Such is the title of an interesting and timely editorial appearing in The Bannerof February 5, 1960, written by ‘the Rev. John Vander Ploeg.
The editor begins by reminding his readers that things formerly were in reverse. It used to be that they “made mountains out of molehills.” He cites an instance out of the past where at a congregational meeting a warm and animated debate was had on the subject “whether or not it was wrong to have fire insurance on the church property.” Those against fire insurance argued that it was in defiance of Providence. The minister, who otherwise was quite levelheaded and calm, at last could not contain himself “and in Dutch he exploded, ‘If that’s true then you may not even pluck a louse off your head.'” The editor informs us that “Fortunately, the advocates of fire insurance carried the day, either at that meeting or later. Of course, they were right, and moreover their foresight was justified when several years later their church buildings were reduced by fire to a total loss.”
He continues, “How times have changed. We have changed and the church has changed, in some respects for better, and in other respects for worse.
“The danger today is that we make molehills out of mountains, whereas years ago the church had a weakness of making mountains out of molehills.
“Old-timers still tell of this. The innovation of English instead of exclusively Dutch services, individual communion cups, and also other changes encountered stiff opposition which was sincerely believed by some to be a matter of principle.
“Third-generation members of the Christian Reformed Church may be amused at all this. We have come a long way from the conservatism of grandpa and grandma and from the heated controversies about picayune matters which agitated our denomination of half century or more ago. At times they made mountains out of molehills.
“But it could have been worse. Let’s not be too sure that it may not actually be worse in our time. Our forebears wronged both themselves and the Lord’s cause when trivialities led to hot heads and cold hearts as they made mountains out of molehills. But we shall wrong ourselves and His cause even more if we now go to the opposite extreme of making molehills out of mountains.”
The reader understands of course that the terms “mountains” and “molehills” are used figuratively. Rev. Vander Ploeg has in mind especially two mountains which he claims attempts are made in our day to make molehills of them. The first is the mountain of moral standards; the second, the mountain of sound doctrine. Concerning the first, he insists that moral standards are being flouted. Concerning the second, sound doctrine is disparaged.
Under the sub-title “Moral Standards Flouted,” the editor writes :
“Mention may very well be made of three aspects of contemporary life as evidence that the moral standards of God’s law are being flouted, and that in so doing our generation is guilty of making molehills out of mountains.
“1. A look at the field of entertainment is immediately at hand. The recent expose of rigged TV quiz shows revealed much that is morally unpalatable, not only about those who did the deceiving, but also about others who are unconcerned that they have been deceived.
“There are those who frankly make no bones about it to say that they see no moral issue involved in all this. Incapable of moral indignation themselves, they blandly dismiss all the fuss and the fury as making a mountain out of a molehill. It was good fun while it lasted, and as long as everyone had a good time, what’s the difference?
“‘We are at one of those critical junctures of history,’ says ‘someone, ‘where men have discovered the almost rightness of a great deal that is wrong, and the almost wrongness of a great deal that is right.’
“The report has gotten around pretty well by this time about the school teacher with a class of young people, some of whom could see nothing wrong in rigging a TV quiz show.
“Giving a very difficult test, the teacher slipped the answers to three members of the class. Imagine the disappointment of the class when almost everyone, including the top students, flunked the test, with the exception of those three.
“And then try to imagine their resentment and howl of protest when thereupon the teacher admitted to them what he had done. Let’s hope he got his point across.
“2. Or take the case of modern function. Talk about flouting moral standards and making a molehill out of the mountain of right and wrong, here is one that takes the prize, if the prince of smut has one to offer:
” ‘My novel,’ says Robert Graves of his latest (the choice of a book society), ‘is full of sex, drink, incest, suicide, dope, horse racing, a scandalous legal procedure, with a good public hanging attended by 30,000.’
“Object to such putrid slop, and you run the risk of being ridiculed as being ‘priggish’ or ‘Puritanical.’ Muddleheaded Bohemians, who pride themselves on being sophisticated in this, may even try to justify what they are reading or writing by an appeal to common grace, meanwhile confusing it with common garbage.
“The need for talented writers of respectable Christian fiction in which moral standards are held in honor is positively acute. The responsibility for the fearful harvest of moral insensitivity and loose living is one from which the purveyors of printed filth can by no means dissociate themselves. And by all means, may their tribe decrease!
“3. Another area in which secularism is determined to make molehills out of the mountains of the moral standards of God’s law is that of marriage and divorce.
