HOW GREAT THOU ART!…
Reformed Christians have committed themselves to the position that “we know God by two means.” The first is by the creation, preservation and government of the universe which we acknowledge “is before our eyes as a most elegant book.”
But how many of us really take time to read that book in our busy world? Even more, how successful are our Christian schools and colleges in their endeavors to open the eyes of their pupils to that “elegant book” as revealing the same God who speaks authoritatively and infallibly in the Scriptures?
Our ideas and ideals are much too earth-bound. Most of our time is consumed with the problems of making a living, getting a better house, and procuring the luxuries of life for ourselves and OUf children. Theoretically we may still confess that our God is the all-powerful, the all-wise and the all-sufficient God who displays his everlasting power and divinity before our very eyes. Yet we allow life’s problems to throw sand in our eyes day after day. We work and we worry with too little thought of him who is the overflowing fountain of all good. Perhaps our problems would be reduced to their proper (and small!) proportions, if we took more time to contemplate on some bright night the starry skies.
Scientists tell us that light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second.
Using this as their yardstick, they have computed a little of the immensity of the heavens above us. If we could travel at the speed of light, says one of them, “it would take only about one-seventh of a second to circle the earth; a little more than one second to go from the earth to the moon; about eight minutes to go from the earth to the sun; and about twelve hours to make a comfortable sight-seeing tour of the whole solar system, visiting all the planets. But at the same rate we would have to travel more than four years to reach the star nearest the sun—Alpha in the southern hemisphere constellation of Centaurus; and it would take roughly 100,000 years to pass from one end of the Milky Way to the other.”
But wait a moment. This is only the beginning. Today “there is a new 200-inch telescope on Mount Palomar. Through it man can see the inconceivably immense distance of two billion light years into space. Here he looks at millions upon millions of galaxies. And even in this we behold but “the fringes of God’s ways” (Job 26:14). For the God who saves us is the one who has “meted out heaven with the span.”
Such reflection is good for the soul. It puts our problems in their proper place. It purges the pettiness which so often besets us. It lifts our souls on wings of song to adore this great God who knows and loves and is willing to use our small lives for his glory.
THE NEGRO’S ROAD TO SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE
The American Negro is traveling the road to social acceptance. It is a hard road for him. It is beset by all sorts of obstacles. Some such obstacles are deep prejudice, hatred, perverted religion, yes, even bombs and anguished grief at the death of little ones destroyed while in church.
Some of the obstacles on the road to social acceptance are the same for the Negro as they are and have been for other minority groups on this road. But it seems evident that some of these obstacles are peculiar to the road that the American Negro must travel. He has to struggle against a deeply intrenched barrier that is made up of almost mystical elements of a socia-religious kind. Then there is that factor that defies definition and containment, namely, that of the “right” of every man to choose his own society. And must we not in all candor concede the likely presence of intangible but very real and stubborn obstacles to acceptance in the more obvious facts of racial difference?
No one governed by God’s “royal law” (James 2:8), namely, that we love our neighbor as ourselves, should fail to have genuine sympathy for the Negro as he travels this hard road. In this same Scriptural context we read, “if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin.” Yes, should not every Christian desire to help these our neighbors in their struggle? In such a helpful frame of mind there surely can be no place for any notions such as that the Negro is an inferior person. He must be accepted as an equal before God and man. To think otherwise, I am persuaded, is to violate God’s “royal law.”
In this sympathetic, helpful frame of mind in which we regard the Negro as our equal, what shall we consider the best means to achievement of social acceptance for the Negro? Shall we join him in demonstrations and sympathy marches? Will these actually gain his ends? When we join him in such activities, are we helping him see what arc the real ingredients of success in his struggle? Or are we encouraging him in a grand delusion? Since when did marches, demonstrations and parades win social acceptance for some group? Are there not basically two ingredients for success in such a struggle, namely, industry and integrity?
Granted, as indicated above, that there are special obstacles on the Negro’s path to social acceptance, and granted that there must be a sincere and determined effort by the rest of us to remove these special obstacles when they inhere in mere bias or twisted religiOUS notions or economic inequity, the stem fact still stands that solid success in such a struggle to acceptance is gained mainly by hard work and honesty in all things. These have been the main factors by which others have won in this struggle. Hard work (also in learning the skills required to hold good jobs) and integrity -these are the things we must help the Negro to see and to do. These things are plain implications—much plainer than are demonstrations and marches—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. in whom “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free” (Colossians 3: 11), and who calls men of every race and of every nation, tribe and station of life to glorify CGod in all things out of gratitude for his gracious salvation.
