From a reader in the province of Alberta, Canada, I received the following request: “What I really would like to see explained in the Question Box is alI about the teaching about becoming ‘human’ again. This is something we hear about all around us.” Since I was somewhat in the dark as to the meaning of this question, I asked for a little more light and for a reference. My questioner then called my attention to the fact that this is discussed in some of the recent catechism books of the Christian Reformed Church, and that it is also talked about in connection with “Evangelism Thrust” (the Christian Reformed version of Key ’73). And in connection with the latter, my questioner furnished me with a rather lengthy quotation from Who In The World, pp. 3 1, ff. This quotation furnishes a good example of the kind of thing that is meant by this “becoming human again,” and therefore I will pass the quotation along before I answer the question:
One fitting word to characterize the modern world is “fractured.” Brokenness is the plague of our time. Things that belong together are separated and cannot get together again. Another, more personally tragic word is “estrangement.” People who belong together are separated. One marriage in four ends in estrangement. This is only a symptom of an epidemic inside of life. Call the disease segregation, and you get the division by races. Call it class war, and you get the clash between economic levels. Call it a generation gap, and you get the estrangement between ages. Call it sin, and you get the estrangement of man from his home with God. Reconciliation means bringing together what has been broken, reuniting what has been divided. The, root of estrangement is man’s separation from his Creator; the solution is in what God has done for His people; “Formerly you were yourselves estranged from God; you were His enemies in heart and mind, and your deeds were evil. But now by Christ’s death . . . God has reconciled you to Himself.” Alienated, hostile, at odds, divided, but now reconciled. This is the message the church has been given.
There are many estrangements in life, but the one with the most tragic consequences is to be separated from God.
The answer to it is what God did; and that is the message the church brings; God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. And the word is out; since God has reconciled the world—you—in your hostility and fear, you “be reconciled to God.”
But there is another tragic estrangement that destroys happiness in human life: estrangement between people.
Life is meant to be lived together. Human life has to be shared to be human. Humanity really fails to be human as walls of suspicion and hate divide us. None of us is truly human until those walls are broken down and we meet one another in love. This is what humanity longs for in its better moment. It is what the ‘”youth revolt” and the “sensitivity group” fad are all about: people reaching out, grasping for a bit of humanness in an inhuman world. What better time to bring the message of reconciliation? God’s purpose is precisely this: to break down the dividing walls between men, to make the social and racial differences between them irrelevant to their union as men, to make all men one in Christ. This is what Paul is talking about. There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female, for you are all one person in Christ Jesus.
In Christ we can stop being said of each other, stop making a path to success through the rums of other people’s lives, stop dividing the human race up according to color, race, or status. In Christ, nothing matters but that we are free to love and trust each other because we belong to each other. No wonder, then, that Paul says that Christians together form one new body. The good news is that Christ dismantled the wall. Once the wall was down, nobody had a special claim on God, and nobody had a reason to stay apart from anyone else. Now black and white meet on one common single platform, their oneness in Christ. Young and old can work out their age gap within the circle of oneness in Christ. The message is for today: reconciliation to a fractured world. One word of caution is in order. When the church preaches the message of reconciliation, it must also make sure that it is living the reconciled life together. It will be hard for a segregated church to preach the message of the broken down wall, since it has built the wall up again.”
I must confess that I hardly know where, to begin with criticizing corrupt nonsense of this kind. It is so completely foreign to my thinking—and not only to mine, but to any Reformed thought—that I stand aghast at the fact that this sort of stuff can come from a church which calls itself “Reformed,” and that I am at a loss as to where to begin with criticism. I can very well understand that my questioner, in some related correspondence, wrote me: “People in our church who were members for a long time, members in good standing, are asking themselves: were our parents not Christians, because what we hear now is different?” Personally, I do not hesitate to say—blunt as it may be—that if what is set forth in this quotation is Christianity, then I am not a Christian. The insidious aspect of all this lies in the fact that the name of God and of Christ is used, that some Scriptural terms, such as reconciliation, are used, and that some Scriptural quotations are made, while the whole thought is totally anti-Scriptural and thoroughly humanistic, that is to say, anti-Christian.
Permit me to point out just a few outstanding faults:
1. The entire notion of “becoming Human again” is sheer nonsense. I am human. I am not an animal. I am not a devil. I am not a stick or a stone. I am human. I was born human; I live the life of a human being; I shall die as a human being. I cannot help being human. This is my very nature. Whether in paradise, or in his fallen state, or in grace, man retains his human nature. It is simply impossible for him to “become human again,” the reason being that man never loses his humanity. I realize, of course, that also the writers of Who In The World know this, and that by “becoming human again” they mean something different. At least, I think they do. But by talking about becoming human again, and by implying that man who sinned has lost his humanity, they are corrupting the true, Scriptural, Reformed doctrine of sin; and they fail to point out what the real nature of sin is. For this reason, the entire emphasis is upon some consequences of sin, rather than upon the horrible nature of sin as transgression of the law of God and upon the total depravity of man’s very nature.
2. In connection with this shallow perverted notion of sin, stands a perverted idea of reconciliation. Apart from the fact, now, that the whole idea of reconciliation to God is not really explained at all, the authors of the above quotation should, have been warned by the very references to Scripture which they themselves made that their presentation of reconciliation is entirely incorrect. According to those quotations, reconciliation is an accomplished fact. It was accomplished nineteen hundred years ago in the cross. How, then, is it possible to speak of reconciliation in such a way that it must still be accomplished? Yet this is what is done: “What better time to bring the message of reconciliation? God’s purpose is precisely this: to break down the dividing walls between men . . .” Still worse, the quotation is guilty of rank universalism of the most blatant kind. It says that God’s purpose is “to make all men one in Christ.” I can only say in reply to this: poor God! For all men will never be one in Christ, and therefore the purpose of the God of this quotation will never be reached. The God of this quotation is a failure. And this brings to mind another fault: statements like this ignore completely the Scriptural and Reformed truth of election and reprobation, and therefore also, of the antithesis between sin and grace, light and darkness, church and world, believer and unbeliever.
3. Also in connection with the faulty view of sin, as well as the faulty presentation of reconciliation, the above quotation presents a completely foreign idea of conversion. That, after all, is what the quotation is talking about—putting the thing now in familiar doctrinal terms. Conversion! A life of sanctification! These terms, of course, do not even occur here. But the Scriptural and Reformed idea of conversion does not occur either. Just compare once all of this nonsense about becoming human again and all of this emphasis on breaking down the dividing walls of social and racial differences, etc., with the way in which our Heidelberg Catechism describes conversion, or the way in which our Belgic Confession describes sanctification, or the way in which the Canons of Dordt talk about conversion. Again, I can well understand that people ask themselves: “Were our parents not Christians, because what we hear now is different?”
4. The entire emphasis in the teaching of the above quotation is upon the social gospel and upon horizontalism. Erasing social differences, breaking down racial differences, eliminating the generation gap, warning against segregation—this is the emphasis in the quotation furnished above. Obviously the whole purpose of these social gospelers is to heal a fractured world. This is the same kind of horizontalism which the social gospelers began to proclaim already at the turn of the century. It is the same horizontalism that has afflicted theGereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands. It is a denial of the gospel of sovereign grace for elect, but in themselves lost, sinners.
Would that Reformed people everywhere would think for themselves, and do so in the light of Scripture and our confessions! Then they would never be deceived by such religious trash as that of Who In The World.
Well, these are a few critical thoughts about the matter of “becoming human again.” My questioner may write again if I have not made myself clear