Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
The following article is not a pleasant one to write. Yet we must be aware of some of the sad developments in the church world today—also within the Christian Reformed Church (our “mother”).
An article appeared in Christian Renewal, March 31, 2003, that expresses a cry of alarm because of developments in the CRC in Canada. The alarm is because of a twofold development. First, a committee in the CRC in Canada has the mandate, I understand, to maintain contact with the government. This committee has presented to the Canadian government a document that presumably represents the position of the CRC on the subject of homosexuality. It is a document that, according to the article, has not been proposed by the churches or church councils there and is not even seen by most of the members and clergy.
Hardly is that consistent with Reformed church government. Secondly, the submitted document expresses views on homosexuality inconsistent with the teachings of Scripture and, in fact, even contrary to the adopted position of the CRC on the subject. Hermina Dykxhoorn, in an article titled “The church’s unprophetic utterings on a crucial issue,” writes:
As CRC members we were often frustrated and angered by the plethora of documents, statements and announcements made to the Press and to Government without the knowledge of either clergy or membership, on subjects that had neither been thoroughly debated nor bore any resemblance to orthodox Christianity. I hazard to guess that a very small percentage of the CRC membership today has the foggiest notion that the Committee for Contact with the Government of the CRC even exists, much less that it has made a presentation on their behalf to the Federal Government calling for the normalization in law of sodomy. Pity.
And what did this committee submit to the government to generate the above conclusions? After recounting an incident with another such committee in connection with the subject of abortion, the writer states:
I thought of this, and many similar incidents I’ve experienced since, when I read the official submission of the CRC to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights hearings on Same-sex Unions.
The submission, “Same-sex Unions: A Case for a Just Pluralism,” opens with a lofty “assumption,” that “people have intrinsic dignity and related rights because they are created in the image of God, no matter what their creed, colour, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” While, indeed, every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, has dignity, the sins we commit most certainly are not. Creed, colour and ethnicity have nothing to do with behaviour. Homosexuality does. Homosexual behaviour is changeable, it is not immutable and the only thing that distinguishes homosexual persons is their sexual conduct. Never before has conduct or behaviour ever fallen into the category of human rights.
“The Synod of the CRC has indicated that the denial of civil and social rights for homosexual persons threatens justice,” continues the document. It’s true that everyone, including homosexuals, as individuals, should have certain basic rights by virtue of their personhood—the right to life, to safety, to food, to housing and to work. But to extend these “rights” to include the right to have sinful behaviour affirmed by government and rewarded with material benefit does not naturally follow. No one has a “right” to a sexual relationship or to marriage. If we had a right to these, it follows that someone (government?) would have the duty to provide them for us, an obviously ludicrous situation. Sex and marriage are gifts given to mankind by God, gifts to be used within distinct parameters that are spelled out in His Word. The task of the Church is to give witness to God’s will not to conform itself to the sinful will of man.
The article shows several other serious and erroneous conclusions presented to the Canadian government as the position of the CRC. Very effectively the author points out how these conclusions are not consistent with the teachings of Scripture. The writer then indicates some final errors presented in this position paper:
The authors instruct church members that they “ought to affirm the validity of legal recognition of long-term and committed same-sex interdependent relationships.” Church members are now to be obligated to accede to sexual relationships that are clearly opposed in God’s Word. I am obligated by God to “Love my neighbour as myself.” Therefore, I must treat my homosexual neighbour just as I treat my heterosexual one: with courtesy. But civility on a personal level doesn’t mean I am obligated to support legal recognition and even benefit for relationships that are destructive to society and to the individuals involved. Homosexual relationships are seldom long term and even more seldom monogamous. It is not “just,” nor is it “kind,” to reward a lifestyle which is demonstrably harmful to those participating in it. There is nothing loving about affirming this lifestyle and encouraging its practice. In fact, it’s often deadly.
In calling for the definition of marriage to remain in the preamble of any new legislation, the CRC calls for an “equivalency arrangement.” In their words, this “legal arrangement should have a functioning similarity to marriage without redefining it (marriage).” The reason given for keeping the definition of marriage intact is that, “marriage is a richly textured institution with a unique and internally defined identity.” The clear Biblical definition of marriage, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh” is not “internally defined.” It is externally defined by God. Homosexuals “internally define” their relationships as marriage and they are challenging the state and the Church to conform to their “internal definition.” The Biblical definition of marriage might not stand against homosexual challenge in a modern Canadian court of law, but the Church using it, would at least have God’s truth rather than man’s lies on his side.
The homosexual movement is attempting, in a well organized global campaign, to replace the Christian sexual ethic with sexual anarchy. Their ultimate goal is the elimination of Christ and of His Church….
…The authors sum up their arguments with, “We recognize that there are competing values concerning marriage and interdependent relationships in our pluralistic society. We call on the Christian community, same sex rights advocates, and Canadian society to resist the temptation to use law to give supremacy to one set of values over the other.” The law has always given supremacy to one set of values over the other. God certainly does. To do otherwise is moral anarchy….
The author rightly points out that the document represents a “moral relativism, the accommodation to the world.” So it is indeed.
At Calvin College there was a “Ribbon Week” on April 21-25. The announcement reads:
Ribbon Week 2003 will be held April 21-25. The goals of Ribbon Week are (1) to promote awareness that there are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ) people who are part of the Calvin community, (2) to show love and respect for those who are GLBTQ, (3) to educate the Calvin community about these issues, and (4) to provide an opportunity for repentance for those who have oppressed or shown prejudice against GLBTQ persons. To promote these goals, the Ribbon Week Committee has planned the following events….
