All Around Us

Out of the Mouth of. . . WHOM? 

The Banner has, in past months, presented a series of articles entitled, “As Others See Us.” To date, they have had one liberal Lutheran, one Roman Catholic, and one avowedly liberal (denying even the blood of atonement) man write. The last is Dr. Duncan Littlefair of the Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Of himself, Dr. Littlefair writes in his article, “Our position is so radically different that I understand and can accept the declaration of many Reformed people that we are not a church and not Christian.” 

Concerning the practice of obtaining this sort of material from men such as those mentioned above, I need not say much. Objections have been raised by Christian Reformed brethren concerning this practice. Certainly it encourages the false ecumenism of our day. Young people would be particularly vulnerable. If they can read these men in their church magazine, why not worship in their churches? But Scripture also points out, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Or, in I John 10, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” One would think that this Scriptural principle also applies to church magazines. 

However, all the above leads me to the point of this article: some of the remarkable things that Dr. Duncan Littlefair, avowed modernist, has to say about the Christian Reformed Church. I could not help but think ofTitus 1:12-13 where Paul wrote, “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, ‘The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.’ This witness is true.” So also, though one could not expect the truth from Dr. D. Littlefair, yet he says some strikingly true things in his assessment of the C.R.C. One can only marvel at some of them. If the late Rev. H. Hoeksema had written that kind of article, and when he did say similar things about the C.R.C. when he was alive, there seemed but few in the G.R.C. who would listen. When the Association of Christian Reformed Laymen deplored the direction their church was going in an article recently in their Bulletin, Dr. Bratt of Calvin College took extremely strong exception in a letter to “voices” in the Banner. But now Dr: Littlefair says it — the outspoken liberal among liberals. First, he observes what he saw in the C.R.C. in earlier years:

Through all the years I have been in Grand Rapids, the Christian Reformed Church has been a powerful religious organization based on clear, strong principles unswervingly maintained. Your consistently strong and intellectually sound presentation of Calvinistic principles and Biblical faith has made your impact on our community deeper and more pervasive than any observer could readily describe. You have taken pride in the “narrow way,” and it is largely because of this, I think, that you have contributed so greatly to the quality of life in this community. You have not been seduced by the lure of the secular world to accommodate yourself to modern needs and modern conditions. You have not compromised for the sake of being modern or popular or more attractive. You have nurtured religious passion. Your people care about the religious life, and this religious concern has infused the total community.

This passion, ironically, has been of great value in my work and in the life of the Fountain Street Church. You have been a major factor in the rather unusual “success” of our church. The rigorous religion you espoused created a religious environment in Grand Rapids which made what we did at Fountain Street much more significant. People in Grand Rapids paid attention to religion. When they could no longer accept your kind of religion, Fountain Street Church was there with a well grounded radical alternative. You made it necessary for people to make a choice; we were there to give them an alternative.

Then Littlefair continues by evaluating the C.R.C. as it exists today.

But now, alas, the Christian Reformed Church appears to be in the process of losing its integrity and dissolving into just another church attempting to hold on in a world that cannot accept its presuppositions, beliefs, or philosophy. The winds of change blowing for so long are now blowing through the Christian Reformed Church. Your young people are not so ardent. They slip away more easily when they get away from home. Divorce is becoming more common and more acceptable. And what can be done about it? Extra-marital affairs are openly discussed in your official publication. Secular counseling is recommended in preference to pastoral counseling or prayer. Dancing is common. Movies, even the most secular and pornographic, are carefully reviewed in The Banner. Sunday observance is not what it was. Evening attendance at church is slipping noticeably. You are having to wrestle with the terrible “problem” of what to do with women in the church. Some of your ministers are quietly moving into less demanding Presbyterian or Congregational churches. Christian schooling for your children is easier to avoid. More and more of your members are playing the social ladder game, moving to more social but less exacting churches within the denomination.

