Bible Reading and Bible Knowledge
We live in a busy age — often times too busy. Too busy it is when there is not sufficient time to read and study Scripture. Too busy it is when we do not have enough time to read materials which would be beneficial for our spiritual lives. There is reason for concern. When one does not know well the teachings of Scripture, he cannot stand in the face of many heresies which arise. What is the situation in our homes? Are we devoting sufficient time to the reading and study of Scripture? Do you read through Scripture? How long does this take? Do you discuss what you have read? Can you honestly maintain that you are developing in your knowledge of Scripture? Some interesting remarks on this are presented inChristianity Today, Mar. 21, 1980, in an article: “Belief and the Bible: A Crisis of Authority.” In it the author, Walter A. Elwell, comments on certain surveys made and points out some dangers in a neglect which is very obvious. The survey asked the question: “Who reads the Bible daily or more?” The answer was, General Public: 12%; Protestant: 18%; Roman Catholic: 4%. Another question asked: “Who reads the Bible less than once a month or never?” The answer was, General Public: 52%; Protestant: 41%; Roman Catholic: 67%. I do wonder where our homes would fit. One would hope and pray that it would be within that 18% of the first answer. But this is some of what the author wrote:
…We are discouraged to see how few actually turn to the Bible (as opposed to what they hypothetically would do “if” they wanted a question answered), and how little they know of it. It is apparently one thing to believe that the Bible is God’s Word and quite another to read it.
These facts reflect dismally upon the reading habits of the American people. We have to reject the explanation that people are not reading much these days. Retail book selling has been growing year by year for the last 25 years. A standard reference work lists over 8,000 publishers in America, an increase of 40 percent over five years ago. It is not that we are not reading very much; it is rather that we are not reading the Bible very much.
We are also troubled that both those who are younger and those who are more educated tend not to read the Bible very frequently. Only 14 percent of those with a college background and 6 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds reported reading the Bible daily or more. It is also troubling that 56 percent of the college-educated and 58 percent of the l8- to 29-year-olds read it less than once a month or never.
The same unhappy situation exists in the area of factual Bible knowledge. When people fail to read the Bible it is unlikely they will know much about it. Christianity Today chose one of the best-known chapters in the New Testament (
) and one of its most frequently heard references (“ye must be born again”) to test the public’s biblical literacy. Responses to the question “Which of the statements is what the Bible says Jesus told Nicodemus?” are indicated in figure 4 (the choices were supplied by the questionnaire). (Figure 4 shows that only 29% of the general public, 39% of the Protestants, and 20% pf the 18-29 age-group knew the correct answer. G.V.B.)
When asked how many of the Ten Commandments they could name, 45 percent of the general public could name only four or fewer, as compared with 49 percent of the Protestants, and 44 percent of the Roman Catholics.
These two tests reveal the dismally low state of American biblical knowledge. Over 40 percent of any group did not know what Jesus said to Nicodemus, even when supplied with the answer, and could not name even five of the Ten Commandments. It is no surprise that the cults and aggressive people who claim religious authority, sometimes even biblical authority, are making such gains today. It would appear that most people simply would not know the difference between theological truth and error. . . .
How about you and your family? Are we recognizing the fact that there is required a constant work and effort in applying oneself to a reading and study of Scripture? We must be putting in that effort.
CRC or CCC
The Rev. Edwin H. Palmer, in the Outlook of April, 1980, points out instances where the Christian Reformed Church begins increasingly to resemble Congregational Churches. This ought to be a question of deep concern. Where, within a denomination, each does what is right in his own eyes, denominational unity has not much meaning any more. Those who believe in proper Reformed church government may not and cannot allow such a situation to continue. Of several instances of this trend which Palmer points out, I would quote two:
1. Lodge Membership
Item: The Richfield Christian Reformed Church (Clifton, N.J.) wrestled with the admission of lodge members. After a long study and lengthy report, the Synods of 1970 and 1977 repeated the historic position of the Christian Reformed Church by stating firmly and decisively that membership in the church of Jesus Christ is incompatible with membership in the lodge. They contradict each other. Richfield protested and asked classis to overture synod that they may “be entrusted with the essential responsibility of determining whether such persons (lodge members) become members of that congregation.”
Classis Hackensack at first approved the overture, but on more mature reflection, rescinded its action. Richfield then bypassed classis and appealed directly to synod. Synod again (1979) emphatically reaffirmed the inherent incompatibility of lodge and church membership. But Richfield went ahead anyway. Contrary to the advice of the church visitors in November, it accepted five lodge members as members of the church a few weeks later. When the January 1980 Classis was told of the situation by the church visitors, Classis turned down every motion to do something about it and thereby gave its silent consent. Fortunately, some consistories with courage are considering protesting. . . .
4. Sunday Worship
Item: Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church, Article 51: “The congregation shall assemble for worship at least twice on the Lord’s Day to hear God’s Word, to receive the sacraments, to engage in praise and prayer, and to present gifts of gratitude.” At least twice on Sunday. They may meet more, but not less.
Yet there are churches that have only one worship service.
Hence the title of this article: CRC Or CCC? What do you think?
I think, Dr. Palmer, you are so very correct. I think too, that such a situation, if it continues, is intolerable. None, loving the principles of Reformed church government, can allow such anarchy to continue.
Christians and Muslim Mosques
In the Calvinist Contact, April 11, 1980, comments are made about a strange development within the Reformed Church in the Netherlands. On the basis of “oneness,” a minister of that denomination felt bound to assist a Muslim group to find a place to worship. Again, the terrible apostasy of the church becomes evident:
Should Christians help build Muslim Mosques? This question was raised by Rev. J. Slomp, former missionary to Pakistan and now serving as an evangelist on behalf of the Reformed Church in The Netherlands (GKN) to the 200,000 Muslim in the Netherlands. Rev. C. M. Boersma, who belongs to the same denomination as Rev. Slomp, says that in his judgment Muslims are not unbelievers, but people, who believe differently. Rev. Reedyk, a Reformed (GKN) pastor in Rotterdam, tells the story how he helped Muslims in Rotterdam find a place of worship. He also thinks that the God of the Jews, Muslims and Christians is the same God. I cannot understand why these questions should be raised or how a Christian pastor can spend time and effort helping Muslims find a place of worship! Shouldn’t the church have a vigorous evangelistic approach towards Islam?
Islam is anti-Christian. It denies that God, as the Muslim scholar Isma’il R.Al Faruqi says, “had to ransom humanity by means of oblation and sacrifice.” Islam denies that a man can be saved by faith alone. Faith, according to the Muslim, is that which one must have to enter the community of Islam. A Muslim is a man in pursuit of righteousness. And not for one moment can the Muslim ever be sure of his standing with Allah.
The writer is rightly offended at the terrible development reported. What unity can light have with darkness? What oneness exists between Christ and the idol? Yet this is all part of the continuing development of the antichristian church. First, the church establishes a basis of unity with the ungodly: the goodness which is found in the wicked through the work of the Holy Spirit. There is a presupposed oneness in things secular and earthly. With this, there is also a minimizing of the differences with those of other denominations. Ties even grow between Reformed and Roman Catholic. Nor is it difficult to continue in this line of reasoning and see the work of the Spirit, in the realm of the spiritual — among those of different religions, as the Muslims. If the church is to withstand these inroads of apostasy, it must return to the fundamental principle of the separation of light and darkness. It must see and confess that the love and grace of God is manifest through Christ upon His elect only. Then the church will also be able to maintain without equivocation that Muslims and all those like them teach a false religion and worship not the true God but the idol.