The truth of the point I am trying to make was brought home to me some years ago by a Negro. She was earning her living by domestic service. This was in the era of the F. D. Roosevelts. She lamented the new prevailing attitude which was quick to give her people the things they ought to work for. She said that many of her people had been making good progress coming up the hard but sure and self-respecting way. But now, with the new attitude prevailing in Washington and in the country generally, these solid gains were being largely cancelled out. The true road to success in his struggle is being pointed out today by a number of Negro spokesmen. (See U.S. News and World Report, August 19, 1963, pp. 58ff.; and the Post, September 21, 1963, pp. 121f.)
No, I do not mean that we can help the Negro in his struggle by a mere pious preachment of hard work and honesty. Christians should seek means whereby these our neighbors are actually helped in their struggle. But in the things we do to help them, let us not obscure what are the real requirements for enduring achievement.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE LORD’S SUPPER…
Articles 61 and 64 in our Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church make some pretty plain stipulations regarding the administration of the Lord’s Supper. An intelligent person, reading these articles for the first time, would conclude, I am sure, that the spirit of the Church Order, if not the letter, is definitely opposed to what we know as “open communion”. For if elder “supervision” means anything at all, especially with reference to admitting those of a “godly walk”, it means that the elders either must have personal knowledge of the character of those who ask for communion, or must have in their possession valid credentials and references supplied by qualified people.
I fear there is evidence we are slipping pretty badly in this matter of supervising the use of the Lord’s Table. If we regard it important that the members of our congregations observe a week of preparation, at the beginning of which at least one preparatory sermon is preached, how can we permit the processing of communion requests 30 minutes before the communion service commences, when such requests come from “visitors” who have not participated in the preparatory procedure? What justification can there be for permitting the pastor to invite “evangelical Christians visiting with us” to partake of the Lord’s Supper? Where is elder supervision here?
A lady friend of our family was visiting in a distant city and on Sunday morning made her way alone to the only Christian Reformed church there. She was a total stranger in that community and was so greeted by an usher who asked her to sign the guest book and then added, “We are having communion this morning. Wouldn’t you like to partaker Our friend, whose training respecting communion privileges was considerably more conservative than that, was so taken back by the usher’s invitation that she could not immediately answer him. Relating this experience to us afterwards, she asked the question which I, too, am asking and to which there may be some revealing reader response: “If that isn’t open communion, then tell me, what is it?”
WHICH WAY SHOULD THE PREACHER LOOK?…
In spite of all the criticisms which are leveled against the present-day pulpit (and some are more than justified, indeed), preaching continues to influence men everywhere. Its impact is much greater than its critics will admit. The ancient seer who complained, “Like priest, like people,” knew what he was talking about. No wonder, then, that even sermons continue to receive notice in our newspapers.
We have long been accustomed to haVing the critics tell us that preaching needs a new dimension.
Some three or four decades ago they insisted that much of what passed for orthodoxy lacked “breadth.” And perhaps it did. Yet all the “breadth” of those who preached pacifism, better housing for the underprivileged, and sharing the gospel with others at home and abroad didn’t satisfy the deep hunger of mankind. Meanwhile it did go a long way toward emptying the churches on the Lord’s Day.
Now the tide has turned. Men clamored for a new dimension, and they got what they called “depth.” With the growing advances in psychology and psychiatry and the charm of existentialist philosophy with its stress on the individual, this new approach seemed to make a strong appeal for a season. Surprisingly enough, we heard once again about sin and evil. It even became fashionable to discuss “original sin,” now reinterpreted in the light of depth psychology. People seemed to realize that those who preached a “depth” dimension were at least more realistic than their predecessors.
What we fail to find, however, is a deeper understanding of and stronger commitment to the Christian faith. Observers warn us that the religious revival of the late forties and the fifties has nm its course, the popularity of the Billy Graham crusades notwithstanding. People sense that there is something wrong with man and Society, but few seem to cry aloud to God for deliverance.
It may be more than time for a new dimension.
And this dimension, if the Christian church is to be true to her calling, must be the “height” dimension. Men seem to be looking in every direction except up. To an practical purposes they have quite well ruled God out of their lives. For this the pulpit, also in conservative churches, bears a large share of the blame. Too many seem to forget that their task is to preach the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in all his glory and grace.
Such preaching conquered the Roman empire in apostolic and post-apostolic times. Such preaching rejuvenated Europe in the days of the reformers. Such preaching is the only hope for today’s divided and desperate world.