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Gise J. Van Baren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.

The “New Understanding” of Scripture

There is continued pressure within the Christian Reformed Church to ordain women into the offices of elder and minister (the office of the diaconate is already opened to them). This open agitation continues despite the clear decisions of the Synod against such ordination. In the Calvinist Contact, Sept. 18, 1987, there appears a letter to the editor which I quote in part:

In a recent pastoral letter, Rev. Leonard Schalkwyk wrote about “Balanced Christianity”. . . . He told of churches and people who emphasize the work of one person of the Trinity, but who minimize or ignore the work of the other two. Those who do this have an unbalanced form of Christianity. With that assessment I, and most readers, agree. 

What troubles me, however, is the way Rev. Schalkwyk used his letter to charge seminary graduate, Laura Smit, with having an “unbalanced view,” when she told synod that she felt called to the ministry because of the “leading of the Spirit.” Miss Smit also told the all-male assembly that “the Spirit will continue to call women into the ministry.” Because of her statements, Schalkwyk charged her with “a misuse of the Spirit.” . . . . 

Schalkwyk wrote that some delegates to synod “consider it unbiblical to have female preachers,” while “others see women in office as a sign of apostasy in the church.” Some say the texts mentioned previously are “exceptions to the norm.” Others are so conditioned by their culture that they cannot conceive of anything other than male preachers in the pulpit. 

I wish the majority of the seminary faculty, Board of Trustees, and the synodical delegates who thwarted Smit’s desire to enter the ministry of the Christian Reformed Church had taken the time to read—or reread—the study committee report, “Women in Ecclesiastical Office” (Acts of Synod, 1973, pp. 514-588). That extensive report, written by Canadians, including two women, would have helped them gain a clear understanding of why women should be ordained to all the offices in the church . . . . 

If these churchmen were imbued with a spirit of reformation, they would have told synod that the time has come for the Christian Reformed Church to ordain its first woman preacher. For Laura Smit does have the qualifications and gifts. And they could have followed up by recommending that the Church Order be changed as the synods of 1978 and 1984 did. 

Is it too much to ask of church leaders that when they are asked to sit in judgment of what are sometimes called “concrete cases”—real, live, flesh-and-blood human beings—they display the qualities of compassion, leniency, and understanding? The Church Order is not infallible. Its text is not divinely inspired. It reflects its own historical and cultural conditioning. As the Spirit leads the church to see things from a different perspective in these present times, then it follows that the Church Order be amended to reflect that new understanding. And in expressing these thoughts, I think I am presenting a balanced view.

No wonder that with this kind of agitation, there are those who predict that within five years also the C.R.C. will have its women ministers.

Revised Hymnal for the United Methodists

Christian Renewal, December 7, 1987, quotes fromChristianity Today, concerning the new United Methodist Hymnal. It is called a “populist” hymnal, which will be submitted for approval to the denomination’s general conference next April. The article states:

The United Methodist Hymnal is designed to replace the church’s Book of Hymns, produced 21 years ago. Many of the new book’s hymns contain changes to rid them of perceived sexism or racism. “Any time a new translation comes out that is this far-reaching in its potential, there’s going to be close scrutiny,” said hymnal editor Charlton Young. “. . . This hymnal is for more people than the other (hymn) book is.” 

Whenever possible, the committee replaced the words “man” and “mankind” with terms such as “us” or “friends.” The committee also reduced the use of “his” or “him” when referring to God. And it injected alternative images for the deity—such as “Creator” and “Comforter”—to limit the number of masculine images such as “King” and “Father”. 

None of the hymns in the new book refer to God as she,” although a few refer to God’s mother like qualities. But the committee left unchanged such favorites as “Rise Up, O Men of God” and “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind.”

Once again, the “new” theology of the day is being introduced into the hymnody of the churches. The question is not what Scripture teaches in this regard, but rather it is what the people want. And even then, it is not so much what people of the church would want, but what is in agreement with the general presentation of the people of this age. Hymns must reflect not so much anymore the teachings of Scripture, but must show forth the “culture” of our day.

Evolution in the Christian High School

The Outlook, Dec. 1987, in an article by David A. Kloosterman, expresses concern that the idea of theistic evolution is being presented not only in the colleges but also in the parental Christian schools. What is taught in Calvin College will be taught by many of its graduates on the high school and grade school level. The article states:

. . . There is much for us to learn from the evolutionists. As we express our concerns regarding the theistic evolutionary views of such men as Howard Van Til, Clarence Menninga, Davis Young, John Stek, and others who teach or have taught at our college and seminary, we may be tempted to think that if only we can win these “big court cases” that the war is won. Far from it. 

The proponents of unbridled theistic evolution have already taken long strides toward accomplishing their expressed goal of introducing the teaching of theistic evolution (including man) into the Christian high school classroom. 

This fact has recently been made painfully clear to me and to others who support Christian education in the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Readers of the science page of the June 2, 1987 Kalamazoo Gazette had their attention drawn by a two column photo bearing the caption “‘Kalamazoo Christian Principal Roger Sikkenga and biology teacher Colleen Bode teach that mankind evolves under divine control. ” Moving to the article itself one reads such statements as the following: 

“There’s no uniform approach to teaching creation science among parochial schools. The treatments range from fundamentalism, in which the bible’s version in the Book of Genesis is interpreted literally, to the versions taught at Kalamazoo Christian and Hackett Catholic Central—versions in which man evolves in an orderly way under the intimate care of God. 

“‘Creationism versus evolution really isn’t the issue at Kalamazoo Christian High School,’ says Bode. Sikkenga adds the issue is not so much the details of man’s biological journey, but the author of that Journey. 

“‘Kalamazoo Christian uses the same textbooks that the public high schools do, showing development of the species, genetic theory and the evidence for evolution through fossils. ‘But in none of these texts does it ever actually relate the human species to apes,’ Sikkenga points out. ‘The actual jump as to man from the fossilized remains is left up to the readers.’ The creation of man is ‘completely separate’ from the evolution of the rest of the world, they believe. ‘We are evolving, but it is in an orderly way,’ designed and controlled by God, Bode said. “

The writer of the article tells of his approach to the board of the high school and of their response:

“The article that appeared certainly did not clearly state the school’s position nor that of our principal or science teacher. Please rest assured that Kalamazoo Christian High’s position on creation/evolution is in no wise different than the one with which you are historically familiar . . . . We all stand firmly on the position that the universe was created by God and that the first man and woman were given an immortal soul upon creation. We further affirm that man fell into sin and that all of creation has been affected by this fall from perfection. Further, we affirm that Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of the Creator, has been sent to redeem the creation from sin, and we place our faith firmly in this risen Lord and Savior. “

The writer was not satisfied and writes:

. . . To my mind, the personal letter which I received does not really clear things up either. If the position of the school was not well-represented in the Gazette article, why the reluctance of staff and board to publicly set the record straight? The statement affirming “that the first man and woman were given an immortal soul upon creation” clearly leaves room for the position that man’s physical nature evolved from apes and falls shorts of affirming the historical Adam and Eve. Nor is the historical-event character of

Genesis 1-11

affirmed. 

The assurance of the board that their “position” on creation/evolution has not changed does not give me rest. . . . The policy has not changed, but has the teaching in the classroom changed? This is where the rubber hits the road.