Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Jonathan Edwards—and Birth Control
Christian News, August 5, 2002, presents articles pertaining to marriage and family. Included is an interesting quote from the book, “God’s Vision for Families—What the Bible Says About Having Children,” by Nancy Campbell. The quote is headed by the statement: “Jonathan Edwards and Laying the Foundation for Future Generations.”
“Back in 1990 a trace was done on offspring of the Jonathan and Sarah Edwards family. Jonathan Edwards was a theologian, pastor, missionary and university president. He had a brilliant mind. At age ten he entered Yale College and at 16 years he graduated at the head of his class. When he was 23 years he became pastor of the church at Northampton, Massachusetts, which at the time was the most influential church in America. That same year he married Sarah Pierrepont, a daughter of one of the founders of Yale, and they had 12 children.
“By 1900 this godly marriage had produced: 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 100 lawyers and a dean of an outstanding law school, 30 judges, 60 doctors and a dean of a medical school, 80 holders of public office including three United States Senators, three mayors of large cities, three state governors, vice-president of the United States, and controller of United States Treasury. They entered the ministry in platoons, sent 100 missionaries overseas as well as staffing many mission boards. Members of the family wrote 135 books and edited 18 journals and periodicals. Nearly another century has gone by since this study. How much more has this one family influenced the nation? This happened because one husband and wife had a vision for raising godly seed and building a godly dynasty.”
One can only wonder what would have been the case if Jonathan Edwards had practiced “birth control” or even abortion to limit the number of children they had to one or two (as is so common today—even within the churches). What a loss, humanly speaking, there would have been for the country! More significantly (though we do not know if all or most of those listed above were Christians), one considers Heaven’s population that is drawn by God from one couple who gave birth to twelve children. What amazing fruit follows out of godly couples who bear children of the covenant!!
Roman Catholic Church: “Salvation for Jews Apart from Christ.”
The Grand Rapids Press (Aug. 13, 2002) presents an interesting report from the Boston Globe:
The Catholic Church, which spent hundreds of years trying to convert Jews to Christianity, has come to the conclusion it is theologically unacceptable to target Jews for evangelization, according to a statement issued Monday by U.S. Catholic bishops and rabbis from the country’s two largest Jewish denominations.
Citing teachings dating to the Second Vatican Council — and statements by Pope John Paul II — the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared unequivocally that the biblical covenant between Jews and God is valid and, therefore, Jews do not need to be saved through faith in Jesus.
“A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely given mission to Jews to witness to God’s faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church,” declares the document, “Reflections on Covenant and Mission.”
The declaration, negotiated by the bishops and an organization representing Conservative and Reform rabbis, demonstrates dramatic changes in Catholic thinking about Jews and Judaism in the wake of the Holocaust. In the decades since Hitler’s attempt to exterminate Jews during World War II, the church rejected its longtime position that Christianity superseded Judaism, and instead embraced Judaism as a legitimate faith both before and after the life of Jesus.
“The significance is far more than theological, because for centuries it was the refusal of Jews to embrace Christian teachings that legitimized the persecution, and often murder, of Jews in communities throughout Christendom,” said Robert Leikind, New England regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Jesus and his early followers were Jewish, but those who embraced Christianity began to turn on those who did not more than a millennium ago.
Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore and the bishops’ liaison for Christian-Jewish relations, called Monday’s declaration “a significant step forward in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community in this country.”
The Romish church thus joins many others among Protestantism who teach that there is salvation through many other religions apart from the cross of Christ. It is one more large step towards union not only of churches of divers sorts, but union even of those of other religions with what is called “church.” Increasingly one sees the evidences of the “harlot” ofRevelation 17.
‘Non-church’ church is popular but hollow
Then there is the report in the Rocky Mountain News by Terry Mattingly, who discusses another popular trend in our day: the “non-church” church.
For two millennia, if you knew a church’s name then you knew something about the people inside its doors.
Church names stood for timeless saints and traditions—from the Church of the Nativity to the Church of the Resurrection….
In some flocks, a name might tell a church’s location or hint at its origins. The Southern Baptist Convention’s directory includes almost every name under the sun—from Enigma Baptist to Black Jack Baptist, from Hanging Dog Baptist to First Baptist of Disney (Okla.).
