Women In The Ministry
The following item is somewhat old news, but it is worth a passing notice nonetheless. The reason why it is old is simply that there has been no room in this column up to now to include it.
The situation is this. Calvin Seminary has a few women studying in the regular Seminary course. The Seminary has, from time to time, assured the Christian Reformed constituency that this is not for purposes of introducing the idea of women ministers. Nevertheless, one wonders if this assurance is given in all candor. In the April, 1974 issue of “Grace Notes” (the paper of the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism), the following notice appeared.
VACATION PULPIT SUPPLY—Many of you are beginning to think about this. If you are retired and available, let the GRACE office know and we will put you in touch with pastors seeking a substitute. If you are looking, check with us, we may be able to help. Mrs. Marchiene Rienstra, a student at Calvin Seminary in the Master of Divinity program is available to preach this summer. She comes very highly recommended. Further information can be obtained by calling Rev. Martin D. Geleynse at the seminary.
We do not know whether or not this student actually preached this summer; but apparently, she was licensed to preach by the Seminary itself. Surely this means that the Seminary has officially gone on record as favoring women preachers. Is this a first step to its acceptance in the Christian Reformed Church?
The whole question of abortion is gradually being silenced in our day. After abortion was legalized, there was a loud cry made against its horrors. But gradually the cries have stilled, abortion becomes increasingly accepted as a way of life, and the issue of its rightness or wrongness is a rather ho-hum thing. This is the way it is with sin. Gradually consciences are hardened, the horrors of the sin are forgotten, the voices of opposition are .stilled. The world goes on to yet greater and more terrible sins.
It is the greater reason for sadness therefore, when one hears voices in the Reformed community openly advocating abortion. Here of all places there should be a strong and unceasing testimony to the terrible wickedness involved in this matter. But instead one finds abortion defended. I refer to an article which appeared in the September issue of The Reformed Journal written by William Hasker, entitled: “Abortion and the Definition of a Person.”
Our readers may wonder why we should return to a discussion of this matter in these columns. We have discussed the whole question in previous issues, and have set forth our stand. Why now again bring up the matter? There are several reasons for this. In the first place, the sin is so dreadful and the consequences of the sin so great that we must continue to raise our voices in protest against it. In the second place, it is possible that even among us, consciences are soothed by the very common-placedness of the sin so that we ourselves no longer see clearly its evils. This would be disastrous for us. In the third place, when a writer in a “Reformed” periodical openly advocates abortion, something ought to be said about it, for the support of such a position in a “Reformed” periodical certainly shows in what grave danger at least a segment of the Reformed Church stands.
Let us then turn to the article.
The argument of the author is a bit different from the usual run-of-the-mill arguments. The author argues against the position of those who hold that abortion is murder by showing what consequences this stand leads to; and by disassociating himself from the consequences, and therefore from the position itself.
Apart from the rather poor logic of an argument of this sort, it is interesting to follow what the author has to say and see whether his conclusion is valid.
He argues that those who are opposed to abortion on the grounds that it constitutes murder, base this argument on the fact that the fetus, from the moment of conception, is a person. This, of course, is correct. What consequences follow from this position? His first consequence is that the only acceptable grounds for abortion is that it “is the only way to prevent the otherwise certain death of the mother.” Although the author does not say so, he apparently disagrees with this. Further, he argues that this is unacceptable. Hence, the position of those who condemn abortion is wrong, for this consequence is wrong.
But we accept this consequence. This is indeed the only ground upon which abortion can be condoned.
The second consequence of our position is, according to the author, that one who performs an abortion is guilty of pre-meditated murder, and the woman who allows an abortion of her child commits pre-meditated murder. This conclusion too, the author says is unacceptable. Hence, our position against abortion is wrong. But here, too, we indeed accept the consequence. In fact, we insist that this is precisely the case. The abortionist and the mother seeking an abortion are both guilty of murder. The law of God forbids this. It is sin.
The third consequence of our position is, according to the author, that all birth control devices which destroy the fetus after conception has taken place, such as various drugs and so-called IUD devices, are to be forbidden because a fetus is aborted by their use. He finds this consequence also to be unacceptable. His only ground is: “Indeed, by distributing such devices the United States government has committed mass murder on a scale to make the Nazi atrocities pale by comparison!
This consequence, too, we accept. It is indeed true that such birth control devices which abort the fetus are also instruments of murder. It is also true that in our country mass murder is being committed on a scale such as the world has never seen. We agree with the conclusion.
