The Reformed Ecumenical Synod, meeting in Cape Town, South Africa this past summer, faced the question of a united stand of all Reformed churches on the issue of observance of Sunday. In the R.E.S. News Exchange, it is reported that in 1968 the matter of Sunday observance was raised, and in 1972 an international committee was appointed to study the issue. They were to give attention to:
1. the existing views among Reformed churches,
2. the hermeneutical problems underlying these differences,
3. the significance of the history of salvation for our understanding and observance of the Fourth Commandment, and
4. the practical implications of the Fourth Commandment for both the older and younger churches.
One would think that among Reformed churches there ought to be no real question on the proper use of Sunday. But evidently such is not the case. In addition, the R.E.S., which presumably exists to provide guidance and leadership within the Reformed churches, did not dare to take a stand. Division with the R.E.S. was clear-cut—so a decision was taken to “accept with brotherly forbearance both views.” The report states that:
The study committee produced two reports which varied so greatly that they could not be fused into one without doing injustice either to the one or to the other, or to both. The advisory committee of the RES analyzed carefully both reports and then proposed that the Synod not choose between them but accept with brotherly forbearance both views as being in the Reformed tradition. It is expected that this will terminate the discussion in the RES, for the time being.
Faced, however, also with the growing secularism of society and its erosion of the faith-life of God’s people, the Synod urged that all the churches “should stand together on their united conviction that the Lord’s day has been given for the good of man, to be used, like all God’s gifts, to the glory of God.” The Synod called upon its member churches to “maintain the observance of the Lord’s day as a day of rest, worship, good works and Christian joy.” The Synod, upon recommendation of the advisory committee, also adopted a “Message to the Churches” on the Sabbath/Sunday issue.
It is interesting that the report mentions the attempt to “fuse” two reports (which was impossible in this case). A better word might perhaps be: “compromising.” And when “compromising” is impossible, then one accepts with “brotherly forbearance” two opposing positions. Such decisions do not bode well for the R.E.S. Perhaps at a later date, when these reports are available, we can present a summary of them.
The same R.E.S. news letter reports that three more denominations were added to the membership of the organization. All three are from South Africa and are black. This brings membership of R.E.S. to 38 denominations and above 5,000,000 members.
The Clarion, paper of the Canadian Reformed Churches, reports on the meeting of the Reformed Churches (Synodical) of the Netherlands. The Synod is an on-going gathering that meets this year until Nov. 27th. To be treated there is a book of Dr. Kuitert entitled, “Zonder Geloof vaart niemand wel.” There are questions to be treated concerning restructuring of the consistory; child or adult baptism; church-visitation; reports from the W.C.C. and R.E.S. meetings. By a vote of 38-28 the Synod decided to maintain its decision of 1914 that those who reject infant baptism cannot be considered eligible for the offices of elder or deacon. The Synod is also discussing the question of participation of children in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
An interesting article is found in the November 1976 issue of Reader’s Digest. Entitled, “Coming Soon: ‘Electronic Money’,” it speaks of the time in the near future when money will hardly be used any more. Rather, by means of a card assigned to all, and a secret number which an individual must use in connection with the card, deposits can be made at banks, purchases will be made, etc. But even those who say this will surely come, and that it will be good, feel some nagging doubts. The article states:
An even greater worry is the threat to individual and business privacy. At the push of a button these computers can instantly array on an electronic screen all your financial transactions—your earnings, debts, where you travel, how you spend your money. Although such information is closely guarded, the fact that it is accessible to someone in the bank, or to interlopers who may tap into the network, leads to the fear that it could be used for blackmail or for unwanted commercial solicitations.
It is also true that the government, according to court decision, has the “right” to examine anyone’s bank account and transactions. How easily such can lead to the time when the antichrist will have complete control on buying and selling—and business will be conducted only by those who have the card and the assigned number! This is all coming. One cannot stop “progress.” But we are reminded that the one who refuses to bow before the antichrist, will lose his “right” to a number. Even the article reminds of what could happen by one who loses his card and number:
In this new, totally electronic age, the enforcement of financial obligations will present few difficulties, since failure to pay up could be disastrous. The culprit might even be forced to undergo what EFT men call “plastic surgery”—the cutting off of his bank cards. Economically speaking, this would make him a non-person.
The same magazine contains the interesting paragraph on “Galloping Knowledge”:
A century ago, it may have been possible for a truly well-educated person to absorb almost ail the important knowledge accumulated by mankind. Today, human knowledge is expanding so rapidly that no one can catch up with it.
“By the time the child born today graduates from college,” says Robert. Hilliard, chief of educational broadcasting at the Federal Communications Commission, “the amount of knowledge will be four times as great. By the time the same child is fifty, it will be 32 times as great—and 97 percent, of everything known in the world will have bee? learned since that child was born.”
The memorizing of reams of facts will not be necessary; they will be quickly available in computers. But future man will need great knowledge if only to know what it is he wants to know.
Present Truth magazine of September 1976, quotes from Dr. Harry M. Kuitert who wrote in his book,Signals from the Bible, on the subject of election. Striking, that a “Reformed” theologian can easily twist the truth of election into something entirely different from that traditionally taught in Reformed churches, and maintained in the Reformed creeds. He writes:
The main issue of the Bible’s message of God’s election is not what we sometimes call predestination. It is rather God’s preference, as He brings it to light. But is this democratic of God, to prefer one people? Does the word “preference” soften the blow; is not preference about the same thing as arbitrary choice?
To answer this question we have to keep our Bible open. We should ask ourselves whom it is that God prefers. We can best get at this by reading the story of Jesus Christ, for He stands in our midst as the representative of this God who has preferences. Anyone who has seen Him at work has seen God Himself at work.
For whom does Jesus Christ show preference? Is it not clear on every page of the Gospel? He prefers the lost, the publicans and sinners, the sick and rejected. In a word, He prefers all those in need of His saving hand.
This is the golden thread that binds
together. Paul is not dealing with the question of the pre-destiny of some individuals; he is revealing God’s preferences.
A small paper published periodically by concerned Presbyterians of the Southern Presbyterian Church has printed its last paper recently. This group has been struggling against the inroads of modernism and liberalism in the Southern Presbyterian Church and against its proposed merger with the United Presbyterian Church of the north. But the task has proved hopeless. First, a split in the churches, when the Presbyterian Church in America was founded with over 400 congregations, took many of the conservatives from the larger denomination. Secondly, the last Assembly of the larger denomination showed clearly in its voting that it was the liberal who was firmly in control of the church. One can mourn when voices are increasingly being silenced and objections to the modernism within denominations cease.