Robert D. Decker is professor of New Testament and Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

A Seminar Junkie

Of the conducting of religious seminars on a wide variety of subjects by the churches these days there seems to be no end. In reaction to this Eutychus ofChristianity Today (Oct. 4, 1985) makes a point well taken:

It came as no small shock to me to discover recently that a highly respected member of our church is undergoing treatment for spiritual rehabilitation. This man is a church officer, Sunday school teacher, and tither. But he revealed, at last Sunday evening’s service, that he is also a seminar junkie. He was quick to add that he is getting help from Seminars Anonymous (SA), a rapidly expanding organization founded to counteract an evangelical epidemic.

None of us knew that Herb had mortgaged his home to obtain money for weekly seminar fixes. We were sobered (if you know what I mean) to hear that he slid into his addiction gradually. “Ah, for the good old days, when a sermon and Bible study could get me through the week,” he lamented.

Herb told us the turning point came when he was on a tour across the Arctic Circle. The church group was studying “The Dangers of Lukewarmness” when, as if enlightened by the rays of the midnight sun, Herb admitted to himself that he was addicted to seminars. He promptly returned to his wife and children (not seen since a seminar last summer on family dynamics). Then he entered an SA Detopicfication Center.

Herb said he could no longer keep his addiction secret when he learned that our pastor was enrolled at a camp near Mount Saint Helens to consider ‘The Theological Implications of Volcanic Eruptions.’ Fearing his faithful shepherd was on the path to seminar addiction, he went public.

It was a courageous step and it has challenged our church. Can we possibly survive without all these outside experts? Several of us have enrolled in next month’s ‘Spirituality With or Without Seminars’ to find out. Eutychus

Creation Versus Evolution

Acts And Facts, a magazine published by the Institute for Creation Research, in its October issue reported:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit entered a decision on July 8 that held unconstitutional the Louisiana Act for Balanced Treatment of Creation Science and Evolution Science. The court’s basis was that teaching creation science necessarily has an unconstitutional legislative purpose of teaching religion.

The opinion said that, “irrespective of whether it is fully supported by scientific evidence, the theory (sic!) of creation is a religious belief,” which public schools may not teach. Former Senator Bill Keith, President of CSLDF (Christian Science Legal Defense Fund, R.D.D.), responded that “it is illogical and constitutionally incorrect for the court to say that scientific evidence supporting creation science may not be taught even if it is true, but scientific evidence allegedly supporting evolution must be taught even if it is false!”

Attorney General William J. Guste of Louisiana immediately authorized an appeal, which took the form of a petition for rehearing by all 15 judges of the Fifth Circuit of the Court of Appeals. The 30-page printed petition was filed on July 29.

The legal team of Special Assistant Attorneys General, headed by Wendell R. Bird of Atlanta, has already prepared an exhaustive 630-page brief, gathered a group of 20 expert witnesses, won a favorable Louisiana Supreme Court Decision that reversed an earlier summary judgment ruling, and filed carefully researched and written briefs on each procedural step. They filed the petition for rehearing en bane with 30 printed pages and 105 footnotes . . . .

Court decisions like the above betray at least two obvious facts: 1) The world persistently refuses to recognize the fact that the teaching of evolution necessarily involves the teaching of religious belief. It is false religion, but the theory of evolution is religion. Evolution is a denial of the one, true God. Its idol is “almighty man.” 2) Under the guise of a supposed “neutrality” the world courts are decidedly antichristian. There is no neutral ground. One either believes in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth or he rejects the Truth of God’s Word in unbelief. “He that is not with me is against me,” said Jesus. (Matthew 12:30) This fact too we must never forget.

News Briefs

The following items have all been gleaned from theR.E.S. News Exchange (October 8, 1985), published by the Reformed Ecumenical Synod.

For some time now the two big Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have been in the process of uniting. These are the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK, the state church) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). The latter has its roots in the Secession of 1834. Concerning the movement toward unity the News Exchange reports: “The combined meeting of the synods of the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN), which was to be held on November 1 and 2, has been postponed. The moderamena of the two synods felt that the agenda items for that meeting require preparatory discussion. In De Waarheidsvriend, the official newspaper of the Reformed Alliance (GB) in the Netherlands Reformed Church, Dr. S. van der Graaf and Rev. S. Meyers have attacked the ‘Together on the Way’ (Samen op weg) process, writing that instead of uniting the two churches, it threatens to tear local congregations and the denominations apart. In their view, the ‘Declaration of Agreement’ lacks sufficient substance, forcing many congregations to say ‘no’ to the proposed union. It widens the gap between members of the Reformed Alliance and those who are confessionally Reformed. They suggest that it may be better to stop the attempts at union altogether.” The Reformed Alliance is a group of concerned, conservative members of the state church (NHK). They obviously are opposed to the proposed union. What will come of all this we know not. We will try to keep the reader informed.

Here in North America, the two daughter churches of the Dutch Churches, The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) are apparently moving closing together. These two denominations “will hold a joint conference here (Warwick, New York; R.D.D.) on contemporary confessions on October 15 and 16, 1985. Using the theme ‘Making Common Confession,’ the conference will include addresses and discussions on the contemporary testimony of the CRCNA ‘Our World Belongs to God,’ the confession of the RCA ‘Our Song of Hope,’ and the Belhar Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church of South Africa (NGSK). Keynote speaker for the event will be Professor Robert Reeker of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. The conference is sponsored by the Eastern Home Missions Board of the CRCNA, the particular synod of the Mid-Atlantics of the RCA and New Brunswick Theological Seminary.” These two denominations will hold concurrent synods in 1989 at the Calvin College and Seminary campus. Will these two eventually merge?

There are four Reformed denominations in Indonesia all of which have been formed as a fruit of missionary work by European Reformed churches. These churches met in a three-day conference on September 24-26, 1985. The theme of this conference was, “The Reformed Heritage and the Mission of the Indonesian Churches.” According to the News Exchange, “The deepest concern for the Indonesian churches has been the negative attitude of the RES (Reformed Ecumenical Synod) to the World Council of Churches (WCC). The general opinion was that the RES would have to remain open to other church groupings with which the Indonesian churches are related. The question of dual (WCURES) membership, it became clear, is the decisive point for them. Only if dual membership is allowed, will they remain and take their place alongside the other churches in the RES.”

Among the conclusions reached by these four RES member churches at the conference were: These churches “. . . recognize that they are still dependent on and bound to the inherited Reformed confessions and teachings (emphasis mine, R.D.D.). Although the four member churches cannot be considered photocopies of the Reformed churches in Europe, they are still striving to maintain their (Reformed) identity within the context of the life of the churches in Indonesia.

“Our understanding of mission is that . . . it is directed to the life of the church itself, to the fellowship of churches within the Fellowship of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) in particular in which the four churches are members, and the fellowship of churches within the wider ecumenical circles, such as RES, WCC, WARC (World Alliance of Reformed Churches of which Dr. Allan Boesak is president, R.D.D.), and also directed to the world and society outside the church . . . .

“Concerning the future of the churches in Indonesia, the conference concludes . . . that their membership in the RES should not exclude the possibility of membership in other ecumenical bodies, such as WCC, WARC, PGI.

“The Conference does not see objections in principle against the ordination of women to the ecclesiastical offices (elder, deacon, minister). However, the office of minister is in fact generally still held by men only . . . .”

The stand of these churches re the World Council and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and their stand re women in the office of minister, elder, and deacon make their claim to be “dependent on and bound to the inherited Reformed confessions and teachings” ring very hollow indeed! It is sad to see these daughter churches walking down the same path as their European mother churches.