Faith, Love and . . . Controversy
When controversy arises in the Church of Christ over false doctrine, and when the truth is vigorously defended over against such false doctrine, those who are guilty of heresy often accuse the defenders of the truth with lacking in the Christian virtue of love. This has happened often in the history of the Church; this has happened recently in our own history; this is evidently happening at present in the Christian Reformed Church.
Under the above title, Rev. Henry R. Van Til, Professor of Bible at Calvin College, addresses himself to this problem in the October 28 issue of The Banner. He speaks of the fact that there are voices raised in the Church in defense of doctrines and views which are contrary to the Reformed tradition of the Christian Reformed Church, and that those who attempt to defend the Reformed tradition over against these views are considered as lacking in love. Some of the positions and views he mentions are the question of admitting lodge members into the Church, the denial that the covenant of grace is the true foundation of Christian education, the calling of the doctrine of eternal reprobation and the doctrine of infallibility into question. He writes:
“It may not seem strange to, some, but to this observer it is passing strange that anyone may propound any idea at any time and introduce a change in policy or principle or interpretation of Scripture without disturbing the peace—but alas and alack, the moment any other person opens his mouth to challenge such a change or such a new interpretation, he is said to be disturbing the peace not only but he is accused of not loving the brethren, of being a self-appointed heresy hunter, of thinking himself a watcher upon the walls of Zion.
“Paul is quoted as suggested above (‘But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.’ H.H.) to settle the issue—’the greatest of these is love!’ That is the end of the matter! Do not answer the argument! Just brand the opponent as a loveless person, that will be quite enough.”
Rev. Van Til goes on to offer some exegesis of this passage from I Corinthians 13 and makes the point that the defense of the faith is a necessary calling of the Church of Jesus Christ, as Paul in more than one place in his letters also insisted. This is not at all a violation of the Scriptural injunction which calls the saints to live by love. And he concludes his article by pointing out that after all, to introduce false doctrine into the Church is in itself a denial of love. Says he,
“Truly, love is the fulfillment of the law, but anyone who propagates false doctrine under the cover of love is perverting the very law of love as revealed in the Scriptures. Love is the tie that binds kindred hearts in Christian fellowship, but it may never become a city of refuge for those who undermine the church by destroying its foundations. Love cannot be de cement that binds the church unless the bricks with which we build are the truth of God.”
With the sentiments of this article, there cannot be any disagreement by those who love the Reformed faith. In fact, in this day of false tolerance and hypocritical love, this point is worth emphasizing again and again.
It is certainly, true that the one who introduces false doctrine into the Church or initiates views contrary to Scripture is himself violating then law of love. He is seeking, by his efforts, to destroy the Church of Christ; and this, by no stretch of the imagination, or of Scripture, can ever be called love.
On the other hand, it is equally true that one who defends the truth of God and puts forth every effort to resist false doctrine is himself revealing love in the highest sense of the word. He is revealing his love for the Church of Jesus Christ, for the brother who walks in error and whom he longs to correct; and in these things, he reveals the love of God, which after all must be the root of all love. He is jealous for God’s honor and glory in the Church and in her confession, and will leave no stone unturned to see that God’s name and cause is defended.
Yet the point also bears emphasis that love requires more than merely publicly defending the truth in the lecture room and on the pulpit as well asp in the Church press. Love requires also faithful and concerted action through Consistory, Classis and Synod to see to it that those who care not at all for the truth and openly repudiate it are censored. If one who introduces false doctrine is merely answered in the pulpit and the press without any attempts made to remove those who persist in their views, one falls into the danger of backbiting. A false view publicly expressed may be publicly repudiated. But ecclesiastical action is also necessary for the protection of the truth. This the conservative element in the Christian Reformed Church should do. This also is, love.
Scotland Celebrates Its Reformation
In a rather lengthy news item in the November 7 issue of Christianity Today, attention is called to the fact that in October of this year the Church of Scotland celebrated its 400th anniversary. In August of 1560, the Scottish Parliament ratified Protestantism’s victory over Rome by abolishing the papal jurisdiction and the mass in Scotland and approving the Calvinistic Scats Confession.
