Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.


The War Against the Family—and the Covenant


Clearly, the devil and his allies, the unbelieving world, are mounting a powerful assault against God’s law (almost successful, it would seem). Now follows the “mopping up” operations. The biggest battle focuses upon the family. If families can be destroyed, ultimately the church itself must be affected.

Families are not simply wiped out—the foundation for proper family life is being dismantled piece by piece.

Only about one or two generations ago, the attack began in earnest. Less than 60 years ago, the only ground upon which divorce would be granted was proven adultery of one of the marriage partners. Though adultery might be suspected, it was difficult to prove this in a court that would decide on the issue of divorce. Needless to say, divorce seemed beyond the reach of most disturbed couples. There were obviouslymany problems in multitudes of marriages years ago. Many would simply separate without the benefit of divorce. Remarriage, however, in such cases would be impossible—for one could be charged with the crime of bigamy. Within the churches divorce was a major scandal, for it was a rare occurrence. Though the churches allowed for the remarriage of the “innocent” party, that too seldom occurred because of the rarity of divorce itself.

But things rapidly changed. Many argued that it was far better that arguing, bickering parties divorce for their sakes and for the sake of their children—than to remain together with the consequent sad effects on the marriage partners and their children. So the laws preventing divorce were relaxed until the common “no fault” divorce was made legal.

The next major and apparently successful attack on the family involved the question of headship. Though Scripture is plain that the husband is the head of the household and exercises then also the authority, and though Scripture emphasizes that as Christ is Head of the church so the husband is head of his wife, that instruction was considered out-of-date. Increasingly, women entered the work force. Headship of the male was discarded in favor of a kind of “partnership.” Though any animal with two heads cannot function, the family was presented as a two-headed entity. Now women must be able to occupy any or all positions of headship: in government, in the churches, as also within the home. The resultant effect upon family life is obvious to all who would see.

The attack against the family is far from over. Television and the movie present adultery and fornication as perfectly acceptable. Columnists who write in answer to questions present these adulterous relationships as simply normal and acceptable. “Single parent homes” are mentioned so frequently that one almost comes to believe that this is acceptable and normal. (“Single parents” can be a result of the death of one of the partners—but that is an entirely different matter.) Many become “single parents” as a result of fornication. Others become so through artificial insemination. Husbands are, for many, an undesirable appendage to their “family.”

The “family” increasingly is broadened to include the union of homosexuals. What was considered a violation of the law of the land is now said to be acceptable. It is an “alternate life-style” that we are required to acknowledge and accept. To oppose these relationships is to place oneself in the category of those practicing “hate crimes.”

Abetting all of these changes has been the largely successful effort to remove any references to the law of God, specifically the Ten Commandments, from society. It is not legal to place the Commandments on the walls of public schools. The effort is made even to remove all references to God in public society (as in the pledge of allegiance). Without the unchangeable and perfect standard of God’s law, man has decided to take the law into his own hands, so as to determine what is “normal.”

Cal Thomas, that usually astute columnist, writes of this in the Grand Rapids Press, March 30, 2003:

While the war overseas continues, so does another war at home.

The latest battle in the culture war was fought last week on Supreme Court turf. At issue is a Texas “homosexual conduct law” that forbids sodomy.

Before the Supreme Court rules that the Founders had the right to practice sodomy in mind when they wrote the Constitution, we should ask where the chipping away at law and morality is leading us.

Thomas argues persuasively that if “sodomy” is made legal, there would be no more legal right to declare polygamy to be wrong. Soon one could “marry” multiple partners. Next would fall the laws against pedophilia. It would no longer be regarded as “deviant” behavior (as some already argue), but would be acceptable between consenting persons.

Thomas concludes:

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday in which he argued in favor of the “gay rights” position opposing the Texas law. Simpson said “the proper Republican vision of equality” is “live and let live.” Simpson thinks that laws against homosexual practice “are contrary to American values protecting personal liberty….”

What Simpson argues for is not liberty but license. There is a profound difference between traditional understanding and definition of liberty and that of license. Liberty is presumed to depend on personal responsibility. I like one of the Webster definitions of liberty: “permission to go freely within specified limits.” In contrast, “license” can mean “disregard for rules of personal conduct: licentiousness.”

