Youth Wants to Know


“What is our stand on morality these days?”

Seventy-five years ago Dr. Abraham Kuyper wondered if that question would be asked in the future. He, a theologian, churchman, educator, politician and social welfare student, spoke to a United States audience of Presbyterians in Princeton, New Jersey in 1898. He asked, “Must we complain that more and more the foundations of our moral building arc gradually loosened and unsettled? Can people feel that there is a guarantee for a moral certainty for the future?” He asked these questions because he saw forces, influences, ideas and people seriously threatening the God-ordained way of life.

In his second lecture, entitled, “Calvinism and Religion,” Dr. Kuyper spoke about the way church people, who confess their faith in Jesus Christ, live in this world. These church people, said he, should live as born-again people who daily feed on God’s Word to insure growth in Christ. He also spoke of the purpose of the church on earth. He stressed that it cannot be a human or egoistic purpose, eg., “to prepare the believer for heaven.” “Nay, upon earth also (as well as in the invisible realm) the church exists merely for the sake of God.” Therefore the church worships God, therefore the church exercises discipline (“to preserve the sanctity of the Covenant of God—ever to impress upon the outside world the solemn fact that God is too pure to look upon evil”) and therefore the church serves philanthropically (serves fellowmen in need).

Dr. Kuyper concluded this address by speaking of the fruit of our religion—i.e., our being a living member of the body of Christ on earth. In other words, Dr. Kuyper asked, “what is the position taken by Calvinism on the questions of morals?”

His answer should be seriously considered today!

There are several parts to this answer. I will only mention the first parts, and elaborate a bit on the last one.

Calvinism, i.e., true church membership expressed in daily life, does not tolerate a chasm between one’s confession of Christ, and of the truth revealed by Him on the one hand, and daily practices on the other.

Calvinism sees the believer before the face of God, not only in His church, but also in his personal, family, social, and political life. “The majesty of God, and the authority of God press upon the Calvinist in the whole of his human existence.”

Calvinism sets forth faith in the ordinances of God, not only those revealed in Scripture, but also those which are “imposed upon Nature,” or “imbedded within the created cosmos.” “The true Calvinist adjusts himself to these ordinances, not by force but with the same readiness with which we follow a guide through the desert.”

Calvinism does not avoid the world. “The true Calvinist does not shut himself up in his church and abandon the world to its fate. He feels, rather, his high calling to push the development of this world to an even higher stage, and to do this in constant accordance with God’s ordinance, for the sake of God, upholding, in the midst of so much painful corruption, everything that is honorable, lovely, and of good report among men.”

Finally, Calvinism does not deem “every intimate intercourse with the unconverted world” to be lawful. Dr. Kuyper said, “I wish to maintain and place in its proper light,” a barrier against the “too unhallowed influence of this world.” In fact, Dr. Kuyper said that Calvinism puts a “distinct veto upon three things, card playing, theaters and dancing—three forms of amusement” which individually and collectively are banned by Calvinists!

Can you imagine the great Dr. Kuyper, prime minister of his nation, exposing to the U.S. Presbyterians his unbelievable narrowness? his legalism? Was the great Dr. Kuyper such a child of his times that he could be influenced in such a way as to be “small” in our “enlightened eyes” of today?

Don’t be hasty in your conclusions.

We ought to listen to Dr. Kuyper explain why, for three centuries, Calvinism had placed its “veto” on these amusements.

Dr. Kuyper explained: Games of all sorts are not forbidden. We are not to think either as though something demonical lurked in the cards themselves. Rather, card playing “fosters in our heart the dangerous tendency to look away from Cod and to put our trust in Fortune or Luck.” Games of vision, skill, experience are ennobling, but . . . cards arranged in a pack, and blindly distributed, induces us to attach a certain significance to that fatal imaginative power, outside of God, called Chance or Fortune. To this kind of unbelief, everyone of us is inclined” . . . . “The Calvinist judged that the rising generations ought to be guarded against this dangerous tendency toward unbelief because by means of card playing it would be fostered.”

Dr. Kuyper went on to say that Calvinism’s objections to theater-going are entirely different from the objections against card playing. The objections are not against the power of imagination, drama, and theatrical representations as such. But “the moral sacrifice, which as a rule, is demanded of the actors and actresses for the amusement of the public” is offensive. The prosperity of the theaters “is purchased at the price of manly character, and of female purity.” The Calvinist who honors whatever was human in man for the sake of God “could not but condemn” the moral disaster of the theater.