Now Littlefair proceeds to analyze some of the recent attempts to “improve” the gospel of the church through all kinds of acts of “salesmanship.” Says he:

And then there is Robert Schuller, smiling prophet from your fellow Reformed denomination! He is not merely waiting in the wings. He is front stage and center. He makes tours to tell the more backward brothers how to commercialize their churches! And the brothers are eager to hear. Some of your local affluent lay leaders even send local clergy on free junkets to the “Center of Power” to learn how to organize parking lots, package the product attractively, make it comfortable for the prospect, lure him into the church, and then sell him the gospel. After all, if you can sell soap effectively, why not religion? Since the latter is even more important than soap, it must follow that it is even more important to do what you have to do to sell it. If you can succeed in getting the prospect in at the gate long enough to sell him Jesus, the effort must be considered worthwhile and thoroughly valid. 

So we begin all the slippery compromises that bleed religion of its integrity, significance, and worth. Being successful becomes more important than being right. Attractive techniques are more effective than discipline or doctrine. What a shame to have the Christian Reformed Church beginning to join the popular but totally undistinguished mass appeal of Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Billy Joe Hargis, Billy Zeolli (Why are there so many ‘Billies’?), Rex Humbard, and Oral Roberts.

Finally, Littlefair presents his own conclusions:

And I think I understand what’s happening. As one’s philosophy and world-view becomes more and more outmoded and unable to meet the needs of the modern world, the normal reaction is to decorate, sentimentalize, and compromise in the hope of holding on. While this is going on the secular world is blamed for luring the young people from the path of truth and virtue, even as that same secular world is invited in, covering up the truth of the situation with seductive appeal. I, like you, have watched the Liberals pursue such practices for many years. 

But now I see your own traditional belief structure shaking under the accumulated weight of changed and changing understandings of the world. The eternal truth wavers, and the pressure of your church to change is irresistible. I don’t see how you can avoid the slide. It is, as I have pointed out and as I think you inwardly know, already well on the way, Nevertheless, I am genuinely sorry to see you lose the vigor, clarity, integrity, and distinctiveness of your traditional position.

With the statement of the apostle Paul, I think I too need only say, “This witness is true.” Nor ought we smugly sit back and gloat. The dangers grow that we too slide along the same course taken earlier by the Christian Reformed Church. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, beware lest he fall!” 

Education and Big Government. 

One encounters often, lately, reports of the attempts of government to take over the regulation and control of the private and parental schools. Increasingly, it seems, that big government bases its claim to regulate on the fact that, however remotely, the school has received some sort of government aid. It need not even be direct aid — if any of the students attending that school may have received some aid to go there, then the school- itself is to be under the regulations of government. A report of one such action is given in the Grand Rapids’ Press and written by columnist George F. Will. He reports:

Grove City College’s troubles began, as many Americans’ troubles do, with a letter from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. It began: “Dear Recipient” and ordered the college to sign forms confirming compliance with Title IX regulations against sex discrimination. 

Such confirmation is required of institutions receiving federal aid. But Grove City insists that it neither seeks, nor receives any aid, and it assumed the letter was a simple mistake. Alas, HEW’s mistakes rarely have the virtue of simplicity. 

The college’s president says: “I was told in strong terms that they would ‘bring us in compliance one way or another.’ ” And he began receiving “insistent, harassing and threatening” calls from HEW. . . 

When HEW acted, about 140 Grove City students were receiving federal tuition grants. HEW argues that such aid to students who choose to use it at Grove City constitutes aid to the college. 

The college argues that this is a petty justification for extending HEW’s jurisdiction to an institution that has made substantial sacrifices — in terms of direct aid it has not sought — in order to remain outside such federal jurisdiction. 

. . .The administrative law judge who ruled that he is powerless to overturn HEW’s claim of jurisdiction, also emphasized that, “There was not the slightest hint of any failure to comply with Title IX, save the refusal to submit an executed assurance of compliance. . . . This refusal is obviously a matter of conscience and belief.” 

The judge held that HEW has “total and unbridled discretion” in requiring compliance forms. The college is challenging this in court. . . .

One can only wonder when our own schools will feel the increasing pressure of government requiring of us observance of regulations which we, in good conscience before God, cannot obey. The time might not be far away.