Ecclesiastical Potpourri

In collecting items which are important enough to be commented on in this column, one inevitably runs across news items of various kinds which, while they are of some interest, are not really sufficiently important to take up space in the Standard Bearer. They get filed away in a drawer and see the light of day about every two weeks when it is time once again for this column to be prepared. Almost always, when the column is written, they once again go back into the drawer of the desk to await another deadline. And they accumulate bit by bit into quite an imposing pile. Sooner or later there, comes a moment of truth when one must make the decision either to print them or to throw them in “File 13”; they are cluttering up things beyond that which is tolerable. 

Such a moment of truth has once again arrived. It seemed too difficult to throw them all away. Here they all are, put all together into one column. They appear, for the most part, with only brief comment. 

Item—It appears from a recent news item that the practice of conscientious objection to union membership may soon come to an end. A member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, an employee of the Watervliet Paper Company in Watervliet, Michigan was discharged from his job when he refused to join the United Papermakers Union. He offered to pay the equivalent of union dues to a non-religious charity. The Union refused to permit this. The employee filed suit against the union, but lost his case in the U.S. District Court for Southern Michigan and the U.S. Court of Appeals for, the sixth circuit. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court did not help. By an 8-to-1 vote (Justice William Douglas was the dissenter) the Court refused to review the lower court rulings. 

The unions have always hated conscientious objectors; and this could be an ominous precedent for all those who hold such a position. 

Item—The sexual freedom which is increasingly advocated in this country is exacting its own toll. I have figures before me distributed by the Public Health Service which show that veneral diseases are now the most common of all infectious-diseases in this country and are already of epidemic proportions. In the first nine months of 1972 physicians reported 573,000 cases of gonorrhea and 18,000 cases of syphilis. This is in excess of 2,000 new cases every day! 

The promise of those who advocate permissiveness in matters of sex is always that modem medical science is able to cope with these infectious diseases. And it is true that there are antibiotics available to cure them. But the fact remains that the incidence of these diseases is higher than it has ever been. And the above figures only give reported cases. There are many who think the figure would be doubled if unreported cases were added to the totals. God is not mocked. What a man sows that shall he also reap. 

Item—The National Council of Christian Churches (NCC) has suffered something of a decline in recent years. This is partly due to the fact that this organization became so deeply involved in all kinds of social issues that people no longer concerned themselves with the pious pronoun-cements periodically passed out by the leaders. The organization was not listened to any more. And there isn’t anything which hurts quite so much as to be ignored. But this was also partly due to the fact that the flow of money was being gradually dried up. The NCC was forced to cut its elected staff from 168 in 1969 to 105 in 1972. Its appointed staff was also cut from 490 to 303 in the same period. 

In an effort to change its image so as to make the organization more attractive to conservatives, the NCC decided to alter its preamble at a December meeting in Dallas. The two set side by side read as follows:

Old, Preamble—UNDER THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD communions which confess Jesus Christ as Divine Lord and Savior, in order more fully to manifest oneness in Him, do now create an inclusive cooperative agency of Christian churches of the United States of America to show forth their unity and mission in specific ways to bring the churches into living contact with one another for fellowship, study and cooperative action. 

New Preamble—The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America is a cooperative agency of Christian communions seeking to fulfill the unity and mission the which God calls them. The member communions, responding to the gospel revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, as Savior and Lord. Relying on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, the council works to bring churches into a life-giving fellowship and into common witness, study and action to the glory of God and in service to all creation.

The NCC has, however, given public reassurance that it will continue to pass its moral judgments on the social and political issues of the day. 

Item—The World Council of Churches (WCC) held a conference recently in Bangkok. The Conference was determined to go the way of secularism. Conference planners called for “secular strivings for a fuller human life.” Efforts were made to give the conference proceedings some spiritual character, but these efforts were, for the most part, frustrated. The Conference went on record as favoring support to those who refuse to pay taxes, refuse to serve in the armed forces, are draft dodgers and deserters. According to The Presbyterian Journal, from which magazine we gained this information, a certain writer is quoted as saying: “All the advance publications concerning this meeting indicate that the World Council is making a massive effort to reinterpret the classic meaning of salvation so that ‘being saved’ will come to mean having more food, more justice, more clothes, more freedom, more production, less disease, more brotherhood, more peace, in short, more this-worldlyimprovements.” 

And this organization has appeal to certain Reformed Churches in this country and abroad! 

At the same meeting, the Conference decided to enter into dialogue with Buddhists. The word “dialogue” as it is increasingly used in our day is an interesting one. It certainly does not mean “to preach the gospel.” We shall have to comment further on this term in some future issue. 

Item—A great deal is being made these days of the religious convictions of professional sports figures. Perhaps this is especially true of professional football players. Why this should be is difficult to say. We are told that Evangelist Tom Skinner, e.g., is the unpaid and unofficial chaplain of the Washington Redskins. He speaks at pre-game chapel services and gives spiritual counseling to team members and their families. Many of the professional teams hold Bible-study groups for players and their families, and many players and their coaches are members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

What strikes us is that this picture is quite different from the picture presented in the secular press. Here we read of players who boast of their exploits in drinking, sex, and even drugs, and who live a life of pleasure and sin. Descriptions of games are descriptions of organized mayhem and brutal and deliberate attempts to hurt permanently players of opposing teams. 

Whatever may be a correct picture, the fact remains that nagging questions persist concerning the legitimacy of professional sports in the light of Scripture. And, more importantly, all professional teams in all sports are guilty of violating the Lord’s Day. This is flagrant desecration of that which God has made holy. This must necessarily make the Christianity of these players deeply suspect. 