Finally, the dance is not protested against itself, but “exclusively against the impurity to which it is often in danger of leading.”

Having explained why true Calvinism placed a barrier against each of the three amusements, Kuyper said: “Our fathers perceived excellently well that it was just these three . . . with which the world was madly in love.” These three amusements were recognized as the Rubicon (the river, which when crossed, brought disaster) “which no true Calvinist could cross without sacrificing his earnestness to dangerous mirth, and the fear of the Lord to pleasures which are far from spotless.”

Dr. Kuyper recognized that many treatises and learned expositions by men have been produced to deal with the problems or sacrificing the Christian’s earnestness and the fear of the Lord to dangerous mirth and spotted pleasures but these “have not been able to restore the moral firmness to the enfeebled public conscience!” This judgment of Dr. Kuyper is followed by the questions with which I began this article. Should we complain about the loosening and increasing unsettled foundations for our moral building? Is there a guarantee for a moral certainty in the future?

Yes. there is, according to Dr. Kuyper. It is in the way of true Calvinism!!

Recall, Biblical Calvinism holds that the true believers are the church of God in, but not of, the world, who live what they confess, who are conscious of being before the face of God at all times, who are called to be obedient to all the ordinances of God, who do not abandon the world to its fate but seek to push the world to higher developments and who do not consider every intimate involvement with the world as lawful.

Well, how should we respond to Dr. Kuyper’s word to the U.S. Presbyterian people? He brought the message of a true Reformation movement to the Reformed believers in the U.S. Is that Biblical message concerning true morality, God-honoring morality, brought by the spiritual sons of Dr. Kuyper, the Calvinists of the Netherlands, to Argentina, to Australia, to Canada, to New Zealand, to the U.S., to the world today?

If not, why not?

Are dangerous mirth and spotted pleasures too attractive today? Or do we dare to say—tongue in cheek? -that we Calvinists have brought card playing, theaters (and all they involve, including films on T.V.) and dancing to the service of Christ—having cleansed them of the evil and corruption with which sinful, pleasure-seeking men have tainted and distorted them?

And should we not in this context ask ourselves about the morality of the use of alcoholic beverages, a “pastime” which men today love, as much, if not more than ever, and which leads to murder on the highways, debauchery in personal lives, grief in broken homes and unspeakable misery for many children? And another question is in order: If we firmed up in our morality in relation to the amusements mentioned, don’t you agree with me that that would do much to strengthen our convictions about the wrongness of premarital sex, smoking of pot, use of various other stimulants (or drugs)?

We had better face the facts: many bridges have been thrown across Calvinism’s Moral Rubicon by us Calvinists, so much so, that we should seriously ask ourselves: Are we, morally, and do we wish, morally, to be true to our Calvinistic moral heritage?

Do you, reader, conclude that I am pleading for Synodical and Classical rules forbidding card playing, theater attendance and the watching of films on T.V., dancing and drinking? If so, you have really mistaken the point which I have tried to make.

I am asking you, young people, everyone of you, if you a living member of the Church of Christ, born again and growing spiritually by the daily use of the Scriptures:

If you, living consciously before the face of our Sovereign God;

If you knowing you are called to be obedient to all the ordinances of God;

If you, knowing you are called to be in the world (a light, a leaven, a salt), and not of the world;

If you, knowing that you cannot join in with pastimes which ignore our Sovereign God, which degrade men and women, which lead to personal moral impurity, which cause murder, debauchery, grief and misery;

Yes, if you, living as you do today, personally, in your families, and in your social relationships, can truly say, “my life in all its ways is a thank-offering to God, and a life of service for God and fellowmen, a life of riches, joy and abiding peace”?

If you can, then you are faithful to the heritage of Calvinism and you are maintaining a truly Biblical moral standard. You are then working for an assured Biblical Morality for now and the future—in the face of which non-Christian statesmen and jurists, pantheists and philosophers, regardless of what they believe and advocate, will stand helpless and condemned before the eyes of God, angels and men!

And be honest now—can the pleasurable entertainments and amusements, which the world so dearly loves and controls, be spiritually enriching, up-building factors in your life? enabling you to better serve God and fellowmen to the glory of God?