Several conservative groups filed amicus briefs supporting the law. The one by the Family Research Council sums up the major arguments in favor:

“(1) The law has historically respected and protected the marital union and has distinguished it from acts outside that union, such as fornication, adultery and sodomy. To extend to homosexual sodomy the same protections given to the marital union would undermine the definition of marriage and could lead to homosexual marriage; (2) In order to recognize a non-textual constitutional right to sodomy, the court must find sodomy to be deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition. In fact, laws banning sodomy are deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition; (3) Protecting marriage, upholding morality and seeking to ensure public health is more than enough for Texas to prove it has a ‘rational basis’ behind its law….”

The law is supposed to set parameters for a society. In the past, the law has been viewed as something that flowed from a Law-giver, outside of the reach of humankind to create or manipulate. But since humanity now sees itself as the law-maker (the breaking of that ancient Law is now celebrated in personal behavior and encouraged in film, in magazines and on TV), who is to say whose morality, if any morality, should prevail?

Having made “choice” the ultimate determiner for abortion, it would not surprise me if the Supreme court cites the so-called “right to privacy” in this case and replays its mistake in Roe vs. Wade, which struck down another Texas law.

Adoption laws in some states now give children to same-sex couples. If the Texas sodomy law falls, “marriage” will be redefined and the demise of the human family will be complete.

Thomas is correct. Sadly, what has increasingly been accepted in our secular (though nominally Christian) society, has become the norm within many churches as well. Divorce and remarriage is said to be as prevalent in the churches as in society in general. The matter of headship has been altered in the churches to conform to the practice of society at large. Many churches have come to accept homosexuality as legitimate. There is but little of the antithesis existing anymore between church and world. And if families in the “churches” are destroyed, what happens to the truth of the covenant that continues in the line of our generations?


Signs of the Times


We hear much in our day of the “signs of the times.” To the child of God these signs are such that they remind of the nearness of the coming day of the Lord. We believe the word of Christ that the “day and the hour knoweth no man.” At the same time Christ gives clearly the signs that point to the end of the age.

One recalls the word of Christ in Matthew 24:7-8: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

The “pestilences” have become increasingly evident. For some time now we have heard of the terrible consequences of the AIDS epidemic. Many countries in Africa and Asia are devastated by it. We hear of the possibility of resurgence of this disease in our own land.

Now a new disease has appeared on the horizon. It is causing doubt and dread in many parts of the land. The disease has been called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The cause of the disease is uncertain. It spreads, evidently, easily. There are many fatalities among those who contract it. There is presently no cure. Some have compared it to the flu epidemic after the First World War when at least 20 million people died because of this disease. The Grand Rapids Press has this report from Hong Kong:

Fear gripped Hong Kong as the number of people suffering from a deadly flu-like disease increased sharply Saturday. Thousands of people donned surgical masks but many more refused to venture out and activity in the usually bustling city ground to a halt.

Also, the first doctor to realize the world was dealing with an unfamiliar disease died of the illness in Thailand on Saturday. Italian Dr. Carlo Urbani, 46, a World Health Organization expert on communicable diseases, became infected while working in Vietnam, where he diagnosed an American businessman hospitalized in Hanoi, the U.N. agency said. The businessman later died.

Since then severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has claimed more than 50 lives around the world and sickened almost 1,500 people, mostly in Asia. There were 59 cases of SARS in the United States and at least 35 in Canada, where three people have died.

Is this (and AIDS) part of the pestilences which shortly precede Christ’s return?

We constantly hear of the war with Iraq. But is this only a war with Iraq? Many have pointed out that the “radical” Muslim advocates a “jihad” or holy war against the United States and allied nations. But is it only the “radical” Muslim? It appears as though the nations of Islam increasingly are arraying themselves against the “Christian” nations. Many appear ready to follow the teachings of the Koran against the “infidel.” This could well be the prelude to, or the beginning of, the final battle with “Gog and Magog” as recorded in Revelation 20:7-8: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea….”

We live indeed in interesting times. One wonders if some of us, possibly most of us, will be living when Christ returns. In the meanwhile we labor faithfully in every area of work while we do pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus, quickly.”