But out with the old and in with the focus groups. Who needs an old church? “First, the vogue was for local churches to drop their denominational affiliation from their name,” wrote scholar Gene Edward Veith in the evangelical magazine World. “Then came the fad of dropping the word church.”
The Community Assembly of God Church became first “Community Church” and then “The Community Family Worship Center.”
But the sign outside is just the beginning. Inside these doors, many church leaders are morphing into chatty spiritual guides, said Veith. Hymns are out and so are sermons, litanies and scripture readings. Thousands of churches are rigging up video screens.
“Some churches are doing everything they can to eliminate anything that might make them seem like churches,” said Veith.
Now, broadcaster Harold Camping has turned up the heat by saying it’s time for Christians to realize that all modern churches—liberal, conservative and everything in between—have gone apostate.
“We must remove ourself (sic) from the church,’ he said in a manifesto posted at www.Family Radio.com. “The church has ceased to be an institution or divine organism to serve God as His appointed representative on earth.” This concept might appeal to millions of consumers. Sunday morning? Sleep in. No more boring rituals and sermons. No guilt-inducing programs to help the poor.
The big problem is that Camping doesn’t sound all that radical these days.
“American churches,” said Veith, “have been complicit in this new and heretical anti-church movement. Many have become so indifferent to theology that their version of Christianity consists of little more than, to use the words of country singer Tom T. Hall, ‘me and Jesus'” ….
The description is quite accurate. Many “churches” are no longer churches—but Community or Family centers. There is no room for the Christ, no room for His Word. What proves entertaining to the masses becomes the medium to convey “God” to the people. Many see “God” in everything—but few recognize that one knows God only through Jesus Christ. So some will have their homes to be their “church.” These would separate themselves from the sacraments, from official preaching of the Word, so that they can meditate by themselves within their own homes. The faithful church is indeed attacked from many fronts. May God in His mercy preserve His faithful church, which is called the very “body of Christ” in Scripture.
Reports from Christian Renewal
Christian Renewal, a church paper published in Canada, contains reports especially from the United Reformed Churches, but also from other Reformed churches as well. In the issue of August 12, 2002, there are several reports about the Protestant Reformed Churches too. A full page, with pictures, presents an account of the Young Adults’ retreat in Alberta, Canada under the sponsorship of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church of Lacombe, AB Canada. It is a very nice report about a very worthwhile retreat—according also to the testimony of those who attended.
The paper also presents a report (full page) of the synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches. It is not a full report of synod’s actions, but concentrates on that decision of synod pertaining to contact with the United Reformed Churches. The PRC synod decided to break off ecumenical discussions with the URC on three grounds. Christian Renewal reported: “There were three grounds for this decision. The first two concerned different conceptions of church unity in the two denominations. The third specified fundamental doctrinal and ethical differences between the PRC and the URC. The URC approve unbiblical divorce and remarriage after divorce even in the instance of one of their ministers. The URC tolerate the ‘framework hypothesis’ as an explanation of the account of creation inGenesis 1 and 2 by decision of their 2001 synod, which refuses to condemn this hypothesis in its decision on creation and evolution. The URC tolerate, if they do not officially approve, the doctrine of a conditional covenant by virtue of their decision to work toward full ecclesiastical union with the Canadian Reformed Churches. The URC tolerate theonomic postmillennialism by knowingly admitting into their ministry one who holds these teachings.”
The report stated:
Active in the discussions with the Protestant Reformed Contact Committee, Rev. Ralph Pontier was disappointed by the PRC synod’s decision.
“I am disappointed that the Committee for Contact with Other Churches of the Protestant Reformed Churches proposed to their synod, and their synod adopted, a recommendation to break off discussions with the United Reformed Churches. Scripture commands us to make every effort to be reconciled with fellow believers.
I do not think we have exhausted that mandate with the PRC,” said Pontier, who saw progress being made during the talks and an increasing understanding of one another.
“We have much in common with the PRC doctrinally, historically and culturally. Our committee enjoyed good Christian fellowship with the members of their committee each time we met. They were gracious and generous hosts. The dialogues we have had and the papers produced have stimulated a deeper understanding of important issues,” said Pontier. “However, our contact with them has underscored for me that adopting extra confessional, binding positions unilaterally is a great hindrance to ecumenicity among Reformed churches.”
The full report of the actions of our synod on this matter can be found in the Acts of Synod 2002, which was recently distributed to all of the membership of our churches.