More Debate Respecting Infallibility

From time to time we have reported in recent months on the debate in the Christian Reformed Church on the proposition respecting the infallibility of the Scriptures. 

This debate had its occasion in the publication of two articles appearing in a publication of Calvin Seminary called Stromata in which a student, now a minister in the Christian Reformed Church, posited views on inspiration which evoked considerable comment and criticism. In fact, the Synod of 1959 of the Christian Reformed Church spent much time with the question of infallibility as a result of the debate. Apparently, however, the debate continues as is evidenced in the articles appearing in the January, 1960 issue of Torch and Trumpet

Both the Rev. Joseph A. Hill and the Rev. H. J. Kuiper take Dr. George Stob to task for the views he expressed on the subject in a lecture delivered at Trinity College in Worth, Illinois on November 11, 1959 which was sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of Calvin College Alumni Association. The Rev. Hill, who claims to give a rather accurate report of the lecture, is especially critical of Dr. Stob’s quotation of Dr. Edward J. Young’s view of inspiration expressed in work written by the latter relative to the Biblical Doctrine of Inspiration. While the Rev. Kuiper in his Timely Topicsexpresses alarming disfavor to the entire approach of Dr. Stob to the subject of infallibility. 

Rev. Kuiper does not purport to give a complete evaluation of Dr. Stob’s position. He gives only some of his first reactions. He intends to write more later. 

However, Rev. Kuiper pulls no punches in his first reactions. Severely he criticizes Stob’s position, and accuses him of denying Plenary and Verbal Inspiration. Further, he accuses him of not being in line with Reformed tradition in quoting writers to support his views. 

Most serious of Rev. Kuiper’s remarks we find in the conclusion of his article when he accuses Stob of violating the promises made when he subscribed to the Formula of Subscription. It is the claim of Rev. Kuiper, and we believe correctly so, that before Dr. Stob may publicly in speech or writing propagate his views on inspiration which militate against the Forms of Unity, he must first reveal his sentiments to the Consistory, Classis, or Synod “that the same may be there examined, being ready always cheerfully to submit to the judgment of the Consistory, Classis, or Synod, under penalty in case of refusal, of being by that very act suspended from our office.” 

This oath of office Rev. Kuiper claims Dr. Stob has violated. 

At this point Rev. Kuiper makes the following significant statement: 

“Anyone who denies the full inspiration of the Bible, contradicts the plain teaching of our Belgic Confession on this point. We do not admit that there is room for a difference of opinion on what our Confession teaches on Scriptural inspiration. The pronouncements of Articles III to VII are so plain, unequivocal, and emphatic that only one interpretation is possible, namely, that Scripture in its whole extent, in all its parts, and in all its words, is the infallible and inerrant Word of God.’ That is the interpretation given by the Ecumenical Reformed Synod of South Africa (Acts, 1959, 2 B 1 “e”), adopted by our Synod of 1959, and accepted by Seminary President Dr. John H. Kromminga even though he held to a different interpretation before Synod met.” 

It will be interesting to see whether Dr. Stob will reply to this, and still more interesting to see what his reply will be. We will report any further developments as we see them. 

It’s Wrong But…

Christian Economics of December 29, 1959 presents among other interesting and instructive articles one under the above title which I thought our readers would enjoy reading in its entirety. It was written by Rev. Francis E. Mahaffy of the American Evangelical Mission, Sanafe, Eritrea, East Africa. We liked the article because of its practical value and application to our times. 

“There is no lack in the world of calloused individuals who are completely unconcerned about moral issues. They approach problems from a purely pragmatic point of view. If a particular action accomplishes the results which they deem desirable, they support it regardless of the harm inflicted to individuals. But there are, on the other hand, many people of a more tender conscience who are concerned about the morality of their actions. They are aware of the fact that there is such a concept as right and wrong. They hesitate to approve of the wrong when they clearly see it to be such. Yet how often among such people, people of high morality and even professing Christians, we hear the expression, ‘I know it’s wrong but . . .’ followed by rationalization for their action or approval of what they themselves judge to be unethical. There is, in fact, in all of us this same tendency. Even though we do not verbally express this rationalization for our conduct which is contrary to our own knowledge of the moral standard, it forms the conscious or unconscious ground of our behavior. ‘It’s wrong,’ we admit, but . . .’ 

