A WORD CONCERNING THE ASSASINATION OF DR. KING
I write this on the day of the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.
The eulogies have now all been spoken. Many statements of public confession of sin—the sin which supposedly brought on this act of violence—have been written and will continue to be written. Pledges are still being made in the halls of government and in the pulpits of the land that the ideals for which he fought and died will live on. The flags still fly at half-mast. The word “martyr” hangs heavy in the air. But violence swirls through the cities of the land and the death-toll mounts. Arson, murder, pillage and rapine burst out to engulf the country.
Not many apparently will go along with it, but the words most fitting to the occasion are the words of the Lord Jesus: “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
Martin Luther King claimed to be an apostle of nonviolence. And most apparently agree. He is being hailed as such today. But the fact remains that he had taken the sword in his hands. He claimed to be a preacher, but he refused to preach the gospel. He preferred the sword. He had taken the sword of civil disobedience and used it himself to defy, and teach others to defy, laws with which he did not agree. He had taken the sword of demonstrations and marches and sit-ins—the sword of coercion and forceful persuasion to gain the goals which he sought. And the result was that wherever he went, violence followed in his wake. He was pastor to no flock. He brought not the gospel of Jesus Christ. He spoke of power as the legitimate and necessary weapon to gain his ends. He fought with the sword. Now he has died with the sword. And a nation, used to the power of the sword, hypocritically mourns his passing.
The murder of Dr. King was brutal and wanton. It was a terrible violation of the law of God. It can be called by no other name than murder—cold-blooded murder. There ought never to be a single voice raised in defense of this monstrous crime. But the violence he himself stirred up engulfed him at last. And it threatens to engulf the land.
It is, I suppose, called non-violence which Martin Luther King preached because this kind of violence had the protection of the laws of the land. Even as these same laws have, in times past, protected the striker in the union; even as lately they have begun to protect the criminal; so also they protected demonstrations and various forms of civil disobedience. But this only spells out to what extent the state no longer fulfills her God-given responsibility to “punish evil doers and praise them that do well.” It is exactly the opposite which we find in this perverse generation. The evil doer is protected, and the innocent are left without rights. The government has abdicated in no small way her responsible position under Christ. When violence breaks out no one ought to be surprised. It is a predictable consequence.
There is a Psalm we sing which speaks of this:
When rulers walk in darkness
When judges truth forsake,
The cornerstones are crumbled,
The firm foundations shake.
And the churches of the land follow. Not the liberal and modern churches only—the ones which have adopted a social gospel. But the more conservative churches, those which stand in the Reformed tradition. They have been speaking strangely of a comparison between Martin Luther King and Moses: both led a people out of bondage; both saw the vision of a promised land; both died without having entered. Is this kind of perversion of Scripture to be the last word of the church?
The Word of God must speak to us. And above all it says to them who have ears to hear: “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. . . .” We cannot allow the lawlessness of the age bring us into contempt of those in authority. In bowing before the law of the land we bow before our sovereign King Jesus Christ Whose footsteps we hear now in the events of history, whose sovereign rule shall bring His eternal kingdom which presently we shall inherit.
We have before us several news items of an ecumenical character which give some indication of the progress being made in various ecumenical endeavors.
From the RES Newsletter we learn that plans for the merger of the Presbyterian Church US (Southern) and the Reformed Church of America are proceeding. From the February 14-16 meeting of the “Joint Committee of Twenty-Four” has come provisions of a church political nature which will,be presented to the next General Assembly Meeting of the Southern Presbyterians and the next General Synod of the Reformed Church for approval. These two broadest assemblies will both meet June 6-12, the former at Montreat, North Carolina; the latter at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of the changes proposed include:
—A provision giving each presbytery in the newly united Church one voting unit for every one thousand members or less. Now each presbytery or classis has one vote regardless of its size in affairs of the whole Church. If, under the new plan, a presbytery or classis has fifty thousand members it would receive fifty votes.
—One of the first tasks of the new General Assembly will be to redraw the boundaries of all presbyteries and regional synods so that they will be “equitable in size, based on regional interests and needs as well as geographic considerations.”
—To be retained in the new Church would be the practice of having one governing body in each congregation. This governing body would be called a consistory and would be composed of pastors, associate pastors and elders.
—Elders would be elected from the membership of the local congregations which would open the door to the election of women into this office. This is now practiced in the Southern Presbyterian Church but not yet in the Reformed.
