All Around Us

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

“Christian” Rock

The young people of the church are often attracted to “rock music”. If these seek not the worldly sort, at least they would clamor for the “Christian” variation of this. The paper, World, August 31, 1987, reports on the decisions of the Assemblies of God churches:

Christian rock singers whose performances are viewed as out of tune with the gospel were the target of criticism in this month’s national convention of the Assemblies of God here, . . . 

“The church of Jesus Christ has come under special attack from Satan through the entertainment media and has been provoked to emulate the world in its degraded art forms,” said the resolution. 

The originator of the resolution, Rev. Joseph Pyott of Linnwood, Wash., who works as a traveling evangelist, told RNS he was dismayed a year and a half ago when “a so-called Christian rock group, Stryper,” gave a concert in this area. 

“They dress like devils and wear Spandex costumes. Many church young people went, and I heard about it. I thought their performance was inappropriate and contradicted everything the gospel stands for,” he said. 

Christian rock artist Amy Grant also drew Pyott’s disapproval. “‘Her performances are very suggestive sexually, and she makes no bones about the fact that you can combine a little bit of sex and Christianity and that’s okay in her viewpoint. I think that’s wrong.” 

Such performers “may use the right words, but in my opinion their performance and their dress contradict the things they say,” Pyott said. 

“If you put the name Jesus on whiskey, it would still make you drunk. Putting the label ‘Jesus’ on rock music doesn’t change the essential nature of it. They take something that is basically unacceptable to Christians and relabel it, but it is still just as bad as before,” said the evangelist.

One ought to note the seriousness of the inroads of sin also within the realm of music. Though often this kind of music appeals to the Christian youth, that does not make it good or right. We ought also to take to heart the many warnings given concerning the devilishness of such music.

“Euthanasia—It’s Here”

The same issue of the World reports on a case of euthanasia—approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court. This, and similar cases, makes one aware that the horror of abortion is not the end of man’s action to end lives that are unwanted. Increasingly, there is the pressure to end the lives of those who are judged to be of little or no value to society. The reporter presented this:

On June 24, the New Jersey Supreme Court added a new offense to the list of crimes for which a person can be sentenced to death: Being brain-damaged and too healthy to die. 

In a 6-1 decision, the court upheld a lower-court ruling that authorized the starvation and dehydration death of Nancy Ellen Jobes, 32, who suffered an anesthesia accident during surgery seven years ago. Jobes’s family, described in news accounts as caring and suffering, postponed the request to stop Jobes’s food and fluids until after a $900,000 settlement had been made in the malpractice suit against the anesthesiologist at the hospital where her injuries occurred. 

In arguments related to her “right to die,” Jobes’s ability to live—with only the same level of care as that provided to 31 other patients in the nursing home—was never an issue. The question was not ‘Could she live?” but rather, “Should she live?” 

Those opposing her right to continued food and fluids described her as “ugly,” “‘a monstrosity, ” and “‘not human.” Neurologist David Carlin said, ‘She died a long time ago . . . . She should have a funeral. ” Another neurologist, Henry Liss, said, “‘She’s not living, she’s not a human entity.” 

Lincoln Park Nursing Home, where Jobes has been a patient for six years, strongly opposed the request. Home officials observed, ‘She is not terminally ill . . . . She responds to touch and sound stimuli. . . . follows movements of a person with her eyes . . . . reacts to pain . . . . There is no competent evidence that Nancy would want to terminate her life.” 

Two neurologists, Maurice Victor, coauthor of a leading neurology textbook, and Allan Ropper, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, testified about her awareness and responsiveness. Ropper reported: Jobes can see and hear; she responds to commands; her movements are purposeful and volitional; she fatigues and can feel pain.

But the lower court discounted the neurologists’ testimony as biased and implied that the observations of nursing home employees—those who cared for Jobes on a day-to-day basis—were illusions. The court didn’t term as biased the testimony of witnesses who described Jobes as ugly, monstrous, and less than human. 

Jobes’s husband, who according to court records did not visit her for a year, may now preside over her death—a lingering, painful death that could take from six to 15 days. Such a death, if imposed for any other “criminal” offense, would most assuredly be deemed “cruel and unusual punishment.” 

Will there be a public outcry? Or will her death be viewed as a small, isolated, and unfortunate incident? 

It may be wise to recall the words of the producer of Shoah, a documentary about Nazi atrocities: “It was not the first act that led to the last act, but the first silence that led to the last silence.”

One must be horrified by a case which is by no means an isolated instance of euthanasia. There is indeed, as another article stated, “economic pressures for cost containment” which focuses “increasingly on persons with the most disability and may encourage non-treatment for broader categories of disability than just those who are in a presumed irreversible coma.” One can predict that even as abortion has become commonplace in this country, euthanasia will soon be publicly accepted, too.

“Calvinist orthodoxy?”

The guest editor of The Banner, Aug. 24, 1987, treats the question, “Who is Saved?” One short paragraph in this interesting editorial struck my attention—for it presents strikingly the “double-track theology” (or contradiction) that one finds in Christian Reformed theology. There appears to be no alternative to this in view of their official position for the “free offer of the gospel”. Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. writes:

A Painful Scheme. No, God must decide who will be saved, and God must save them. In Calvinist orthodoxy God wants to save everybody.

I Tim. 2:4

And God can save everybody: God arranges for the death of Christ to radiate sufficient power for the salvation of all. God also orders the gospel preached to all. But, at the end of the day, God abandons some. God wants everybody saved but never intends to save all. God wants everybody saved but doesn’t plan on it. The reprobate are heartbreakingly, finally, disastrously lost. God could save them, but he doesn’t. And nobody knows why. “

The above, of course, presents a contradiction within God. “God wants everybody saved, but never intends to save all.” But if God wants all to be saved, because He is God, these would be saved. And if He never intends to save all, it must be (for He is God) because He does not want all to be saved.

And is this truly “Calvinist orthodoxy”? Calvin himself would not agree, at least not in the passage of I Tim. 2:4to which Plantinga refers. Calvin insists that God Who “would have all men to be saved”, desires to save not all men head-for-head, but rather would save all kinds of men: princes, kings, and people of other nations (cf. Calvin’s commentary on I Timothy).

The danger of universalism coming out of Plantinga’s presentation of Calvinist orthodoxy” can be seen in the article in the same magazine by Dr. Richard Mouw on “The Waning of Hell”:

. . . We don’t talk about hell as much as we used to. We don’t hear it much from our pulpits. It does not seem to play much of a role in our personal piety. 

Is this bad? It is hard for me to judge without my first being clear about some other issues. I must make it clear at the outset—I do not endorse the universalistic teaching that all people will be saved in the end. Not that I am absolutely certain that universalism is false! I don’t know for sure. And this is significant for me, because I would very much like universalism to be true. . . .

How can a Reformed man, one who maintains Scripture and the Reformed confessions, not beabsolutely certain that universalism is false? Could it be that if it is true that God wants all men to be saved, one could conclude that just possibly universalism must follow? Perhaps these men ought to consider again what is truly Calvinist orthodoxy!