New Government in Myanmar (Burma)
In the April 4 issue of Time we read,
On April 1, Burma, a nation under military dictatorship for nearly five decades, will have a new government headed by the democratic opposition. The triumph of the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was a victory for democracy in the face of repression (13).
This is striking. But what does it mean? Is the door of mission work in Myanmar finally opening wide? Will the PRCA, who have had close contact with Rev. Titus and the PRC of Myanmar for so many years, finally be able to call a full-time missionary to Myanmar? It is hard to say. For there are still “many obstacles to progress in Myanmar.” Primarily this: “The military remains a powerful force.”
Fearing the tremendous influence of Suu Kyi, the military government made a law in 2008 that would keep her out of the presidency. In the May 4 issue of Christian Renewal we read this: Aung San Suu Kyi could have easily won the election, but was forbidden to run based on a 2008 law that forbids any citizen of Myanmar who has a foreign spouse or children to run for the post.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s children are British citizens, as was her late husband. The law seems to have been passed exclusively to keep her out of office, though it’s expected that her influence in the new government will be significant (33).
Rather than Suu Kyi, therefore, a close confidant of hers named Htin Kyaw is now president. Nevertheless, Suu Kyi occupies several positions in the new government that give her considerable influence.
But it remains to be seen how much power the new democratic government really has and how much religious freedom will actually be granted in Myanmar. The February 24 issue of Christian Renewal had an interview with Presbyterian pastor Mark Robinette, who has made several trips to do mission work in Myanmar since 2012. He said,
The people [of Myanmar] are hesitant to believe that this new government will take control the way it should, even though the election was a landslide. They are very hopeful, however. If things transition nicely, they will be freer than they’ve ever been (8).
Let us pray earnestly that the exalted Lord Jesus, to whom all authority was given in heaven and on earth, will use this democratic development for the progress of the gospel in Myanmar, for the strengthening of our ties with Rev. Titus and the PRC of Myanmar, and for the opening of a door to a full-time missionary in Myanmar.
Trump and Clinton
Here in the United States we are also about to transition to a new administration of government. In case you have not noticed (!), it is a presidential election year. More and more it looks like the two primary candidates on the ballot will be Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This has to give us reason to pause and reflect. As Reformed Christians, we may not merely evaluate politics politically, but must also consider them eschatologically; that is, with a view to the coming of Christ. Then too, not in expectation of a golden age on earth in which the political realm too will be entirely Christianized, the postmillennial dream. But rather, with the full realization according to biblical and Reformed amillennialism that dark days must precede the glorious appearance of Jesus on the clouds.
What then do we see in this political scene? We notice, first of all, a candidate who was raised Methodist and stands with progressive secularism, and a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda, and thus against those who stand for the truths of the Bible; someone who is also surrounded by allegations of corruption and lies at the highest level of the federal government from her time as Secretary of State. We notice, secondly, a candidate who also claims to be a Christian, but who is on his third marriage; who viciously breathes out contempt for anyone who dares to challenge or disagree with him; who shamelessly boasts in his own personal greatness, but who sees no need to ask God for forgiveness; who claims to be a Presbyterian, but is not a member of any local congregation (cf. “Donald Trump’s Problematic Claim,” February 15 issue of the SB). We could make a number of judgments about the views and behavior of these candidates. But that is not my purpose here.
Rather, let us evaluate them eschatologically. Then we become struck by the deepening darkness in our land. God is not blessing the USA. God is casting judgment on this nation for its increasing godlessness. Indeed, God through Christ is working out His eternal purpose to glorify Himself in the highest possible way, in the way of sin and grace, judgment and redemption, which includes the development of an anti-Christian kingdom here on earth as the culmination of all the efforts of sinful man to achieve power and glory over against God.
The profile of this Antichrist, both in his political and religious aspects, is revealed in the Word of God. As to his political side, he will be a king “who shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of a time” (). The day of Christ shall not come until “that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” ( ). All the world will wonder after him and say, “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” ( ).
Today we see two candidates for the most powerful position of the most powerful nation in the world who have some of the characteristics of this beast who will rise out of the sea. No, not all of the marks… at least not yet. But we certainly observe a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, a showing of oneself as if he is God, and an opposing of the things of God…. The one especially in her views, the other especially in his character. The one and only true Christ warned us: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”
Our great hope over against the man of sin, whoever he is and whenever he arises, is that “the Lord shall consume [him] with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy [him] with the brightness of his coming” (II Thess. 2:8).
Union of United Reformed and Canadian Reformed?
The readers of the SB probably recall that the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) and the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC) have been engaged in ecumenical dialogue for a number of years now, looking into the possibility of a union of the two denominations. The URC has three phases of ecumenicity and church unity: phase 1—corresponding relations; phase 2—ecclesiastical fellowship; phase 3—church union. Since 2001 the URC and CanRC have been in phase 2 in which, for example, members may transfer their papers freely between the two denominations and pulpits are open to ministers of both denominations. The URC’s Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity (CERCU) has been pursuing phase 3, full church union. But there has been a strong pushback in the URC.
URC Synod 2014 in Visalia, CA voted to table indefinitely the CERCU’s proposal to move to phase 3.
URC Synod 2016 in Wyoming, MI (this past June) received an overture from Classis Pacific Northwest “to direct CERCU to discontinue all further action, advancement, processes, efforts or steps towards unification with the Canadian Reformed Churches and specifically advancement to Phase Three, Step A.”1
The CERCU stated in its report to Synod Wyoming,
In our own committee’s discussions last November, as well as in our discussions with the Canadian Reformed, we came to the conclusion together that we will not make any recommendations concerning stepping forward to the next phase of relations with the Canadian Reformed Churches for at least the next six years.
Thus, the Proposed Joint Church Order (PJCO) Committee asked synod that it be dismissed since the union of the two denominations, and thus the need for a joint church order, will not be considered again until 2022 at the earliest.
Although it is certainly lamentable that conservative Reformed and Presbyterian churches are divided into so many denominations due to the countless, schismatic attacks of false doctrine throughout history, and that the union of any two of these denominations is exceedingly rare,2 we ought at the same time to acknowledge the preciousness of denominational unity. I speak now in regard to the Protestant Reformed Churches with our sister churches. We must seek to express the unity of the Spirit, unity in the truth, with other denominations as much as possible. But while doing so, we ought to appreciate and thank God for the unity that we do enjoy among our churches. How good and how pleasant is it for us to dwell together in unity! (). Let us endeavor to keep that unity ( ).
1 Cf. the provisional agenda to the 2016 synod of the URC: https://www.urcna.org/urcna/Synod2016/ProvisionalAgenda.pdf.
2 It happened in 1892 when the Dutch churches of the Afscheiding (1834) and those of the Doleantie (1886) joined into one denomination called the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Reformed Churches in the Netherlands). But before and after the merger there were disputes about doctrinal differences, so that within the denomination there was, practically speaking, a division between the so-called “A” churches and “B” churches. A compromise was sought in 1905 at the Synod of Utrecht. But the differences remained. Eventually a split occurred in 1944, known as the Vrijmaking in which the Liberated Churches began.