I once heard the late Dr. Barnhouse say words to this effect: “If you as pastors are to feed your flocks, you must be fed yourself. A three inch water intake is necessary to provide high pressure in two inch water lines. You as pastors must have a ‘three inch intake’ of the Word of God if you are to be effective with high pressure output.”

As we prepare for a new season of spiritual activity, I feel the urgency of maintaining my own spiritual life as a pastor. How can we pastors provide the leadership needed, how can we feed the flock of God, how can we instruct the lambs of the Rock, how can we extend the Church of Christ if we are not taking in more than we are giving out?

As a pastor, I sense the need for constant spiritual growth. I must spend time with the Word of God. That Word is the soil of spiritual fruit. That Word provides the nutrients which not only keep me alive but keep me healthy spiritually.

But for healthy spiritual growth, I need a balanced diet. I need to see the Word of God from many perspectives. I need the interchange of ideas and insights which my brethren can provide. And I seldom, if ever, have the opportunity to hear another man preach. How then, can I maintain my balance?

I’ve found it difficult to grow without the fellowship provided by God’s people. I thank God that my congregations have been a source of fellowship as well as a flock to tend. But I find that I also need fellowship where I can “talk shop”—where I can share with others who face the same problems and frustrations and joys I face. I need to see these areas of my life. too, through the eyes of others under God’s Word. Now where can I find inspiration and encouragement and understanding of my task? Can it not be found by sitting under master expositors of the Word of God? I’m convinced I need this if I am to be well balanced, properly enthusiastic, and Biblically centered in my ministry.

I’m thankful my consistory recognizes the need for such growth for pastors; not only its own pastor but others as well. For that reason it has approved a suggestion to sponsor a “spiritual refresher” for pastors (and their wives) at the beginning of a new season. Invitations have been extended to all the Protestant pastors of Western Michigan (and further afield if they care to come) to attend a two and one half day retreat aimed at enriching the spiritual life of the pastors. Beginning at 1:00 p. m. on Tuesday, September 9 and ending on Thursday evening, September 11. this spiritual retreat will focus on the need of pastors to spend time with the Word, to exchange ideas and experiences, to hear from each other what God has done, and will do, for their soul.

Well qualified speakers have been engaged. A pastor will lead us in an exegetical study of one of the great men of God and his ministry. Rev. Albert Martin, internationally recognized “minister to ministers,” will lead three sessions on Paul’s admonition to “take heed to thyself and thy doctrine.” Dr. Jerome De Jong will speak to pastors about encouraging a passion for outreach. And Mr. Ernest Reisenger, prominent Baptist layman from Pennsylvania, will touch on the theme, “The Pew Speaks to the Pulpit.” Each evening the meetings will be open to the public when Rev. Martin speaks on “The Bible Doctrine of Repentance.” (Cf. Rev. Martin’s articles on “What’s Wrong With Preaching Today?” in TORCH AND TRUMPET of February, 1969.) The emphasis will be on inspiration and encouragement more than on theological definitions and developments. I wish to commend my consistory for its vision—and its provision. I hope its example will be followed by others. And I invite you, my readers, to share this pastor’s retreat at Spring Lake, Michigan, on September 9, 10, and 11. If you are a pastor or missionary (lay or ordained) please join us all day. (Wives are also welcomed.) If you are one of the flock, join us each evening at 8:00 p. m. for a new appreciation of the repentance demanded by the Bible.


Rev. Elton J. Piersma is pastor of the Spring Lake Christian Reformed Church, Spring Lake, Michigan.


In the 1964 presidential campaign, Barry Goldwater cried, “Let me remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” This statement from the conservative Goldwater seemed so radical to the philosopher Henry D. Aiken that he went scurrying to his library. There he whipped out Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, sure that Goldwater had cribbed from that Revolutionary radical. Failing to find the statement in Paine, Aiken made a sort of mental apology to Goldwater for considering him incapable of “so splendid and exhilarating a statement.”

