THE WORLD ON DIVORCE
The problem of divorce and remarriage has always been a difficult problem—even (and perhaps especially) in the world. Those who are not Christians recognize the fact that the foundation of all, society is the stable family. Divorce breaks down the family. It breeds bitterness, broken homes, delinquency and tragedy. Hence, even the world recognizes that the preservation of society requires some sort of solution to the divorce problem.
Time recently devoted an “Essay” to the subject of divorce. Time’s chief interest was the wide variety of divorce laws in different states and the antiquated character of many of these laws. But in the course of the discussion, some interesting points were made.
Concerning the prevalence of divorce, Time informs its readers: Roughly 400,000 U. S. couples are being divorced each year. About 40% of them are childless; the rest have some 500,000 children, two-thirds of them are under the age of ten. More than 6,000,000 Americans are now divorced or separated, and divorce seems to breed divorce: probably half of all divorced Americans are the children of divorced parents.
While this sounds like a very bad situation, we are informed that it is not really so bad after all:
It is not really as alarming as it is often made out to be. The rate of divorce in the U.S. has actually held rather steady for 15 years, and the vast majority of Americans still stay married “until death do us part.” The rate hit an all-time high of 18.2 divorces per 1000 existing marriages in 1946, when many hasty wartime marriages were dissolved. Since then it has dropped to 9.2 per 1,000, not much above the 6.6-per-1,000 figure that was the norm in 1920.
We are told also that, while at one time, society as a whole frowned upon divorce, and even the laws on the books were really geared to discourage divorce, all this has changed.
The real scandal is not that so many Americans resort to divorce. It is that so many of the laws of the land are sadly out of step with the growing recognition that, for both married couples and society, divorce is often preferable to a dead marriage. . . .
Though Roman Catholics get fewer divorces than others because of their church’s proscriptions, they are not very far behind the Protestant breakup rate because of desertions, separations and annulments. . . .
Americans are more relaxed, tolerant and realistic about divorce than they used to be. Though vestiges of social stigma because of divorce still remain in small U.S. communities, most of the nation long ago decided that a happy divorce, when such can be accomplished, is better than an unhappy marriage, or what (one author) called “holy deadlock. . . .”
The gradual weakening of religious strictures against divorce has also tended to make it more acceptable; all but the most fundamental U. S. Protestants now accept civil divorce—and the “new moralists” go even further. In destructive family situations. . . “divorce is the good thing to do: not merely excusable, but rather the greatest of all goods. The divorce rate is a social symptom of increased respect for personal freedom and for genuine marriage commitment.”
That is a far cry from Christ’s unequivocal condemnation of the Mosaic right of Jewish husbands to banish their wives at will: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The bonds of Christian matrimony have been slowly loosening ever since the 12th century church began granting annulments and separations. . . .
Time’s plea is therefore not simply that the laws governing divorce be brought up to date, but that they be also liberalized to the extent that divorce can readily be granted to anyone who can’t make marriage work. And in this, evidently, the majority of the churches in this country concur.
However, to determine whether or not a marriage can work, Time proposes that there be “a complete new approach that totally banishes ‘fault’ and all its sleazy consequences. The most sensible solution would be a system that readily grants divorce only after skilled clinicians confirm that a marriage is beyond repair. In many cases, divorce might be harder to get; in all, it would be far more humane.”
All of this, as Time readily admits, carries the whole institution of marriage far away from the Scriptural truths concerning this union which is a picture of the relation between Christ and His Church. Inasmuch as the world promotes this, it inevitably erodes the foundations of society; to the extent that the church supports this, it departs from her only foundation—the Word of God and loses her right to exist. Obviously the world has no real solution to this problem. The solution is, after all, to be found in the words everyone pushes aside: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” How important it becomes to maintain the purity of marriage and instruct our children diligently in its holiness and importance.
