Some months ago we informed our readers that we intended to write more on the subject of antithetical living, specifically in relation to the so-called “amusement problem.” That is still our intention. And the present editorial is certainly in the context of a discussion of that subject. It is not, however, directly in the line of what we intended to write on this subject; it is rather occasioned by a current discussion in The Banner in connection with a recent review by Prof. Irvin Kroese of the movie entitled “Saturday Night Fever.”
In the context of a mild disagreement between himself and the Rev. Jacob Eppinga about a “prohibitive mentality” (favored by Eppinga) and a “permissive mentality” (favored by Kroese), Mr. Kroese recently came across with a commendatory review of a movie which he himself admitted to have attended, but a movie in which the language of the characters is “confined almost entirely to profanity and vulgarity” and in which the activities of the characters are “mainly brawling and copulation.” The latter term could, of course, more accurately be made to read “fornication.” As an added indication of the gross immorality of this movie, we mention the fact that a newspaper report carried the information that the printed text of this movie was banned in the public schools of Wyoming, Michigan. Prof. Kroese’s review evidently precipitated no little amount of unfavorable reaction among readers of The Banner, judging from the sample of response in “Voices” in The Banner of September 8. In that same issue there also appears a response from Prof. Kroese.
Now it is not my intention to mingle in the discussion inThe Banner. First of all, I care for neither Mr. Eppinga’s prohibitive mind nor Mr. Kroese’s permissive (better called ‘libertine”) mind. In the context of the official Christian: Reformed stand on what are euphemistically called the “Film Arts”—a decision firmly grounded in the Three Points of Common Grace—there is basically little choice between these two minds. Secondly, a discussion of Christian liberty and an appeal to Christian liberty is hardly germane in that same context of the Film Arts decisions. Christian liberty has been prostituted, principally, into libertinism.
My concern in this editorial is about a phenomenon which I have noticed more and more in certain circles. It is the phenomenon of an appeal to the doctrine of Christian liberty in order to urge Christians, especially young Christians, to be daring rather than timid, bold rather than fearful, about going out into the world and having fellowship with the world and its corruptions.
Mr. Kroese’s reply to Voices in The Banner of September 8 furnishes examples of this. But Prof. Kroese is not the only one guilty of this. I have noticed this tendency with increasing frequency. Mr. Kroese presents his thoughts on this subject with an appeal to Calvin. Yes, indeed, he quotes a bit of Calvin on the subject of Christian liberty in order to promote indulging in a dirty, blasphemous movie such asSaturday Night Fever! I am sure that if Calvin were living, he would have for Mr. Kroese a few of the choice epithets such as he had for a man like Pighius. Of course, if you quote a snatch of Calvin out of context, you can very easily make it appear that John Calvin supported almost any errant idea. In this instance, Calvin is quoted as teaching “that without the knowledge of the doctrine of Christian liberty ‘the conscience can scarcely attempt anything without hesitation, in many (things) must demur and fluctuate, and in all proceed with fickleness and trepidations’ (Institutes, III, xix, 1)”
After this seemingly supportive quotation of Calvin, Prof. Kroese writes:
In a society whose principal deities seem to be Eros and Mammon, the call to permissiveness sounds to many like a cruel joke. But the God of Christians is still the God of Abraham, and the call is really the call to faith. I’m suggesting that we trust God a little more, trust each other, and trust even ourselves, with God’s help, to carry on the Lord’s work. It is our calling to bring redemption to all spheres of life. And how are we going to do that as we enter what even Christians now call “the post-Christian era”? With asceticism, with withdrawal, with fear?
Mr. Kroese concludes his article on a similar note:
The letter-writers are concerned about the direction of the CRC and the welfare of our covenant youth. So am I. The future of the church lies with the young people who stay with the church. Many are leaving it, but not, I can assure you, because it stresses too much the theology of the covenant and justification by faith. They can’t stomach what passes sometimes for the church’s virtues: its temporizing, its timidity, its desire merely to preserve what it ought to put to use. It is time to allow our young people to be the kind of Christians that the Spirit would have them be.
The above must be read bearing in mind that this is an article in defense of Kroese’s recommendation of the movie already mentioned.
This is the kind of boldness and daring that must be displayed in the name of Christian liberty: Christians must be bold to indulge in the fellowship of the world and its evil lusts. The Holy Spirit Himself would have young people be that kind of Christian.
But do you know what Calvin taught about such an attitude of boldness and daring?
In an altogether different connection—I was preparing for a chapel talk at our seminary—I came across choice remarks of Calvin on the interpretation of Psalm 119:115, “Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.” His comments run altogether contrary to the kind of daring which Mr. Kroese recommends.
“Some explain this verse as if David declared that he would devote himself with more alacrity and greater earnestness to the keeping of the law, when the wicked should have desisted from assaulting him. And, unquestionably, when we feel that God has delivered us, we are more than stupid if this experience does not stir up within us an earnest desire to serve him. If godliness does not increase in us in proportion to the sense and experience we have of God’s grace, we betray base ingratitude. This, then, is a true and useful doctrine; but the prophet meant to convey a different sentiment in this place. As he saw how great a hindrance the ungodly are to us, he banishes them to a distance from him; or rather, he testifies that he will beware of entangling himself in their society.’ Nor has he said this so much for his own sake as to teach us by his example, that if we would hold on in the way of the Lord without stumbling, we must endeavour, above all things, to keep at the greatest possible distance from worldly and wicked men, not in regard to distance of place, but in respect of intercourse and conversation. Provided we contract an intimate acquaintance with them, it is scarcely possible for us to avoid being speedily corrupted by the contagion of their example. The dangerous influence of fellowship with wicked men is but too evident from observation; and to this it is owing, that few continue in their integrity to the close of life, the world being fraught with corruptions. From the extreme infirmity of our nature, it is the easiest thing in the world to catch infection, and to contract pollution even from the slightest touch. The prophet, then, with good reason, bids the wicked depart from him, that he may advance in the fear of God without obstruction. Whoever entangles himself in their companionship will, in process of time, proceed the length of abandoning himself to a contempt of God, and of leading a dissolute life. . . .”
Christian timidity is timidity of catching infection from the world and of contracting pollution even from the slightest touch.
Christian daring is not daring to walk as close to the fires of hell as possible without being burned, but it is daring to be a spiritually separate people, holy unto the Lord!