Many of our people have probably been wondering what happened at the Reformed Ecumenical Synod that was held in Grand Rapids last month. The reports that have appeared in Church periodicals have, thus far, been rather sketchy, but a brief report can be made.
Delegates were from various parts of this country, from the Netherlands, from South America, from Scotland and Ireland, from South Africa and Nigeria, from Korea and Japan, from New Zealand and Australia, and from Ceylon. All of these countries have Reformed Churches. There were 17 member denominations represented, 4 prospective member denominations who were given a full vote at the Synod, observers from 6 denominations, 14 theological professors who served as advisors, and 10 special guests.
The officers of the Synod were: Rev. George N. M. Collins from the free Church of Scotland, Moderator; Dr. Fred H. Klooster from the Christian Reformed Church, First Clerk; Dr. Paul G. Schrotenboer from the Christian Reformed Church as Second Clerk; Professor John Murray from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, First Assessor; Dr. Herman N. Ridderbos from the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, Second Assessor.
Some of the more important decisions taken were:
1) A permanent Secretariat was set up. The office is described in The Banner in the following words: “There must be one man who is to be a symbol, a constant point of contact between the Reformed Churches throughout the world.” Rev. Paul Schrotenboer was given this appointment.
2) Several committees were appointed: a permanent committee on Reformed literature; an interim committee to function between Synods which are held every five years; a standing committee on missions who are to give assistance to member churches in their missionary work.
3) The question came up concerning the position of the Churches on separate social and political organizations. The majority of Synod argued that it was the calling of the Church to organize separately and maintain the antithesis this way. But many also questioned this and maintained that the Christian calling is to witness and exert his influence as long as possible in broader organizations which include both believers and unbelievers. What was finally settled I do not know.
4) Also a decision was made on the problem of the relation between newly established churches on the mission field and the older “mother” churches. It seems as if the race issue was a primary issue in this discussion. Some felt that young churches (often composed of non-whites) should meet with the older churches in ecclesiastical fellowship on an equal footing. There were others who disputed this. The final decision reads:
That Synod declare that where young Christian churches which have come into existence through mission effort belong to different nations, speaking different languages and having different cultures than the older church which inaugurated mission work it is advisable that these churches maintain separate assemblies up to the level of their own national Synods. But the unity of the church of Christ, in its diversity, must further be expressed and revealed whether by holding joint synodical gatherings as soon as possible, as soon as circumstances permit, or in such organizational development as will reflect that unity as far as it is possible to do so. In this wav the one church of Christ, in its universality, its unity, and its pluriformity, will be progressively revealed among the nations of the world.
Although it is impossible to comment on the Synod in detail from such scanty reports, it is somewhat surprising to notice that there were no discussions or decisions about doctrinal matters. It would seem that in these days of doctrinal decline and apostasy from the faith, such a Reformed Synod should busy itself with the defense of the faith once delivered to the saints. Passing decisions on this particular social problem or that has little value if the truth is not defended.
Recently an editorial in Christianity Today commented upon the terrible laxity in morals especially among high officials in government.
It cited several cases as evidence of this. There is, of course, the well-known and over-publicized case of adultery and moral decay and suicide in the scandals that recently rocked the conservative government of England. Besides, the editor refers to a former dean of Harvard law school and former high government official by the name of James Landis who has been indicted for failure to file income tax returns for five years involving-no less than $300,000. There is further the prominence of divorced men holding some of the highest offices in the country. Three outstanding examples are Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York and presidential aspirant; William Douglas, justice of the Supreme Court; and Adlai Stevenson, United States Ambassador to the United Nations and two-time presidential candidate.
In a following editorial the same editor comment; on a similar issue and discusses what may be the cause of all this. He finds this cause especially in the increasingly secular education of this country. Chancellor Adenauer (from West Germany) is reported to have said to Lynden Johnson (our Vice-president), “I have never seen as great a lack of moral integrity as I have among your young people. I do not believe that in the conflict between East and West the young people of the free world have the moral integrity to Will.”
The editor speaks scathingly of the school system of. America, of so-called Christian homes where “prayer, Bible reading, and the family altar are neglected.” But he lays his bitterest words and severest condemnations on the Church.
