Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.

Preservation of Saints—and Sin

Was Clinton’s religion at fault for his sexual escapades?

One is constantly amazed at the attempts of many to place the blame of Clinton’s problems on someone or something else. Now an article, appearing in Newsweek, November 2, 1998, seems to place the blame for his sins on his Baptistic views—especially on what we call the “preservation of saints” or “eternal security.” The article states, among other things, this:

But Clinton’s troubled personal life—and his repeated verbal evasions—also bears a distinctive Baptist stamp. Like most Baptists, Clinton was taught that because he had been born again, his salvation is ensured. Sinning—even repeatedly—would not bar his soul from heaven. “There’s no way you can get right with God by doing good,” explains the Rev. James Dunn, an FOB and head of the liberal Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. “We do good, not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved.”

Clinton was “born again,” according to the article, when he was seven. It would appear that the doctrine of “preservation of saints” was at fault for his behavior since it makes Clinton convinced that whatever he may do, his salvation is now guaranteed. It is similar to the old error condemned in Romans 6: “Let us sin that grace may abound.” But let none mistake the truth of the matter. Sin is not the result of the truth of preservation of the saints. Rather this truth leads to this: “We do good … because we have been saved.” It is never: “We have been saved and therefore we do as we please.” But, as usual, it is the church and its doctrines of grace which receive the blame for the “evil which we would not.”

Is Marriage Optional?

The same issue of Newsweek presents a rather troubling portrayal of marriage in the 21st century. The estimate of the writer is that 10% of the population will never marry. The writer states:

Getting married used to be a prerequisite for the most important decisions of life…. Today it’s common for unmarried couples to move in together, pick out china, buy a dog—even conceive a child—without bothering with the legalities. The rules of courtship and mating are changing steadily as the century nears its close, and by 2025, when the children of the millennium begin to settle down, the venerable institution of marriage may be more flexible and less mandatory than ever. Although Americans still overwhelmingly prefer marriage to being single, cohabitation is on the rise: more than 4 million heterosexual couples now live together, up from about 2 million in 1978. Divorce, of course, is still very easy to obtain despite a growing movement to make it tougher. As a result, sociologists now estimate that the percentage of Americans who never marry will grow, from 5 percent to about 10 percent of the population, in years ahead.

The social forces behind these shifts run deep and will last well beyond 2000. The most obvious is the advent of broader career opportunities for women. In the 1950s, says Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University, “every breadwinner needed a homemaker—they had a need for each other, and that kept most marriages together. Today it’s easier for either spouse to walk away if they’re unhappy. It isn’t that marriage isn’t taken seriously today, but it’s less necessary.” Co-habitation is on the increase because the social taboos against it have weakened….

It is a sad commentary on our society. It is a sad commentary also on churches which now accept divorce and remarriage—and even condone this co-habitation. Few care anymore that all of this is violation of the seventh commandment—the ten commands have long ago been removed from most walls of buildings and from the hearts of mankind. Morality is regulated only by “social taboos.”

The article even recognizes part of the problem: “broader career opportunities for the women.” The family disintegrates. Children grow up without supervision of parents. That basic institution of society, marriage, is rapidly crumbling. The consequences are already seen on every hand. It is truly one of the obvious signs of the times. How much has all of this also affected the churches—and our churches?

More Signs of the Times

A careful observer is struck by the number of things occurring in the realm of God’s creation. The scientists seem to have an explanation for it all—and even warn of increasingly devastating disasters which will surely fall upon this earth. Reading just one issue of the Denver Post recently (Nov. 10, 1998), one notes the report of at least two terrible disasters affecting large populations. The first was in Bangladesh, a country often affected by cyclones. This low-lying country is quickly flooded by the heavy rainfalls. And now another awful event is reported:

Bangladesh is in the midst of what some experts say could be the biggest mass poisoning in history. Dangerous levels of arsenic have been found in the groundwater, entering millions of people sip by sip as they drink from a vast system of tube wells. Most of these hand-operated pumps are 10 to 20 years old, which is about how long it takes the arsenic to do its lethal work, killing with one of several cancers.

The unfolding crisis is the unintended consequence of a colossally successful safe-water program. For 25 years, the government along with UNICEF and other aid groups has weaned villagers from disease-carrying pond water and helped them to sink pipes into underground aquifers. The naturally occurring arsenic that tainted these subterranean sources was overlooked.

The same paper reported on some of the misery in Honduras and neighboring countries. Honduras had about 10,000 to 20,000 people killed (no one will ever know for sure how many there were), and the country was virtually destroyed when Hurricane Mitch hit.

Overwhelmed by disaster, grim-faced Central American leaders gathered Monday to appeal for more aid in recovering from Hurricane Mitch even as a growing army of rescue workers struggled to help hundreds of thousands of victims.

Honduran President Carlos Flores Facusse called his country’s $4.2 billion debt “unpayable” after one of the worst natural disasters of this century in the Americas.

“In 72 hours, we lost what we had built, little by little, in 50 years,” he told a news conference following the summit….

One reads with increasing frequency of “natural disasters” which are the “worst of the century” or the “worst in recorded history.” Our own country has been hit very hard over the past 10 to 20 years with disasters of major proportions. One wonders what lies still ahead? Surely the book of Revelation speaks to these disasters. Are not all of these things evidence of the fulfillment of the running of the last three of the four horses? And the increase reminds that the trumpets of Revelation are now sounding—for there is the prophesied increase of these troubles which fall upon the earth. Millions are being killed in warfare. Millions are killed by diseases. And, so we are told, more than a million people have died in this century through “natural” disasters. Surely our Lord’s return must be near at hand!

Quest for Faith

Again, from the Denver Post, November 7, 1998, is an article which briefly treats of religious trends for the 21st century. The article reviews a book, “Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium,” co-authored by Don Lattin and Richard Cimino. The article stated:

But they try to identify trends. Lattin has been religion editor of the San Francisco Chronicle for 15

years, and Cimino is editor of Religion Watch, a New York City organization that monitors religion trends.

Lattin said they didn’t poll current religious feelings, but summarized polls done recently. Some of those polls show: Seven of 10 Americans believe one can be religious without going to church; 40 percent said a person doesn’t have to believe in God to experience the sacred and 99 percent of family physicians think faith helps patients respond to treatment.

Other polls show that 56 percent of Americans pray, chant or play meditation tapes on the job to relieve stress. Thirty years ago, one of 25 Americans left their denominational heritage. Now the number is one of every two or three Americans.

“Americans have a practical faith,” Lattin said. “They want a payback. Religion becomes stress reduction, rather than salvation. People want to know how to ‘do’ religion.”

Experiential, rather than cerebral, belief is growing, he said. For example, many can find a religious experience in channeling or Pentecostal worship….

One is reminded of Christ’s warning, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not” (Matt. 24:23-26).

Some strange things go on today. One can experience the “sacred” without believing in God?? And 70% of Americans can be religious without going to church?? The earthly manifestation of the body of Christ is considered immaterial and unnecessary?? The difficulty is that many today place themselves above the body of Christ manifest on this earth. These separate themselves from the communion of saints (for it seems they are the only “saints” remaining on the earth). They separate themselves from the preaching of the Word and the sacraments (for no church can possibly do it the way these insist it must be done). These sin grievously against Scripture which is addressed to the church, and which speaks of that church as the very “body of Christ.”

And how true it is that today “religion becomes stress reduction, rather than salvation.” Religion is no more a worship of God, but “people want to know how to ‘do’ religion.” Religion has become a “touchy-feely” activity, and God and His Son Jesus Christ have no part in it. One senses the rise of the antichristian spirit and the imminent appearance of the Antichrist.