To one of opposite views an opponent often seems radical if not extreme. Some of Goldwater’s statements about the Vietnam war seemed extreme to the American middle-of-the-roader. As it turned out Goldwater recommended little more than Johnson presently enacted. One difference lay in the fact that Goldwater did not feel compelled to escalate the war gradually and give the enemy advance notice each time the pressure was to increase.

The middle-of-the-road position fits well into the American way of life. Some cannot tolerate radicals because they for the most part display some enthusiasm. Some people find enthusiasm most unsettling. They don’t want to exchange their pragmatism for anything that smacks of idealism. Says Henry Aiken, “From this standpoint, America is the happy home of the logroller and the lobbyist, the compromiser and the dealsman, the man of adjustment and accommodation, for whom, not right and wrong, but success, achievement, and expediency are the common terms of practical deliberation and appraisal. Not justice or freedom, but the self-maintenance of the system is—I was about to say the ‘good’ to be aimed at.” For many the perpetuation of the “system” seems to be the end of political and economic manipulation. Aiken goes on to say, “But really to believe, and hence to act with all one’s might upon, one’s belief, that something is wrong in Denmark, (America) really to live, or try to live, lip to one’s principles as a free moral agent is at best rather to make a nuisance of oneself, and at worst to put oneself beyond the pale of our pragmatic, realistic, compromising—and compromised, American system.” (“Morality and Ideology” in Ethics and Society, New York. 1966, p. 154.)

If we take Aiken’s characterization as apt, then we must join those idealistic youth who are completely “turned off” by the system and we must help them oppose it. Our revulsion may tempt us to conclude that change cannot be brought about by anything short of violence. It may seem that the only solution is to clear the slate completely. Or to use another figure, we may feel that it is time to demolish the present structure completely and to build over from scratch. Some arc so filled with loathing that they contend the time for surgery is past. 1t is time for extermination.

Throughout history some have found the job of revolutionizing (society an exciting and heady one. The French revolutionist found the job to be decapilatingly heady. They would quickly build a new society out of their liberating theories and the perfectionability of man. Both Edmund Burke and the historian, Jacob Burckhardt have written interesting commentaries on this abortive effort.

Older people in places of responsibility sometimes try to span the generation gap by telling youth that they are right and that the establishment is all wrong. They go on to lump the American System and Russian Communism together in the same pot. They are both reprehensible Materialisms with a capital M. So saying, one may be presumed to have said something relevant and to have established communication with our idealistic youth.

No attempt ought to be made to round the sharp edges of the Christian commitment. The covenant-keeping religious commitment as a style of life stands in diametric opposition to the covenant-breaking, materialistic, pragmatic style of the average American. However, when we contemplate change this does not mean that we ought begin to act as if we do not stand in the context of history. Progress, of course, must be judged by some standard of ultimate value. Even so, the Christian student of history must acknowledge progress in some areas of human life. For example, the American System has achieved a tolerable pluriformity which allows people with different religious, political and economic doctrines to live together peaceably. It is true that even under the American System educational pluriformity is placed under galling financial disabilities but it will not do to categorically place Russian Communism and the American System together as unmitigated evils and then declare all systems “No.”

Beyond that, at the risk of sounding “scholastically theological” or “rationalistic” (both arc terms of opprobrium these days), one must insist that man’s depravity is total but not necessarily at the same instance absolute as long as he is joined to the unfolding process in history. The antithesis is complete but it has not completed its course in history. Only if the latter were the case would the Christian be justified in insisting that every change requires the complete abandonment of the old with complete innovation in the new.

To demand disruption to the point of chaos, as many of our current radicals would have it, in order to then build their utopias, is to be historically retrogressive. Such radicalism has no biblical warrant though it may fall as a punishment on those who refuse to move against a corrupted system. 1t is not our business to call down fire from heaven but to be a savoring salt. Remember, Sodom would have been spared had there been ten righteous witnessing against the corruption of its day.


Nick Van Til is professor of Philosophy at Dort College, Sioux Center, Iowa.