All Around Us

LUTHERANS AND ROME

It is the time of the year when the Protestant Churches ponder their heritage—especially the heritage of the Reformation. Especially among the Reformed Churches, this is an occasion for gratitude to God Who so remarkably and graciously delivered His Church from the bondage of Rome. One would expect that this same gratitude would characterize also the Lutheran Churches who stand especially in the tradition of the Reformation, bearing the name of the first of the Reformers. Perhaps it is true that most of them do. It is quite obvious that some do not.

There is, in the land of Luther, a top Lutheran clergyman who is trying to lead his church at least part way back to the Roman Catholic Church. This man is Dr. Hans Christian Asmussen who preached at one time in a parish in Kiel, but who is now retired from this church and lives in Heidelberg. He has gathered about him a group of men called Die Sammlung (The Gathering), and concentrates on making his movement more wide-spread through the influence of his paper—a sixteen page newsletter with a circulation of about 1,700. On the one hand this man wants to lead the Lutheran Church closer to Rome. He wants the church to give greater recognition to the pope and his authority; he wants to reclaim much of Romish liturgy; he has already re-established the confessional and persuaded many churches to do likewise; he likes the emphasis placed on saints, and especially on the Virgin Mary; he is even in favor of an unmarried clergy especially in these times of crisis.

But, on the other hand, he feels that the Romish Church lives too much in the dim past and is often not alive to the issues of the day. For this reason he would like the Lutheran Church to preserve a measure of its own identity and tradition. As one theologian of Asmussen’s following expressed it:

We want to say yes to tradition but no to traditionalism, yes to the office of the Pope but no to papism, yes to the right of the church but no to legalism, yes to the praised mother of the Lord but no to Marianism, yes to the spiritual center of Rome but no to centralism and Romanism.

Luther would be shocked could he know what is happening to his Church. The striking part of it all is, though, that the emphasis falls on the liturgy and external aspects of the Church of Rome. It seems to be such things as form and ritual, saints and sinners, pope and priest which attract these Lutherans. This was not, in the first place, important to Luther. It is true, he severely attacked them and they too fell beneath his hammer blows. But Luther saw, and correctly so, that the basic evil in the Romish Church was their doctrine of justification by works. It was with Luther a doctrinal question, a matter of the truth of Scripture. Settle that all-important matter and the rest would follow of itself. This vast theological chasm is not so much as referred to in the report of this movement. But then, doctrinal matters and questions of the truth seem to concern very few people and churches any more today. Yet, in considering our own heritage—the heritage of the Reformation—we do well to remember that the main reason for thanksgiving is that the Spirit of Christ has led His. Church out of the doctrinal slavery of Roman Catholicism into the truth of Scripture. This is the principal importance of the Reformation, especially for us.

THE DIGNITY OF LABOR?

Originally appearing in the Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, and quoted in the latest issue of theReader’s Digest is the following interesting article:

In the United States at large there is no universal regard for hard work. Look around you at the restricted outputs common in the building trades. Watch the slow-motion pace in many of our factories, where contract provisions bar any increase in work tempo. Observe the functionless fireman aboard a diesel locomotive, or any of the other workers idle under a variety of feather-bedding practices. Tour one of our leading aircraft plants, where a survey showed that the work force was productively occupied an average of only 63 percent of the so-called work day. 

It’s not only the manual workers. Look into the coffee shop of any large office building. Stand in the doorway five minutes before quitting time. Walk through the offices and observe the white-collar workers who manage to chat away a third of the day. 

The terrible conclusion is that as a nation we are developing a negative reaction toward work. We are placing more and more emphasis on doing only what we have to in order to eke out the kind of living we want, and less and less on doing the job conscientiously.

It can perhaps be argued, and is already argued in many places, that the contributing factors to such idleness are increasing dependence upon the welfare state, increasing usurpation of authority by the labor unions, increasing preoccupation with leisure and entertainment. Yet is it not true that the only possible solution to the problem lies in grace for the child of God? “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.” Ephesians 6:5-8.

The shadow of the cross falls also upon the place where we work.

THE MORAL PROBLEMS OF FALL-OUT SHELTERS

Some time ago when the subject of fall-out shelters was just becoming a topic of national interest, a man wrote an article in a prominent magazine informing the public that he intended to stock his fall-out shelter with a gun and a good supply of ammunition to be used when his foolish neighbors who did not build their own shelters stormed his to find shelter when the bombs began to fall. He maintained that to shoot his neighbors was an obligation he had, for if he would allow all his neighbors to crowd his shelter his own family would die.

