints that the pattern to follow is the principle of separation of church and state.

King Uzziah, for example, was punished because he usurped priestly duties (II Chron. 26), and the church gave an answer to the government about interfering with preaching in Acts 5. It is the very fact that there is no separation of religion and state that we have a divinely authoritative basis for the separation of church and state.

By separation of church and state we mean that the government has no business interfering with the autonomy of an ecclesiastical organization. It has no right to appoint a minister, collect offerings, erect a building or set the time for the services. Neither does the church have any business dictating to the state, running foreign affairs or governing the domestic policies. Separation works both ways.

But it is impossible to keep religion out of politics. A Christian is responsible to God in all of life—not just on Sunday or during prayer meeting or in the home. Whenever he makes a decision, he must make it before God. Whether he eats or drinks or whatsoever he does, it must always be to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). This means whether a man plays ball or studies or travels or teaches Sunday School or votes as a United States senator.

The Bible does not allow man to abstract from obedience to God even an infinitesimal part of his life, let alone such an enormous area as the government. A president or senator or governor must make decisions on the basis of principle.

The decision of whether or not to fight for Cuba or Berlin should not be based on the emotional desires of the mothers of American soldiers but on what is right or wrong. And we know the general principles to be applied here only from the Bible.

The decision of whether or not to force featherbedding on the railroads of America should be decided on the basis or right and wrong, not on whether the labor vote will be teased or pleased.

The choice between continuing to award the jobs of postmaster to non-competents as a juicy political plum or to award them upon the basis of merit and skill is to be based on Biblical principles and not on the best way to keep the party in power.

Thus, government is inseparably united to religion. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were erroneous in the last election when, for fear of alienating voters, they both declared that religion has nothing to do with government. The Bible teaches that there is to be separation of church and state, but not of religion and state. It is religion itself—the adherence to the Bible—that is the foundation of the church-state formula.