If these plans are approved next June by the two broadest assemblies of the two denominations, the matter will be returned for voting to the seventy-nine presbyteries of the Southern Presbyterian Church and to the forty-five classes of the Reformed Church. If three-fourths of the former and two-thirds of the latter approve the plan, it will return to the two broadest assemblies in 1969. If final approval is gained in 1969, the union will be effected in 1970 by a joint meeting of the two broadest assemblies.
There are a couple of problems which remain unsolved. One is the participation of the Southern Presbyterians in the COCU talks. (cf. below) For one thing, these COCU talks have gone on record as favoring some kind of organization which includes bishops. The Reformed Church has not yet expressed itself on this matter.
For another thing there is the unresolved problem of the “Liberal-Conservative” split in the membership of both denominations. That these two groups are at odds cannot be denied. What effect this will have on the merger remains to be seen.
Only a few weeks ago delegates to the seventh annual COCU (Consultations. on Church Union) meeting finished their work. COCU now includes ten different denominations and will form, if a united church is finally the result, one denomination of 25.5 million Protestants. The ten denominations include the following churches: African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical United Brethren, Methodist, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (Southern), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Protestant Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ. The talks were begun with the proposal for such a union made by Eugene Carson Blake in the church of Bishop James Pike.
Last year there was some discouragement among the delegates because it seemed that union was far off and perhaps even unobtainable. The movement seemed to be floundering. The talk was to consummate union without a formal plan; but many were opposed. But the spirit has changed. Many are growing impatient at delay and will not wait very much longer for the slow processes of ecclesiastical machinery and for all the picayune bickering of leaders over fine points. So now optimism has replaced pessimism and there is a renewed determination to press on. The Committee set a deadline of two years to come up with a specific plan for union. There are hopes even that it can all be done in one year.
But whether a specific plan is made or not, union is proceeding. While the leaders dally the local churches of the denominations involved have begun to attain unity among themselves. They are no longer living separately; they are achieving their own form of cooperation.
These local churches are already sharing each other’s ministries. They are exchanging pulpits and working amongst themselves to combine services and worship. They are joining in various endeavors. They are forming united programs of social action. They are cooperating where once they were competing in church extension. They are working together in missions. They are developing joint programs of theological training, development of educational materials and relationships with non-ecclesiastical organizations.
Besides, actual merger is in some instances taking place on the congregational level while the leaders ponder their problems higher up in the church’s structure.
In other words, union is proceeding whether there is actually a plan or not, whether the leaders are agreeing or not.
That therefore this will someday become a reality seems to be a certainty. And yet even such a broad ecumenical step as this is but a relatively small stepin the grander vision of the ecumenical leaders. Already some are-speaking of COCU as being a first step towards an international denomination embracing Protestantism over the whole world. And this, in turn, will be in preparation for the day when final union with Roman Catholicism is attained.
The ecumenical leaders will not rest until a one-world church is attained.
Dr. H.M. Kuitert, from the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands, has once again spoken out on his views of merger with Roman Catholicism. These views of his are discussed in a recent issue of Tot Vrijheid Geroepen. He is quoted as saying that he firmly believes that if the true unity of the Christian Church is to be attained, Roman Catholicism will have to be brought into union with Protestantism. To these he has no objection. The thought does not disturb him. He sees Rome as the church with the oldest rights; he believes that the institution of the papacy is not by any means an insurmountable obstacle to union; it is his personal conviction that if Pope John XXIII was still pope he would have no objection to acknowledging him as God’s representative upon earth. When a man in Dr. Kuitert’s influential position and with his Calvinistic and Reformed background can go as far as this in denying all the Protestant and Calvin Reformation stood for, one wonders what has become of the Church in these troubled times.
An interesting news items appeared in Christianity Today. We quote it in part.
After surveying the evidence, Child and Family magazine, edited by physicians, concludes in its current issue that the birth-control pill is “the most dangerous drug ever introduced for use by the healthy in respect to lethality and major complications.”
Many of the six million American women on the Pill, the report says, suffer such side effects as strokes, liver disease, migraine, depression, embolisms, and failing eyesight. It has been implicated in cases of sterility. Deaths attributed to its use exceed the death rate for polio during the years when it was considered a major health hazard.
Dr. Herbert Ratner, public-health director in Oak Park, Illinois, who recently became the magazine’s editor, is no champion of the Roman Catholic view of contraception. In fact, he charges that the net effect of the Pill has been that “the middle and upper classes of the United States were seduced away from well established and safe means of birth control. . . .”
We are aware that the problem of birth-control is very much more complex than the question of the health of those who use it. There are very real spiritual questions which arise here. It is not our intention to go into this question now. We only want to call attention to the fact that when man attempts to interfere with basic life processes he is bound to suffer the consequences. This sort of thing must be shunned by the people of God.