This article raised a storm of protest and argument throughout the country as ministers and priests and laymen debated the matter from every conceivable point of view.

The Roman Catholic point of view was recently given in answer to a question. The questioner asked about the moral right of shooting neighbors who tried to force their way into the shelter he had built. The answer:

While many people question the value of fallout shelters in case of an atomic attack, many others are asking questions like yours. Others, while not discouraging family shelters, think that group shelters would be much more effective for survival and recovery than family shelters. Maybe millions and millions of rosaries more would make any kind of a fallout shelter unnecessary, inasmuch as they would bring the peace that Our Lady of Fatima promised if there are enough prayers and sacrifices. 

In an article entitled “Ethics at the Shelter Doorway” in the Catholic weekly America for Sept. 30, 1961, Father L.C. McHugh, S.J., offers a partial code of essential shelter morality. 

1. If you are an unattached individual and wish to yield your shelter space to others, God bless you. You can show no greater love for your neighbors. 

2. Think twice before you rashly give your family shelter space to friends and neighbors or to the passing stranger. Do your dependents go along with this heroic self-sacrifice? If they do, and you have not yet built a shelter, don’t bother to do so. Go next door and build one for your neighbor. In an emergency, he can take refuge there more quickly if it is on his own property instead of yours. 

3. When you have sheltered your family, you may make n prudent judgment as to whether you may admit any others to your sanctuary without undue risk to the essential welfare of those who are most closely bound to you in justice and charity. It would be hard to prove that you have any grave obligation to do so. 

4. If you are already secured in your shelter and others try to break in, they may be treated as unjust aggressors and repelled with whatever means will effectively deter their assault. If others steal your family shelter space before you get there, you may also use whatever means will recover your sanctuary intact. 

5. The careful husbandman who has no heroic aspirations will take precautions now so that his shelter will be available for those for whose safety it was built. If it is marginally equipped, it would be a normal exercise of prudence to conceal the entrance, if feasible, or make it inaccessible except to the members of the family. Does prudence also dictate that you have some “protective devices” in your survival kit, e.g., a revolver for breaking up traffic jams at your shelter door? That’s for you to decide, in the light of your personal circumstances. But as Civil Defense Coordinator Keith Dwyer said in the Times story: “There’s nothing in the Christian ethic which denies one’s right to protect one’s self and one’s family.”

We know that before the return of Jesus Christ Antichrist must still reign. Is it then possible that a nuclear war with its almost unbelievable destruction will precede the reign of Anti-Christ? Is the only way to a universal kingdom over which Anti-Christ must rule the way of nuclear war? Or will the disagreements between the nations be settled without war at the world’s conference tables? No doubt one’s decision to build or not to build a fall-out shelter will rest in part at least upon his answers to these questions.

But should you build a fall-out shelter, what about these moral problems? What would you do?

MERGERS AND SPLlTS

The proposal by Eugene Carson Blake made sometime ago and referred to on various occasions in this column has now been approved by the last major body to whom the proposal was directed. Blake originally called for the merger of the United Presbyterian, Methodist and Protestant Episcopal Churches into one huge super-denomination embracing almost a third of all Protestants. The proposal had been accepted by the United Presbyterian Church and by the Methodists; it was also accepted now by the Protestant Episcopal Church which recently met in Detroit. The resolution included several conditions for merger talks: the talks must be “based upon the Bible as the revealed Word of God and rule of faith; acceptance of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds; use of the two sacraments, always administered with Christ’s own words of institution; and a ministry of the Word based on the apostolic succession as well as the inward call.” It appears as if the machinery is about ready to roll.

On another church scene a new denomination was recently formed. When the Congregational Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches united to form the United Church of Christ, there were many congregations which refused to go along with the merger. This was especially true of the Congregationalists. Recently meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming, these churches formally re-organized as the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.

Among the Presbyterians, there was a group that split from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1937 on the question of premillennialism. It became known as the Bible Presbyterian Church. This group split again with the Collingswood (New Jersey) Synod becoming a separate body and retaining the name, while the other group, meeting last July in Tacoma, Washington, decided on the new name of Evangelical Presbyterian Church. This latter group reaffirmed its premillennialism as its doctrinal confession. The Evangelical’ Church has about 70 congregations throughout the country.

—H. Hanko