It was the biggest crusade ever held in this country; after three weeks it is all over. To those of the “Billy Graham team” who worked for it, the crusade was a rousing success. It drew no less than 930,340 people. It succeeded in persuading at least 40,000 to make decisions for Christ. The first week of the crusade telecast five of its meetings over two hundred stations in this country; each night’s telecast cost $125,000. No other crusade in this country, and only one crusade in a foreign country, drew more people and recorded more conversions. A five thousand voice choir supplied the music each night.
I heard and saw one of the meetings over television. It was awful. Billy preached on the signs of the return of Christ. He failed to mention the signs that did not fit into his scheme of things—apostasy from the faith, wars and rumors of wars, increase in iniquity, etc.; he lightly skipped over other signs making no attempt to explain them at all—signs such as Antichrist, persecution of the Church, etc.; he revealed himself as a thorough-going premillennialist who spoke of the rapture and of a future state of bliss for Israel that had already begun in Canaan; he told a few jokes and made a plea for decisions for Christ before it is all too late.
From a purely formal point of view, it is a mystery to this writer how in the world he can persuade so many people to crowd the center of the amphitheater when the time for decisions comes. Surely he does not tell enough about the gospel even to give people an idea of what it is about. And the message is so brief (fifteen minutes or so) that no one can be converted in such a short time.
But it is all also terrible blasphemy, for the glorious name of Christ is mocked by the lie. If this crusade with its decisions is any kind of a barometer of the religious state of affairs in this country, it is far worse than we imagine. And yet Reformed people support this sort of a thing. They should know that they support the most dangerous form of false religion, that has nothing to do at all with the truth of the gospel.
A minister in the United Church of Canada is rejoicing that the Church of which he is a member has abandoned the old and traditional wedding march of Lohengrin. He claims (and correctly) that this is a pure example of secular music that has nothing to do with the songs of the Church and fits more properly in Hollywood. He is in favor of using some familiar hymn which the Church itself sings or which is written as Church music. This, in his opinion would be much more fitting for church weddings.
The same minister also objects strenuously to the “hesitating, pausing-between-steps wedding march (of the bride)—as though the girl is reluctant to meet her man.” He prefers instead a “low, dignified, unhesitating march toward the expectant bridegroom.”
Although the latter point is of little significance, the former objection to this popular and often-used wedding march is certainly valid. Why employ music of the world in a spiritual ceremony in the Church in which the people of God are called to witness a picture of the relation between Christ and His Church? It is wholly out of place and ought to be abandoned also by us. Much more appropriate music can surely be found.
Some Roman authorities are becoming alarmed by the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is losing ground in this country. One authority from that church speaks of the fact that “there are cold figures that point to disaster unless the present trend is reversed.” These figures show that the number of converts to Catholicism fell from 151,000 in 1955 to 146,000 in 1958 and to 125,000 in 1962. Living adults who drop out of the rolls of the Church each year for one reason or another almost equal the number of converts.
But throughout the world, Roman Catholicism is growing. It now numbers almost one-fourth of the world’s population. And the Church should not have too much reason for alarm: if they are willing to wait but a few more years, many, if not most, Protestants will be back with them again.
While the cries for a union between Protestants and Catholics grow louder, there are some men that are making preparations for that day. There are many leaders in both Romish and Protestant churches that are working towards a translation of the Bible that will be accepted by all. The King James Version of the Bible is still most popular among Protestants—although many recent (and very poor) translations have come into use. The Catholics are bound to use the Douay Version which is an English translation of the Latin Vulgate written by St. Jerome way back in the 4th Century.
There are two possible plans being suggested. One is a plan to take the present New English Bible or the Revised Standard Version and revise it or alter certain texts so that an agreeable translation will result. The other plan is to make an entire new translation acceptable to both branches of the Church.
Although leaders in the church conceive of the possibility of getting a translation agreeable to all, they will still have to face differences of interpretation. Their plan is to include these in footnotes. For example, the Catholics are already insisting that some explanation be given of Luke 2:7: “And she brought forth her firstborn, son . . . .” They are troubled by the possibility that the impression may be left by such a translation that Mary had other children besides Jesus, which is repugnant to them.
But other problems remain.
For one thing, Roman Catholic canon law insists that all difficult passages be explained in footnotes. Protestants dislike this idea because it will put Romish doctrine in the Bible and it will take from the people their individual right to interpret Scripture. For another thing, Roman Catholics maintain the canonicity of the apocryphal books—Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, and First and Second Maccabees. Protestants have never gone along with this.
No doubt the project will be successful and this Bible will serve to hasten the inevitable union between the two branches of the church world.
Yet, it is well to remember that the church of today is in no spiritual condition to translate Scripture. There is too much heresy, too much doctrinal indifference, too much worldliness and hatred of things holy. It takes a strong Church deeply committed to the truth with a strong spiritual life to translate the infallible Word of God. A translation is much like a confession. A weak church cannot write a confession.
In spite of the many new translations that have appeared in recent years, the King James Version is still the best seller. Although the New English Bible has sold no less than 2,000,000 copies in the United States alone since its publication, the King James Version still outsells all other versions combined by a margin of four to one.
It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to produce a translation equal in beauty and dignity to this beloved translation of the Church.
A Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, is very concerned lest it be left behind in all the mergers and unions going on today. In its new church building, recently dedicated, it has made provision for any eventuality. An altar stands at the front which can easily be converted into a communion table. And this altar is removable so that it can be put aside for baptism. When it is removed, room is made for steps that lead down into a tank (usually called a baptistry) where baptism by immersion can take place. And if there are others present who object to immersion, there is, off to the side, a font that can be used for sprinkling.
Here is one Church that is well-prepared. No matter what unions may take place and no matter what doctrinal positions this church may be forced to accept, they are already adapted to it. How foolish this all is. But the name of Christ is ignored.
The American Bible Society is concerned that there are too many people who never read Scripture. They are of the opinion that this is because Scripture is not very attractive to most people. So they have taken the Phillips translation of the Gospel of John, set it up in modern format, published it in paperback, and illustrated it with all kinds of photographs taken from modern city life. There is a picture of a blind man poking along with his cane in a crowd, a wedding party coming out of the church door, a group of shadowy figures of a teenage gang slipping along a darkened alley.
Unholy, abusive, mocking, lacking in the fear of God, blasphemous—this is the church of today.
Last summer, Governor George Romney, from the state of Michigan, signed a new law which broadens the program of tax-paid school bus transportation for parochial and private schools in that state.
The old law, made in 1955, did not require public schools to do this, leaving it up to the individual school districts whether they wanted to offer this help or not. Besides, the old law required that a child had to live at least one and one-half miles from the school to be eligible. The new law requires all public school districts who operate buses to transport private school children as well as public school pupils. There is one other stipulation: if a private school pupil lives within one and one-half miles of the public school in his district, he can insist only that he be carried by public bus transportation from the public school to his own private school; and he will be required to provide his own transportation from his home to the public school.
The old law was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year.
The Vatican Council, called together by the late Pope John and recessed shortly before his death, is beginning its new session. Many of the same questions are coming up: greater participation of the laity in the affairs of the Church; the Church’s position over against ecumenical movements; the authority of Scripture vs. tradition; marriage rules; etc. At the last session reports on these questions were submitted which were too conservative for the liberal members of the Romish Church.
Already leaders in the Church are predicting another session of this same council in 1964.
It is well that we, who are called to “redeem the time,” keep our eyes on these important events. They point to the return of our Savior.