“According to The World Almanac, 1959, the approximate ratio of divorces to marriages in the United States in 1890 stood at 1 in 17. Thirty years later, in 1920, it was 1 in.7Â½, and in 1957 it was 1 in 4.
“Someone reports that the Arabs have a unique and very interesting approach to the divorce problem. The judge orders the couple seeking a separation to live for a time with some elderly man of the tribe, someone both wise and austere. Being thus under observation, at the close of which period a report is to be made to the judge as the basis for his decision, both husband and wife are at their best to prove that the fault lies on the other side. The results are very gratifying, the honeymoon starts all over again, and harmony is frequently restored.
“The Arab method has much to commend it, but meanwhile Scripture still provides the only real solution to the distressing problems of marriage and divorce. Husbands and wives must make sure that they are living with God, and that He is really living with them. Courtship and marriage are successful and yield happiness only to the extent that the parties to them regard one another and live together in the consciousness of ‘Thou God seest me.’
“The moral standards of God’s ordinances governing matters of sex and marriage are as lofty and enduring as the mountain on which the Divine Lawgiver once gave them on two tables of stone. All the carnal efforts of the godless to throw down these lofty heights to the level of molehills can have only one result-moral bankruptcy and trouble always going from bad to worse.”
Under the sub-title “Sound Doctrine Disparaged,” the editor writes:
“Doctrine and denominationalism both have fallen upon evil days in our time in that the importance and necessity of them are widely disparaged. The following lines of Robert Loveman strike a responsive chord in many and are eagerly endorsed by them:
What care I for caste or creed?
It is the deed, it is the deed;
What for class or what for clan? It is the man, it is the man . . .
“But what does the Bible say? Anyone who takes Scripture seriously soon discovers that doctrine, or rather the doctrine, looms there as high, as solid and as massive as a mountain. Anyone bent upon making a molehill out of Christian doctrine must first give the lie to the Word of God.
“In the New Testament one may find the term doctrineor teaching 48 times, the same word being used in English for two Greek words. It is important to note that the New Testament places before us a very specific kind of doctrine or teaching. Paul mentions ‘sound doctrine’ in I Timothy 1:10 and ‘good doctrine’ in I Timothy 4:6, clearly implying that there can be no substitute for this.
“The doctrines of creation, providence, divine sovereignty, the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, heaven and hell, sin and grace â€• these and all other doctrines revealed in the Bible and set forth in creeds founded on the Bible are indeed like a mountain towering over all the wrecks of time.
“Any offhand or deliberate attempt to disparage or to make a molehill out of the doctrine of Scriptureâ€•which we believe Reformed doctrine to beâ€• is nothing less than an attempt to sabotage the church of Jesus Christ.
“The sound doctrine of Scripture is disparaged not only when one snipes at it or makes an open attack upon it, but also when anyone who professes to believe it, simply remains indifferent with respect to a careful and prayerful study of it.
“A United States Senator in a press release of a few days ago relates the following experience of an American exchange student at Moscow University.
“‘He was vacationing last summer at Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea. Relaxing on the beach, he and some of his friends saw a group of some 100 Chinese students, dressed in very heavy clothes.
“‘They lined up on the beach, and for one hour did exercises in unison. Thereupon, hot and tired as they were, instead of going swimming, they formed a circle to discuss the principles of Marx and Lenin for another hour.
“‘This was their concept of recreation.’
“What a challenge! Not only to study the principles of democracy, but above all to explore to know and to find our safety in the mountains of Christian doctrine as we are guided by the living Word that does not pass away.
“Our security and future are to be found only in the mountains or everlasting hills to which God directs our eyes. To insist upon making molehills of these is suicide!”
The undersigned said at the beginning that he believed the editorial quoted almost in its entirety was both interesting and timely. The serious-minded reader will no doubt agree.
We were impressed especially by the last part which dealt with sound doctrine. The thought could not be suppressed, “Would to God that all our people, especially the young, would take it to heart.” Would that in and under the preaching they would understand that sound doctrines are the everlasting mountains of God’s Word. Would that in catechism and in the societies of our churches each one would consider the importance of knowing and professing these eternal truths. And would to God that the spiritual lethargy and indifference to sound doctrine were disparaged. Perhaps this is the reason for the controversies that characterize the history of the church, that she may be alerted once more to the importance and beauties of the everlasting mountains.