We believe part of the blame rests squarely on the Church. In recent years the Church has become increasingly concerned with economic, social? and political problems. There has been a corresponding decline in her spiritual mission. As a result people have lost any sense of sin as an offense against a holy God. The Churches pay a number of lobbyists in Washington today to work for social and other legislation . . . . Some consider government as agent of the Church. Such folly leads us deeper and deeper into the morass of futility. How can a new society be brought about without new men? How can we have new men unless Christ has transformed and taken up his abode in men’s hearts?
With this we agree. The frightening and shocking disintegration of morals among those of high office makes it almost impossible for the Christian to vote. A choice between Rockefeller and Kennedy would be almost an impossible choice in any election. For even tire present administration is so evidently cynical about what is right and what’s wrong, so completely sold to the idea that they ought only do what will gain them votes, that one turns away in disgust. And the terrible materialism and secularism of the country is the cause.
But there are two points that ought to be made—especially because the editor (and many others commenting on these grave moral problems) still speaks in terms of some hope that things will improve.
One point is that if these men who sadly shake their heads at the growing evil around us would only turn to their Bible they would discover that in many places Scripture speaks of this very thing. This is, in fact, a sign of the nearness of the end. This does not alter the calling of the Church to condemn all this wickedness, but it does mean that we must expect that our consistent and clear condemnation will have the result of arousing the wicked to yet greater sins. The cup of iniquity must be made full and the world must be ripened for judgment. This is the sovereign purpose of God. We must not sadly bemoan a failure to achieve universal revival.
Secondly the editor is among so many evangelicals (and also many Reformed) who seem to think that there will be some sort of national or international revival, some distant time when the world will turn to Christ, some day when men shall successfully solve all their problems, some age when the kingdom of Christ shall come on this earth. This is nothing but post-millennialism in its worst form. This is a grave evil of our modern day—an evil that threatens the very well-being of the Reformed Churches. Even while they still piously speak of a second coming of Christ, a coming that shall destroy this present world, they seem to be far more concerned with making this world a better place to live in so that the kingdom of Christ may gradually develop out of the existing world order.
They will find to their surprise (and it is hoped, dismay) that they are furthering only the kingdom of Antichrist.
The following article gives a rather complete consensus of what the reaction of Protestants has been to the election of Pope Paul.
A Protestant clergyman who is a syndicated newspaper columnist today hailed the choice of Pope Paul VI as the “most significant move toward Christian brotherhood since the Reformation of the 16th Century.”
The Rev. Dr. Carlyle Adams, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Albany and writer of the Register and Tribune Syndicate column, “Our Religions,” said:
“The late Pope John XXIII had brought more healing to the wounds of the Christian body than any other spiritual leader in the past 1100 years. But now the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have deliberately and consciously chosen the one man best equipped to advance goodwill and understanding between the divisions of Christendom.
“So striking and unpredictable have been the movements of Christian thought in the last few years,” Dr. Adams said, “that people of all branches of the faith are becoming convinced that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. The new evangelical fervor in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, together with the Protestant trend toward the sense of God’s mysterious presence in public worship, all point to eventual unity. I believe this is God’s will and I believe Pope Paul VI will be used as an instrument in accomplishing that will.”
It is like an epitaph on the gravestone that marks the burying place of the Church to hear a man praise Rome that slaughtered and butchered the saints of God, that corrupted true doctrine, that vaunted itself before God Himself, and that has not, up till the present, backed away an inch from this terrible position.
Another illustration of how evil the Church has become is the case of a clergyman in the Anglican Church of England. He had some remarks to make about the Bible.
First of all though, he refused to assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (the official and quite Calvinistic confession of the Anglican Church) because it was in his words, “a theological fossil.”
But primarily he was determined to vent his hatred against Holy Scripture. The Bible, taken literally, is just “plain wrong.” It is full of wrong history and unfulfilled prophecies. There is no evidence anywhere for what it claims to be true. It is no more and not less the Word of God than any other ancient holy book in the world or even any other serious inspirational record of human experiences and knowledge. It is hardly possible to use the Bible at all in this age of science. He concluded with the words:
Some of the history is wrong. Some of the details are obviously garbled, incidents and events have got out of context, prophecies were not fulfilled always. St. Paul was completely wrong in his idea of the Second Coming and the sudden transformation of the bodies of the living into spirit bodies.
So continue the attacks on Scripture. Yet it must never be forgotten (also by those in the Reformed Churches who do the same) that any attack on Scripture is an attack on God Himself. God wrote Scripture; it is His Book; men vilify Him with their filthy attacks on His Word.