The final consequence of our position is a theological one. Arguing from the viewpoint that each personal human being has an eternal destiny, the author writes: “What, then, is the eternal destiny of the estimated one-half of all such human beings which fail of implantation? Surely they cannot be damned, and, lacking a doctrine of limbo, there is no escaping the conclusion that heaven is full of these creatures! Is any further comment necessary?”
Yes, a great deal of further comment is necessary. One question which comes to mind is this. Does not the author who professes to be Reformed believe in the thoroughly Reformed doctrine of predestination? If he does not, he ought not to be speaking on behalf of Reformed people. Another question is this. Cannot God save those fetuses of believing parents which are spontaneously aborted? Cannot He perfect them in glory so that they are glorified along with the Church? Cannot He perfect them just as he does the elect child of believing parents who dies in infancy? Is God’s arm shortened that it cannot save? To speak of such infants as “these children” is a contemptuous dismissal of the sovereign power of the God of our salvation.
But even the author is somewhat reluctant to come out forthrightly for abortion. And so, towards the end of his article, he tempers somewhat his position. He argues that it is impossible to tell when a fetus becomes a person. But always we must consider such a fetus as “a being which could, in time, become a human person, capable of seeing the light of the sun and of knowing God in the light of His Son. The fetus is not that person as yet, but also it is not nothing; it has a value and a dignity of its own, just as each of God’s creatures—a bird, a flower, a blade of grass—has its own value and dignity.” Hence we must be careful. We must not be too hasty with abortions. If we give complete approval to abortions then we “open the door to treating the retarded, the chronically ill, the senile, and the generally nonproductive members of society as non-persons.” And this is morally repugnant. But the author, in this argument is guilty of the same error with which he accuses us: he will not accept the consequences of his own position.
When ought we then to consider a fetus a person? Since God has not told us, the author argues, we must do this when the fetus “reaches the stage of development at which it is capable of independent existence as a human organism, supported by the care which is normally given to newborn children.” He presents this as being an advance in the search for a solution to the problem. But this very position has repeatedly been taken by many advocates of abortion, and is very similar to the position taken by the Supreme Court in its legalization of abortion.
What lies behind all the arguments however is a refusal to recognize that the Word of God is authoritative for us in this matter as well as in all other matters of faith and life. The author, without proof, simply affirms that God does not tell us when a fetus becomes a person. We insist that the Word of God does tell us. And God’s Word is very specific on the point: a fetus becomes a person at the moment of conception.
The evils which this country brings upon itself and the fury of the wrath of God which shall come upon such terrible sins may not yet be evident. But such evils and such judgments are as sure to come as the Word of God is true and faithful.
The following article appeared in the September 10 issue of the RES Newsletter.
The association “Scripture and Witness”, a group of members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) who are disturbed by developments within their church, have published a declaration which calls on the congregations to take a stand against the direction of the GKN Synod. “Bar straying pastors from the pulpits and from the catechism classrooms”, it warns. It also advises members within churches where Scriptural preaching and fellowship no longer exist, ‘”to form temporary emergency congregations in which the offices of the church will be instituted and the sacraments administered.”
Commenting in Centraal Weekblad, Dr. K. Runia admits that he can easily identify with many of the resolution’s aims and admits that “indeed, a great amount of erosion has taken place with regard to the Reformed character of our churches.” The action, he also grants, is based on the reluctant recognition of a sorrowful fact: a spiritual division has taken place. The declaration would discover a way which deals with this division without dividing the church. It emphatically denies that it desires a schism, wants only to preserve the unity of the church.
Dr. Runia nevertheless finds the declaration very confusing. It is unclear which decisions of the synod the churches are called to oppose. Who is to make this choice: consistories or individual members? Is it possible to choose position against synod without breaking ecclesiastical bonds? Although the unity of the church may be formally maintained, what is being asked is that a “spiritual” separation be allowed to assume organizational form within the church. It calls on the “concerned’! (verontrusten) to form a modality within the GKN. Thus, those who have long uttered strong objections against the formation of a ‘modality church’, now are asking that such be given institutional form.
“Scripture and Witness”, says Dr. Runia, is highly unrealistic if it expects the synod to accede to its request. Unrealistic also is the declaration’s expressed hope for a truly Reformational church which it seems to be expecting to arise from contacts within the Reformed Family (Gereformeerde Gezindte), which includes the Reformed Alliance within the Netherlands Reformed (Hervormde) Church and various smaller Reformed denominations. At least a couple of leaders from these (sympathetic) groups have reacted to the declaration with strong criticism. Runia argues that legitimate ecclesiastical channels have by no means been exhausted. “As long as the ‘way of the church’ is still wide open, we may not strike off into ‘side trails.'”