Item—A new law is being tried in Camden, New Jersey. Under certain circumstances, parents are made responsible for the delinquency of their children. This covers particularly such offenses as illegal drinking, mugging, vandalism, breaking and entering, curfew violations. Parents are to be given a warning first; but should additional offense be committed, parents can be jailed for 90 days and fined up to $500.00. 

The basis for such an ordinance is the fact that parents are responsible for their children and should know where their children are and what they are doing. Whether the law will work or not is a dubious question. But the whole matter underscores the fact that the delinquency of juveniles is certainly, in large measure, to be explained by the fact that parents have abdicated their God-given responsibility. 

Item—Few in this country are aware of how extensive demon worship in this country really is. The same is true all over the world. Time magazine, in a recent issue, even featured this phenomenon. Some points made by Time and other news media include the following: “The Satanic Bible” is more popular on some college campuses than Scripture. A large number of colleges and high schools offer courses in the occult. The number of “spiritists” in Brazil alone has reached nearly fifty million. Early in 1971, in a small town, over 450 “ministers of Satan” were ordained. On Easter Sunday in 197 1, over 400 gathered in Chicago for the purpose of worshipping Satan. In practically all countries, including Russia, demon worship is an increasingly common thing. 

Certainly these events, too, are signs that we are nearing the end of the history of the world. 

Item—An interesting article in a recent issue ofNewsweek not only tells a good story, but also points out the emptiness of modem psychiatry. The story goes like this. A group of five men and three women, including three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter and a housewife, had themselves committed to different mental institutions by feigning insanity. They told admitting doctors that they kept hearing voices that said words like “empty,” “hollow,” and “void.” Other than the fact that they gave false names, they were completely honest with their doctors concerning all their life history and “symptoms.” They were all admitted as either schizophrenic or manic-depressive. Once inside the hospitals, they were completely normal in their behavior and, in fact, did all in their power to convince doctors and nurses that they were well. But they were unable to be released. The more they insisted they were well and normal, the more the staffs were convinced they were dangerously ill. The only ones who realized that they were normal were the patients themselves with whom these people came into contact. One patient said to one of those making the experiment: “You’re not crazy, you’re a journalist or a professor. You’re checking up on the hospital.” But what was obvious to the other patients was not at all obvious to the psychiatrists and staff. It took up to 52 days for these people to get out. And then the only way they succeeded was either by simply walking away from the hospital or by telling the doctors that, although they were still sick, they were feeling much better. Their discharge slips read: “schizophrenia in remission.” 

It is a remarkable illustration of the fact that “mental illness” is indeed a misnomer and that worldly psychiatry is silly as it is useless.

At 9 p.m., a nippy breeze swirled around Atlanta’s Civic Auditorium, but inside the air was warm with Jesus. Sweaty “A-mens” rose periodically from an interracial crowd of some 600 middle-aged people, who had waited 90 minutes through preliminary sermons for the night’s featured preacher: faith-healing evangelist David Epley. Suddenly, the music swelled as Epley strode onstage, seized the mike, expertly looped the cord away from his dark blue trousers and hurled himself into a hymn. “I’m. . .like a ship. . . that’s. . lost in a storm,” he sang, and beyond the stage lights the crowd drew together like laced boots. 

After twenty minutes of Gospel tunes, Epley stepped down into the audience to perform his specialty—”miraculously” identifying people and their ailments by a power he calls “discerning spirits.” He stopped in front of a woman with a wrinkled face and bleached blond hair who was crying softly. “O-o-o-o, honey, you don’t need to cry.” he purred. “Lord bless you, you’ve got to leave that booze alone.” Leading her up onto the stage, the tall, young evangelist turned the woman’s face to his shoulder and stroked her hair like a parent with a troubled child. “Now, sister,” he said, “I’m going to give you this special prayer cloth and I want you to wear it for the next seven days. Oh, Father, help her,” he prayed. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . Oh, I feel it tonight. I feel Jesus here.” And then, glancing back at the musicians, he whispered: “Give me an A flat.”

In this way Newsweek introduces an article on the latest of American evangelists. The article goes on to show in vivid language that there is a comeback of sorts of old-time evangelism and revivalism, although the old-fashioned tent meetings have pretty much disappeared. Today the successful evangelists are expert showmen, and, Newsweek assures us, there is big money in evangelism if the game is played right. In fact some evangelists make no bones about it that money is an important part of their “preaching.”

Television, however, will never replace the stand-up evangelist who thrives on personal contact. One who is indeed thriving is New York’s fabled Rev. Frederick (Reverend Ike) Eikerenkoetter who makes no secret of his love of money. At a recent crusade in Houston, the Reverend Ike promised that prosperity would come to those who believe enough in themselves to support the spread of his “Science of Living.” “I understand green power,” the South Caroline-born Ike told some 4,000 mostly black listeners. “I don’t speak black power because I can’t spend it. . . I ask that you not give change, but if you only have change, I’ll take it.” And he did.

There seems to me to be few things quite as despicable and revolting as making a show for entertainment of the preaching of the gospel and doing this to make money. Rev. Hoeksema wrote a pamphlet many years ago (still available) entitled: “Jesus Savior, and the Evil of Hawking Him.” In this pamphlet he was particularly concerned with the Arminian sin of “hawking” Jesus as a common item in the marketplace of ideas. That “hawking” of Jesus has now become big business and part of entertainment. There must be a special place in hell for those who commit such horrible crimes.