And in the Calvin College Chimes, there appeared articles on the subject as well. One was, “Ribbon Week embraces diversity.” The staff writer, Becca Morrison, states:
“I promise to love and respect my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and to pray for their protection” is the phrase that appeared on the pages handed out in Tuesday’s chapel. Why? This week, April 8-12, marks Calvin’s annual Ribbon Week.
Calvin held a number of events in honor of the week. Many students around campus have worn purple ribbons on their clothes to show their love and respect. Chaplain Cooper spoke in Tuesday’s chapel on the ideas and potentials of Ribbon Week. Moment of silence ensued on the Commons lawn. Four Calvin people told their unique stories during a panel discussion on Tuesday night in the LabTheatre. A film entitled “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” was shown in the Commons Lecture Hall on Wednesday night.
In Cooper’s chapel talk, he laid out some goals of the week. He stressed the importance of promoting awareness of those questioning their sexuality, and to educate people about the issues concerning homosexuality. Cooper also spoke of the need for repentance of those who are prejudice (sic) against homosexuals.
“We have differences, it’s how we handle the differences that either brings God honor or not. It’s my deepest longing that we would bring Jesus Christ pleasure this week,” Cooper said. In closing, he said, “We can be angels of help for others,” he said, “We are called upon to understand, accept and love other people.”
It becomes ever clearer that thesame kind of constant agitation, and then appeals to synod, that led to the acceptance of “women in office” is now taking place in the matter of homosexuality. After all, it’s a matter of the “genes.” One cannot change the nature God has given. So the church must lovingly accept such without condemnation and without demanding repentance. Of course, it is said that kleptomaniacs also have a “genetic disposition” to steal. Drunkards have a “genetic disposition” to overindulge in drinking. Sexual deviates have a “genetic disposition” towards this too. Do we allow all of this to continue—and show loving concern by condoning it?
It is true that there is a matter of “genetic disposition” to sin. Scripture speaks of this too: “As in Adam all died….” We are “conceived and born” in sin. Does this mean the church must condone and accept this? Does it not rather make the command to repent and believe all the more urgent? The latter is the proper expression of Christian love.
World magazine has its own report and evaluation on Calvin College and its increasingly liberal stance (May 10, 2003). World recognizes the academic excellency of the college but points out that developments in that college are far from encouraging. It reports also on this matter of homosexuality (as well as the “women in office” issue):
Mr. Carpenter [Provost at Calvin] told WORLD that Calvin and the CRC are in sync on the topic of homosexuality: Being homosexual isn’t sinful, while having homosexual sex is. Vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra (quoting from a CRC position statement) explained that since “science has not given us a definitive answer on the origins of same-sex attraction,” homosexuals deserve compassion. Calvin critics counter by saying that, of course, any person struggling with sin deserves compassion—but not because of gaps in science. Some cite the first chapter of Romans as God’s definitive answer on the origins of same-sex attraction: Because men worshipped and served created things rather than their Creator, God gave them up to their own lust and homosexual desire was one result.
Nevertheless, Calvin has since 2002 observed something called “Ribbon Week,” during which heterosexual students wear ribbons to show their support for those who desire to sleep with people of the same sex. Calvin President Gaylen Byker’s rationale for Ribbon Week might indicate an odd, victim-mentality view of homosexuality, and it won’t win him any points with gay-rights groups. Asked why, if it’s only sexual behavior and not aberrant sexual thought that is sinful, Calvin didn’t sponsor observance weeks for students struggling with other sexual sin, he replied, “Because homosexuality is qualitatively different from other sexual sin. It is a disorder not chosen by the person.” Having Ribbon Week, he said, “is like having cerebral palsy week.”
Pro-homosexuality material has crept into Calvin’s curriculum. The school offers a gender-studies minor, with a video library that includes Pink Triangles, a documentary that criticizes “homophobic attitudes and the enforcement of rigid sex roles in our culture.” Meanwhile, the minor program’s official website links to such groups as the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network, the group that brought us “Fistgate,” the infamous state-funded workshop in Massachusetts that included gay-sex how-to presentations for high-school students.
The article continues:
Twenty years ago, the party line blurred on traditional biblical theories of origins, resulting in a protracted ground war. In the end, a theoretical détente allowed for the teaching of theistic evolution. Mr. Byker summed up Calvin’s teachings on origins this way: “We deal with a variety of approaches to origins, and we don’t teach any of these things as the only way to look at it. We teach a deep respect for the Bible as teaching that God created the world, but that the Bible may not have been intended as a recipe book for how He did it.”
Such a statement might shock some Calvin donors, according to Jessica Weinhold. A senior, Ms. Weinhold has for four years worked on Calvin’s “Phone-a-thon,” a fundraising program (annual goal: $1 million) in which students telephone alumni to solicit financial support for the college. A Phone-a-Thon supervisor this year, Ms. Weinhold said Calvin is losing donors as more learn, for example, that Calvin is much more liberal than they are on issues such as homosexuality and theistic evolution.
“If donors knew they were teaching feminist theology here, all hell would break loose,” Ms. Weinhold said….
As quoted in Reader’s Digest
We learn how to kiss, or to drink, talk to our buddies—all the things that you can’t really teach in social studies or history—we learn them at the movies. (Jack Nicholson in the Los Angeles Times)
How true!! We learn these things not only from movies in the theatre, but on television and on our videos and CDs. We learn even more than the above. We learn how to dress—with bare midriffs, multiple body piercings (increasingly like the Hottentots of deepest Africa), hairstyles, etc. We can learn there from the actors and actresses, from the famous in the realm of sports. The standards for “beauty” are established there. But the truths of Scripture are not honored and, in fact, are openly denied.