Questions such as this come to n pastor often in the course of a year’s experience. There are an increasing number of organizations and associations open to Christian Reformed people nowadays, and our membership. attendance and contributions are being solicited.

Many of us find this a most attractive development. It is sure proof that we arc appreciated (even if we aren’t always understood). Flattery is still a medium which will get far with most people, and the invitations to join the service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc.), to be active in civic and community affairs, to help with this or that good project are appealing.

It is enjoyable to meet people of all walks of life and of all types of conviction in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual appreciation. Fact is that many Christian Reformed people are limited in their contacts and experience, and are therefore quite unable to evaluate things that happen “outside our circles” very accurately.

Another fact worth stating is that the purposes announced by many of these groups are more or less commendable. The “service” clubs do perform deeds of kindness for the unfortunate, erect parks and play facilities for children, contribute to the care of orphan and handicapped, maimed and ill.

And then there are the political organizations of our time. Of these the John Birch Society is an outstanding example (perhaps better, was an outstanding example in view of recently reported losses in membership). This Society reaches far into the ranks of American people, and so I, too, have heard the question, “Dominie, do you think that we may belong to the John Birch Society?”

If you think that there is something inherently unsatisfactory with this type of question I would agree. It is hard for “dominie” to answer such questions without falling into the role of the universal expert (or even something like a pope!). And it is easy to encourage the faithful to let the preacher decide most everything, which is a lot easier than reading the literature of the John Birch Society and of responsible critics to make one’s own Christian evaluation.

I’d like to make just a point or two in this connection.

First, it seems to me that at best all these “neutral” organizations (I’m speaking in terms of a forthright commitment to Jesus Christ as understood by reformational Christians) are less than satisfactory. It might be possible in this connection to point to the superficiality and forced camaraderie which characterizes many of the service club meetings I’ve attended. There are the occasions when ill-chosen speakers employ questionable humor, make irreverent comments about God and church and religion, and betray a complete lack of commitment to even the barest minimum of Christian principles. I have felt the eyes of many on me in such situations, and found myself tested as to a major tenet in the real “religion” of that kind of group. That tenet is this, “Will he be a good Joe even when we dare to say such things?”

Second, in the John Birch Society I think we have a more consistent, more self-conscious expression of a very recognizable spiritual principle. The principle is individual-ism, to which we are often attracted. By “we” I mean all of us who have read and believed the Book of Revelation with its warnings as to the horrible consequences for the believer of every form of collectivism and imperialism! All ungodly socialism and communism means trouble and ultimate death for the Christian witness.

And yet I think that Christian Reformed pastors ought to warn against membership in such organizations, in fact, ought to be wise and knowledgeable in their counsel with respect to all formal affiliation. For there is something worse than the evil of wicked collectivism. It is that we should be so secularized by an equally godless individualism that the Antichrist has no concern to destroy us!



Approximately one year ago the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church admonished Professor Dekker “for the ambiguous and abstract way in which he expressed himself in his writing on the love of God and the atonement” (Acts of Synod, 1907, p. 736).

For four and one half years prior to this admonition Professor Dekker wrote often in articulation and defense of his position. But since August of 1967 we have read nothing from his pen. We feel that this is strange, for we expected that he would put forth every possible effort to remove the ambiguities and abstractions of his position. We gave expression to this expectation already in October of 1967:

Fourth, by its decision Synod has admonished Prof. Dekker. We are confident that the admonition will be received in all seriousness. We are confident, further, that Prof. Dekker will find in this admonition a positive charge, a charge to carefully and precisely clarify his teachings on the love of God and the atonement. Such a statement will be welcomed by the Church (TORCH AND TRUMPET, October, 1967).

Not only did we expect this, but we are convinced that such clarification is necessary.

It must not be forgotten that Professor Dekker occupies a very important office. He is a minister of the Word of God, assigned to the strategic position of professor of theology. Further, Professor Dekker’s ambiguity and abstractness relate to a most important doctrine, the doctrine of the atonement as it relates to the love of God. This doctrine lies at the heart of the Reformed faith, and a clear understanding and articulation of this doctrine are obviously essential for an effective preaching and teaching ministry. Therefore, for the sake of his office we would encourage Professor Dekker to put forth every effort to remove the ambiguities and abstractions from his doctrinal position.

Clarification is also necessary because of continuing confusion in the Church. As a ground for its admonition of Professor Dekker, the Synod of 1967 stated that “his writings have resulted in considerable misunderstanding and confusion within the churches concerning the doctrine of the atonement” (Acts of Synod, 1967, p. 736). This confusion continues, and there is no one who could do more to remove it than the one who caused much of the confusion, Professor Dekker himself.