THE INSTITUTE OF THE CHURCH
In a recent issue of the Presbyterian Journal two articles appeared (articles with which the editorial staff of the Journal did not agree) which spoke of the office of the ministry. The first was a weary and soul wrenching cry of discouragement written by a minister in despair over the fruits of his labor. The second article (written by this same minister) gives a brief description of his conception of what religion really is. In this second article the author makes some statements concerning the institute of the church which are worthy of some attention. He writes:
. . .I believe that our local church must be willing to relinquish her present forms if this seems to be the movement of the Spirit in our mid-century. By forms, I mean our traditional patterns of worship and preaching . . . .our traditional patterns of speech and language, including our creeds, and our traditional patterns of evangelism. . . .
I am not too committed to preserve the institution in. the forms which we now have. I am committed to preserve the institution in some form.
I should be very happy for the laity to run the institution the way they feel led by the Spirit of God in order to strengthen it, and to assist them in any way I can. In assisting the laity to run the church I can assist in helping to interpret how the Christian faith applies outside the church. . . .
I believe, therefore, it may be better for us to use our “captive” time from 9-12 on Sundays for our leadership and some of our people in other ways than public worship. . . .
I believe the church should take part in the revolutions of our day. The local parish should not be detached from the social revolution. If it believes this revolution is from God, it should actively be engaged in supporting it and identifying itself with it. If it believes it is of the devil it should officially throw all of its weight against it. To be detached from it is to forfeit our place in mid-century affairs.
I personally believe the social revolution of our day, for all of its errors and difficulties, for all of its mistakes, is the stirring of the Spirit of God, and that we should support it, even if this should prove detrimental to our institutional life.
All of this could pass unnoticed if it were not for the fact that there is an increasingly loud cry to dispense with the institute of the church in this modern day. This article is but one voice among many others pleading with the church to discard the institutional life. The cry is heard in practically every denomination.
It is perhaps impossible to tell whether this spirit will grow; whether there will indeed be a day when the church no longer exists as institute in the world. But it is well to be warned of the danger. Without the institute there would no longer be officebearers appointed by Christ to rule over God’s heritage and serve the cause of Christian mercy. Without an institute there could not possibly be any longer the official ministry of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the exercise of Christian discipline. Without the institute of the church there would be no rules and regulations, no “Church Order” so that no longer would things be done “decently and in good order.” In short, this would be the end of the Church in every respect.
It is obvious that the tendency is in this direction. The, offices in the church scarcely exist, in most places substituted by a certain “board of directors;” the ministers preach a social gospel, involve themselves in social issues and substitute for the means of grace “programs” of entertainment. Christian discipline is lost and will probably never be brought back; instead of decency and good order, anarchy prevails. The drift is there; the institute is in grave danger. And the trend spells the end of the Church.
—Eugene Carson Blake, stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church, and famous for his “Blake-Pike proposals” of merger, was elected the new leader of the World Council of Churches in the place of Visser ‘t Hooft. It took this large ecumenical (and apostate) body a long time to find a leader of their choice. But the pick was made of a man who will, with his passionate dedication to all forms of ecumenicism, advance the cause of the WCC.
—The Yearbook of American Churches is about to be released. The book gives its annual summary of statistics compiled by the National Council of Churches. The statistics show that 123,307,449 or 64.4% of the population of this country are members of churches. This is a gain. The major groupings are:
Protestants break down as follows in the largest denominations:
National Baptist Inc.—5,500,000
United Presbyterian Church—3,292,204
Lutheran Church – LCA—3,131,062
Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod—2,650,857
American Lutheran Church—2,587,204
Churches of Christ—2,250,000
The figures are quoted from Christianity Today.
—Some of our people may be acquainted with the fact that there is an organization of scientists in this country which devotes itself to a Christian interpretation of science maintaining the infallible inspiration of Scripture, its authority also in all matters of science, creation of specific kinds by God within the creation week, the universality and historicity of the Noahchian flood. The organization is not open to laymen; but, from the Banner we have learned that the publications of this organization can be obtained by those interested in these important questions by writing Prof. W.H. Rusch, 4090 Geddes Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.