“There are various motives at work influencing us in our rationalization for conduct contrary to the moral standard; A prominent one is fear. Some twenty years ago when I was working in a factory, a group of the workers went on strike and forced the plant to close. While riding the street car to the plant wondering if there would be work or not, I was joined by a fellow worker and we discussed the union rather fully. Both of us were agreed that it would be wrong to join the union. However, the instant he left the car, he was surrounded by a mob of men who pressed a union card into his hands and demanded under threat of violence that he sign. Fearful of physical violence he joined the union. A few minutes previously he had stated his opinion that it was wrong to do so but because of fear acted contrary to his convictions. In our international relations also, fearful of the consequences of an alliance of various countries with Russia, we compromise our principles and support socialism in these countries with the unfounded hope that thus we are preventing a greater evil. 

“We rationalize our unethical deeds by considering only their short term consequences. A fellow minister once wrote me that although there were many things about social security that he did not like, he felt it would be doing an injustice to his family to fail to avail himself of these benefits for them. Another spoke favorably of social security because he felt it would relieve the church of a burden in caring for its poor. Both of these men in looking at the short term benefits of social security failed to realize that in the long run this non-funded scheme of old age benefits would accelerate the trend toward capital depletion, result in greater poverty and much harm to everybody. They failed to realize that the psychology of something-for-nothing would destroy the roots of true charity in the church and thus deprive her of one of her graces. It was wrong, they knew, but blinded by the hope for short term gains, they compromised their better judgment. 

“Convinced of our inability to change the trends, we throw the blame for socialistic legislation of which we disapprove on Congress and fail to take due cognizance of the fact that Congress is a fairly faithful mirror of public opinion. Or we rationalize our negligence in seeking reform by the argument that although it is wrong yet nearly everybody does or approves it and we are afraid to swim against the current. 

“Another motive behind our rationalization for our conduct and views stems from sympathy for the underdog. Recently we entertained a guest in our home who was a stalwart member of the English Socialist Party. His approval of socialism stemmed from his deep sympathy for his characterization of the plight of the common man. He could see that many of the actions of the party were contrary to God’s law but felt that their good, ends justified, the means. He failed to understand the best way to help the mass of men was to give them freedom accompanied by Christian charity in times of special distress. 

“Recently I read an article in a Christian magazine in which the author spoke very highly of the regime of Mao in Communist China. While granting that Mao is not a Christian and that he does not have Christian ethics and that he has been ruthless while consolidating his power, yet he feels that he has brought to China the best government she has ever had. He speaks in glowing terms of Mao’s accomplishments. Under no dynasty has there been such progress as in the last decade . . . he has abolished many evils in China. There are no beggars on the street of any city, where beggars once flourished in mobs. There are no dogs in China, and with them have gone untold numbers of vermin. There are few flies left in the great cities. Most important, there is no graft or corruption among officials.’ The author’ of this article lightly passes over Mao’s responsibility for the murder of millions of people, his defiance of God, his attempts to destroy the church of Christ, and rationalizes his conduct by pointing to what he considers valuable contributions he has made. Aside from the question of the accuracy of the facts, the acknowledgment of the fact that Mao’s conduct is at variance with Christian ethics should in itself have led him to ‘a radically diverse evaluation of Mao, and his regime. 

“Perhaps this sort of rationalization evidenced by theexpression ‘It’s wrong, but . . .’ springs from the tendency of our age to exalt man at the expense of God. We have forgotten that God is God. We no longer believe that to defy the law of the eternal, absolute, holy God must inevitably bring with it God’s judgment. As the night follows the day, defiance of God’s law is the cause that must be followed by the effect of His curse. Compromise with the moral law by the individual or by society will be followed by disastrous consequences for both. We may be sure that our sin will find us out. When the church catches a glimpse of God’s holiness and sovereignty, she can again regain her position of leadership in the realm of morals. 

“Only when we learn to say, ‘It’s wrong therefore I cannot do it’ may we expect God’s blessing upon our endeavors.” 

We are not told the author’s religious background, nor is his particular faith indicated. Whatever these are, he surely paints a correct picture, first of all, of a very common characteristic of modern man, be he religious or not. Moreover, in the second place, he also presents a true concept of God Who is not the figment of our imagination, a dumb idol, but the only true and living God. The author surely does not present a god who by the general operation of his spirit retards the development of sin, but the God Who judges righteously all the conduct of men, all men. Indeed, God is God. And to defy or compromise with His law must bring disastrous consequence.