Thus we would repeat what we wrote in October, 1901. The Church will welcome a word of clarification from Professor Dekker. But we would also add to what we wrote. The Church has a right to this word of clarification.



It seems as though almost everyone feels the need of praying for world-peace today. I am under the impression that this prayer for peace constitutes the major petition in the prayers of many people within as well as outside of our church. I am for peace: peace in Vietnam, peace in Korea, peace in the Middle East and everywhere in the world. Certainly no one in his right mind can desire war, and I submit that it is psychologically impossible for the Christian to pray for war. I wonder, however, whether the alternative to not praying for war is that one must pray for peace. Does the fact that I cannot pray for war demand that I pray for peace in the world? I do not think so.

Indeed, like everyone else, I desire peace. But does this mean that my desire for peace in the world is necessarily legitimate? Some people seem to think that if you desire something and you can pray for it, this makes it right. I believe that the question of praying for peace is first of all a question of motivation. Why does one pray for peace? Is it because I bate war and I am afraid of all its results for me and my loved ones? Or do I desire peace because I love God’s kingdom and desire its advancement through the unhindered progress of the gospel? In this light I must allow that one’s prayer for peace may be the result of a deep, spiritual need. At the same time it takes only a minimum knowledge of hum an nature to realize that we easily camouflage our carnal desires as spiritual needs. The Bible reminds us that our hearts are deadly deceitful.

In view of this avid desire for world-peace, what becomes of the prayer, “Thy kingdom come”? There is little to indicate that the perfection of Christ’s kingdom will come in the way of a post-millentrian expectation that will issue in a universal peace. There is no basis in Scripture to believe that conditions in the world will improve as time goes on. There is every evidence to the contrary. Our Lord himself tells us in Matthew 24 that, as the end of the world approaches, we can expect a progressive deterioration in morality and international relationships in the world, and that this will culminate in tribulation for the believers. And the apostle Paul echoes these words of Christ when, in II Timothy 3, he describes the signs of the last days.

I wonder, are we ready for these things? Are we willing to face up to reality? Or could our intense desire and almost frantic prayer for world-peace be the tell-tale evidence of a carnal spirit of materialism by which we are willfully blinded to the truth?

Isn’t it high time that we examine the motives of our prayers for world-peace and pray more earnestly the prayer of the Spirit and the bride?

“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come…He who testifieth these things saith, Yea, I come quickly. Amen: Come, Lord Jesus.” Rev. 22:17, 20.

Who prays for this today?



Mrs. John Hulst’s good Viewpoint in the February TORCH AND TRUMPET seems eminently worthy of some follow-up. Looking at the matter of school uniforms we can agree, I think, that certain basic principles are involved.

Very likely the definite and vigorous protest of most girls, either actual or anticipated, counts a lot with many parents. But, really, who must hold the reins? Do parents have the Bible-taught firmness to maintain control as over against immature judgment and high feelings?

If it be s.lid that a nice dress bolsters a girl’s morale, warding off an inferiority complex, should it not be asked : “Isn’t it rather hollow morale that depends on nice clothing? And does one girl’s nice dress, then, cause inferiority feelings in another girl, yes, maybe even envy?”

De-emphasis on nice clothing is the message of I Peter 3:3f, where, speaking of Christian women, the word is “whose adorning let it not be the outward braiding of the hair, … wearing jewels … or putting on of apparel; …” So! De-emphasize clothing, hair-do’s!

This speaks to school-girls, yes, to us all. Our well-dressed, middleclass church folks must heed Peter’s word, also that of our Lord: “Why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies…”

Of course, neither our Lord nor Peter meant to teach that our clothing is of no consequence; but they do stress de-emphasizing it!

This has also a bearing on our evangelism. Many an unprosperous person has felt, or would feel, ill at ease amid the well-dressed audiences in our (often too nice?) churches. We may say: “Oh, don’t let that bother you.” But let’s put ourselves in their place. How would we feel?

Are we concerned enough to do something about it? Then, what’s to be done? De-emphasize the importance of clothing! That’s Bible teaching, isn’t it? Would that not be a Christian emphasis in order to “bring them in’? “Ye are my witnesses.”

That would be economical too. We could divert more money for missions that way, if we would!

It would save time too, in our “so busy” days. Our discriminating shoppers, seeking nice clothes, need and use a lot of time in the stores. Some of that time, often much of it could be saved by a de-emphasis on nice clothing; that saved time could do much for Bible study and kingdom work.