John Knox was the chief leader of the Reformation in Scotland, and was one of the authors of the Scats Confession. He stood in the tradition of Calvin and introduced what has become known as Calvinism into his country. The Scots Confession is a good confession and indeed predominantly Reformed. And the Church of Scotland has been known throughout post-Reformation history as a strong Reformed Church. From articles that have recently appeared in Church papers written by Scottish divines, one gains the impression that there is still a remnant of this Reformed and Calvinistic tradition in Scotland. But from the speeches that were delivered at last month’s celebrations, it seems as if at least the chief leaders of the Scats Church have, drifted far from the Reformed line. The Most Rev. Arthur M. Ramsey deplored the fact that the Reformation had lost some of the good elements of Roman Catholicism during the Reformation. The Very Rev. George F. MacLeod condemned as idolatry any attempts of the Church to look back at the Reformation and at the creed which the Reformation produced. He advised the Church not to “try to recover” the Reformers’ insight, but rather to “look at our modern environment and see what it says to us.” He called for “the true line of the Reformers’ . . . a renewed doctrine of man’s’ worth in a machine age, a recovery of a sense of mankind’s unity, and an energetic search for church unity.” He said nothing of Knox’s views and the other Reformers’ views concerning the fundamental doctrines of Scripture and of the Reformation, but coolly passed them over.
Other more conservative leaders in the Scots Church are worried about the fact that there are-vast differences in the theological opinions of ministers with respect to cardinal doctrines of Scripture, that Church membership has been greatly on the decline, and that the Church has lost much of its sense of tradition.
The Mission Committee of our Churches, in beginning a broadcast in Monaco this past year, intended this broadcast to reach especially the Reformed people in England, Scotland and Ireland. Whether there are remnants of people who hold fast to the Reformed truth we will probably learn in time through correspondence sent to us in response to our radio sermons.
A New Translation.
I received in the mail a Catholic weekly newspaper this past week. The name of it is I think, “Operation Understanding.” It is said to be “Our Sunday Visitor Edition” of the national Catholic weekly. Where or by whom it is printed is not said. It appears, from one of the articles written, as if it is printed in Austin, Texas. It is interesting because it includes many articles on a variety of subjects from a strictly Roman Catholic point of view. Its main purpose seems to be to try to assist any attempts made between Protestants and Catholics to open discussions to try to find a common ground of unity, and explore possible ecumenical movements between the two branches of Christendom split since the Reformation.
An interesting article appears in this paper which tells of a new translation of the Bible which is coming out shortly and which is the fruit of the efforts of scholars both Protestant and Roman Catholic. It is intended as a translation that will be acceptable to all kinds of Churches and denominations. Now the Roman Catholics cling to the Douay Version of the Bible, while Protestants generally prefer the King James Version. The Protestants will not accept the Romish approved version, nor will the Roman Catholics accept the King. James Version. This translation is intended to be one acceptable to all Protestant denominations and to the Roman Catholic Church, as well as to Jewish Churches. The new translation is intended to be published in thirty paperback volumes by Doubleday Publishing Co., the first volumes to appear in January of 1962, while the last ones are expected to come off the press in 1966.
The avowed purpose of this new translation is to find a “common Bible” which will win acceptance for theological discussions and for ecumenical movements. It is however also hoped, although with some pessimism; to be a translation that will be so commonly accepted that it can be used for reading in the public schools! Now, when the King James Version is read in the public schools; Catholic parents protest; while when the Douay Version is read in these same schools, Protestant parents protest; or when some other version is read, atheists protest against a violation of their freedom of religion. But the hope is that this translation will be protested by none, and will receive the legal sanction of the United States Supreme Court.
If such a purpose motivates this new translation, one would almost expect that the lowest common denominator of all these groups will color the translation. It is simply a fact that any translation is to a certain extent commentary. This cannot be avoided. So also the American Revised Version is also colored by definite modernistic views. It will be interesting to see the results of these efforts.