The Banner of Oct. 8, 1976, reports on a “first” for the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America. A church of each of these two denominations was located in Nardin Park in Detroit. When the Nardin Park Community Church (Christian Reformed) lost its building to an urban renewal project in that area, it made arrangements to unite with the Nardin Park Reformed Church, located a short distance away. The Reformed Church was “really too small to afford a pastor’s salary.” But these had the facilities. So these two churches united on April 4. The union was unique within these two denominations in that the church retains ties with both denominations. It is a “union” church. In the past, union churches arose when two denominations failed in their attempts to unite—while individual local churches wanted that union anyway. Union churches often also precede renewed or beginning attempts toward denominational unity. Such union churches exist in spite of denominational differences. The report does suggest that “many ecclesiastical questions will have to be answered.” One does wonder, though, what such a union church confesses concerning lodge membership or what is its confession on necessity of Christian School education. It also seems very strange that such a union can take place without synodical approval—at least there is no indication in the report that such approval had been gained. One can well wonder to what such an attempt will ultimately lead for these two denominations.
Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff, professor at Calvin College, gives advice in “A Letter to a Young Theologian” in the Reformed Journal of Sept. 1976. He suggests seven areas where a young theologian might work. Some of his suggestions are rather frightening—as he himself admits at one point. Following his suggestions would result in a system of doctrine bearing little or no resemblance to Reformed doctrine as currently taught. One of his proposals suggests a reexamination of the doctrine of election. Of course, if churches deny the truth of reprobation, then necessarily the truth of election also must be re-evaluated. Wolterstorff writes:
I think the doctrine of election needs to be explored anew. (When didn’t it?) As I see it, Reformed theologians have thought of election as God’s making persons be and do something. God’s producing conversion in a person, say. That conception of election accounts for vast stretches of Reformed thought. But in the Scriptures there is another—and I would guess by far the dominant—way of thinking of election. Election consists of God’s choosing a person (or a people) to do or become something. It consists of God’s calling a person (or a people) to do or become something. And to such a choice, such a call, there are many biblical examples of the called person’s saying “No.” I don’t know where a doctrine of election thus conceived would go. But it seems to me to bear the promise both of being more faithful to the Scriptures than the concept of election as God’s making someone do or be something, and of delivering us from a morass of traditional impasses.
One wonders what Wolterstorff would recommend doing with the Reformed creeds. One could be concerned also about the kind of theologians that will be arising within the church—if Wolterstorff’s advice is followed.
The following report is presented in the Presbyterian Journal of Sept. 22, 1976:
In a potentially significant variation upon a growing theme, a store employee who claims she was fired because she refused to work on Sundays has filed a suit in U.S. District Court here against the store that fired her.
Most such suits in recent years have been filed against firms demanding their employees work on Saturdays. And most such contests, when filed on religious grounds of conscience, have been won by the discharged employees.
Carolyn Dalrymple of Winston-Salem alleges that her employment with a K-Mart store in High Point, N.C. was terminated after the store began staying open on Sunday afternoons and she informed the management she would not be able to work on the grounds of religious convictions she held.
The suit, which seeks damages totaling $32,250, was filed against the S.S. Kresge Co., as owners of K-Mart.
The plaintiff alleges that in March of last year the High Point City Council amended the city code to permit retail stores to open for business on Sundays.
She says she and other employees were told they would have to work from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays. She says that when she told store officials she could not work because of her religious beliefs, they told her there could be no exceptions and subsequently they fired her.
Increasingly, it becomes difficult for parental Christian Schools to operate. In some states particularly, state regulations are so strict as to make continued operation difficult. A report of such an instance was printed in the Christian Beacon of Sept. 2, 1976. The report was a reprint from the Orlando Sentinel Star. This account spoke of a certain Rev, Levi Whisner and co-defendants in a court case for the Tabernacle Christian School vs. the State of Ohio. The report stated: “The State of Ohio marshaled its power not through a civil proceeding, but through criminal prosecution, in an effort to punish a handful of parents for a dreadful crime against the state. The parents had dared to send their children to an unchartered private school!”
The case began some three years ago. The school was small but modern. It had about 60 students. The education given the children was very adequate. But in addition, the “children. were receiving something else also—a pervasive indoctrination in the Bible and in the simple, unsophisticated religious faith of their parents.” The report continued:
Brother Levi’s flock created their own school in 1973 to meet their religious needs. The question of accreditation immediately arose. Without a state charter, the school could not continue; but in order to obtain a state charter, the school would have to meet “all” requirements of the state’s Minimum Standards for Ohio Elementary Schools. The Rev. Wiz read these standards and balked. He thus got himself arrested on Criminal charges.
Justice Celebrezze (of the state supreme court) found the Minimum Standards “pervasive and all-encompassing.” The regulations allocated instructional time “almost to .the minute,” with the result that no time could be set aside for religious instruction. The rules demanded that “all” school activities must conform “to policies adopted by the board of education.” Under the Minimum Standards, the Christian Tabernacle School would be compelled to submit constant written evidence of its “cooperation and interaction” with the community. Within this little school house, the state decreed, “organized group life of all types must act in accordance with established rules of social relationships and a system of social controls.”
The supreme court of Ohio dismissed the case, supporting the contention of the school. In its decision, the court stated that the comprehensive Minimum Standards could result in “the absolute suffocation of independent thought and educational policy.” The effect of the standards is “to obliterate the philosophy of the school and to impose that of the state.”
So one can see how a state will seek to impose such restrictive standards upon a Christian School that it can not continue to function in harmony with its avowed purpose. In this case, the state lost—and the, school won. But doubtlessly, these sorts of pressures will be placed against Christian education till finally such might not be permitted at all anymore. Let us be faithful, then, while we have the opportunity, to instruct our children in the fear of God’s Name