Some years ago a foreign missionary asked whether one ought to teach the same doctrines on the missions fields as in our churches at home. I replied that in foreign mission fields denominational differences naturally seem less significant than they usually do at home. Missionarics usually face, not other Christian churches with di verse beliefs, but rank paganism, and when they meet with missionaries holding somewhat different beliefs their common task of witnessing to Christ in a pagan world draws them together. This does not mean however that the truth of the gospel changes when one goes overseas, or that the missionary is under any less responsibility to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) than a pastor at home. The Apostle who wrote those words was a “foreign missionary” and the command to teach men “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18) was part of the Lord’s great missionary commission.

Some time ago the same question was raised at a meeting concerned with missions and I had to make the same reply. I observed that this question recalled the one our Chinese gardener once asked, whether we had the same sun and moon in the U. S. as there was in China! One may smile at the gardener’s naivete, but is there not more excuse for his question than there is for us as Christians to ask whether God’s truth changes because of historical or geographical circumstances? Didn’t Jesus say, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away”? The increasing frequency with which such questions arise seems to reveal our slipping away from the firm biblical foundations on which the Christian faith here or anywhere else in the world must be founded if it is to endure.



Our support of the request of the Tiv Church in Africa for a Reformed seminary is based primarily on the fact that what they ask is right in principle. It is probably not generally known, however, that there also appear to be economic considerations that favor it. One of the considerations reported from the field to be prominent in the mind of the Tiv church in making their request is that it would he less expensive to support students in a school in their own area than to send them 200 miles away to the TCNN. The latter school has come into existence and continues only by heavy subsidy from abroad, not only for buildings and staff but also for the expenses of each student who attends it (Acts 1960, p. 81). Our policy, especially in Africa, has been the wholesome one of encouraging national churches to become self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting as extensively and as soon as possible. When the church itself asks for such a school which meets its need, which is right in principle and more feasible in practice, should we not listen to it?



Man likes something different. Not only did Athenian ears itch for something new in Paul’s day, but everyone—Christian and non-Christian—itches for something different. Variety is the spice of life.

Such a desire for novelty is in itself not wrong. Man was made to explore and find satisfaction in discovery. The Christian should be ever searching God’s general revelation for new ways to have dominion over the world. And he should be searching God’s special revelation, the Bible, to discover new truths. Because of this restless spirit, man has discovered such new insights into the Bible as the two natures of Christ, limited atonement, mission responsibilities, eschatology and ecumenicity.

But there is also a danger jn this restlessness: the danger of overthrowing the true for the sake of novelty. Today, one hears of the “freshness” of a certain religious journal in a Calvinistic denomination. It must be admitted that it is very fresh. In the course of its few years of existence it has published articles attacking such basic teachings of the Bible as the inerrancy of the Word of God, limited atonement, unconditional election, eternal reprobation and the necessity of Christian organizations outside of the ecclesiastical church. Yes, very fresh indeed!

What we desperately need today, however, is not this kind of freshness that attacks these great truths of the Bible. Some may tire of hearing the same old truths again and again in the home, Sunday School, catechism, Christian School, Calvin College and Calvin Seminary. But when received spiritually, the old, unchanging divine truths always thrill. The old time religion is always new and fresh every morning. Instead of seeking novelty by discarding the grand old truths of the Bible, let us find novelty by probing afresh the unfathomable depths and unsearchable riches of the Word of God. In the Word there are springs which have never been tapped or from which only the surface water has been drawn. Let us satisfy our thirst for novelty at these springs instead of at the broken cisterns of unbelief.



A church bulletin ought to be churchy. It should reflect the atmosphere of the worship service. It should be liturgically responsible.

But increasingly Christian nonchurch organizations are exploiting the softness of churches by using Sunday bulletins for advertising purposes. Instead of providing a cover with a theme that is worshipful, these otherwise good organizations employ the hard sell method for their needs: whether it be for the debt reduction of the high school gym or the expansion of a college dorm or the operating expenses of a youth home or sanitarium 01· a subscription for the youth federation’s magazine or attendance at this summer’s Bible conference. The covers have pictures of a wiener roast or an emotionally distraught patient or a prospective school building for which a financial plea is made on the back cover. No attempt is made to create a worshipful attitude. The organizational boards view the bulletins as a cheap and highly effective means of advertising. Advertising agencies would rejoice at having such a selective audience -and at such low cost.

That these organizations are Christian does not alter the unsuitableness of their pleas on the Sunday bulletins. Naturally, Christians sympathize with and desire to help such Christian movements. But the method is wrong. The services on the Lord’s Day are for the worship of God. Anything that intrudes upon that purpose should be removed, including the shouting, glaring ads of non-church organizations.

Undoubtedly, few boards that seek thousands of dollars annually from church members will listen to such a plea to give lip this juicy source of mind-conditioning. Therefore, a suggested compromise: At least make the front cover as worshipful as possible and reserve the back cover for the hard sell.