The Standard Bearer
Grand Rapids, Michigan
A friend has mailed me your comments on an article of mine recently published in The Reformed Journalunder the title “Why Teach in a Secular College?” It is obvious that your primary intention is to embarrass the editors of the Journal as being remiss in their obligation to split hairs of the Reformation faith, but since the brickbats were lobbed specifically at me, I suppose I am entitled to something of a rejoinder.
The aim of the article was not to outline a system of theology but simply to indicate how one might go about talking to a young person with only the most skimpy orientation in religious matters. That theology took something of a beating here and there was not my primary concern. I wanted these people to meet the Person of Jesus Christ. And they did.
“Judy,” as I called her, was vaguely Methodist. If therefore I made the discussion sound more Methodist than Reformed, it, was to take advantage of the little orientation she had had. Unfortunately the editors of the Journal found it necessary to blue pencil the first part of the conversation in which. Judy described advances by lecherous dentists and other chaps offering her as much as $200 for her favors. The girl had turned them all down. Now I should find it a bit gauche to suggest to such a person “the terrible and total depravity of man whereby he sins against God’s most high majesty and deserves only hell.” You may try it if you like. I should be surprised if you got very far.
I find it very hard to think that my description of creation is “tantamount to a denial” of it. You must remember at I am working with a rather godless faculty. The students are saturated with the doctrine that if there was a Creator, He was pretty much detached. I am trying to say precisely the opposite. He is not detached. He is a Creator. This student is going to say, “If I’ve got to believe all this happened in 144 hours, you can lump it.” I am not insisting on that, but I am insisting that this universe was designed and executed by God Himself.
The other thing is the matter of choice. You seem to imagine that the exercise of any choice is Pelagian, that a human being is simply a chess piece manipulated by the Almighty. This makes utter nonsense, of course, of Jesus Christ standing at the door knocking. You assume that He kicks the door in and takes over, I live with a lot of scholars who are determinists in another sense—behaviorists in psychology, and economic determinists in history—and I don’t like what they’re saying. God certainly takes the initiative but I made the choice. It is impossible for me to be saved because I made the choice, but the choice is not what saved me. At the moment I said Yes to God, I was aware of a fearful loneliness, realizing that God Himself was refusing to give me even the slightest nudge toward Himself. I have sat with dozens of young people as they entered the Kingdom, and I have never failed to be aware of that same terrifying aloneness. Some have come to the moment of decision, have sighed and said, “I can’t.” There was a rich young ruler who did the same thing.
Regarding, the story of the life of Jesus Christ, I was simply trying to get rid, of a few of the clichÃ©s, of the picture of the Lord inherited from mortician’s calendars and from some of the gummier instructional materials of the church schools. The “errors” you attribute to me are essentially no more than the result of your eagerness to find error. Given half an hour to talk to a person like this, just how fine are you going to spin the thread.
I suppose it is quite inevitable that you should have missed the point of the article. Send people to a Christian school for sixteen years, and it’s a cinch. Most of them are astonished that they still have a choice to make. The point of my article is this, that God calls a few of us to minister to some rather dubious candidates for His Kingdom m these secular colleges and universities. That they come to know Jesus Christ in this manner apparently makes no difference to you. It does to the angels. Jesus Christ tells us that they rejoice. Evidently you resent it. Whose side are you on?
There is no point in making reply to Prof. Lamberts’ implied slur against Christian education (“Send people to a Christian school for sixteen years, and it’s a cinch. Most of them are astonished that they still have a choice to make.”); although the desperate need of it ought to be evident to anyone who loves the truth of God’s covenant.
Nor is there much point in entering a discussion concerning the professor’s evident Arminianism. It is obvious that we must part ways at this critical point. Yet his choice of Arminianism gives him no right tot erect a “straw man” when he criticizes the truth as being deterministic after the fashion of behaviorists and economic determinists. He would do well, however, to read his confessions, which he flatly contradicts: “. . . he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also.” “But that others who are called by the gospel, obey the call, and are converted, is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free till . . . . , but it must be wholly ascribed to God . . . .” “Wherefore unless the admirable author of every .good work wrought in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will. . . .” Further, the only place that I know of where Scripture mentions Christ standing at the door and knocking is in Rev. 3:20. If Prof. Lamberts had read this before he sat down to write, he would have discovered that this does not speak at all of man’s heart and is no support for his Arminianism. He would be wise not to use this text in his discussion with students. And, by the way, although the language is very crude, it is surely true that Christ “kicks open, the door and takes over.” If he didn’t, no one could be saved. (Perhaps sometime Prof. Lamberts could explain what he means by the statement: “It is possible for me to be saved because I made the choice, but the choice is not what saved me.”)
The chief issue is whether we must sacrifice the truth in order to lead others to Christ. The professor is not at all averse to giving theology a, beating to accomplish this—even though theology is the knowledge of God, whom to know is life eternal. He considers it gauche (tactless) to speak of total depravity under certain circumstances—even though our Heidelberg Catechism very explicitly points out that there is for man no knowledge of deliverance from sin through the blood of Christ without a knowledge of our total depravity into which we were born. He prefers to be more Methodist than Reformed even when, obviously, our Reformed faith is the truth of Scripture, and that over against Methodism. He is more concerned with getting rid of clichÃ©s and of pictures found on morticians’ calendars than he is of witnessing to the Christ of Scripture. He does not hesitate to turn his back on the doctrine of creation because he works with a godless faculty and a student body that considers creation in six days of 24 hours to be nonsense. And all this is supposed to be conducive to leading someone to Christ.
To lead one to Christ is not possible for any man. Only Christ Himself can do this. Perhaps this is the professor’s trouble. He is trying to do what only God can do. So he makes his own Christ.
When in a sinful world the saints of God witness of Christ they must witness to the truth. For Christ is the truth. Christ is the perfect revelation of God; and Christ is the perfect revelation of the truth of God. Christy Himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” To deny this truth, to compromise it for expediency’s sake, to adapt the truth to circumstances by corrupting it is not to lead to Christ; but is to lead to an idol. To be led to a caricature of Christ is not to be led to Christ.
Indeed, the angels rejoice when one sinner is brought to repentance. But when one is guilty of leading a sinner to an idol instead of to Christ, there can be no repentance. Then the angels only weep.