THE PROOF OF IT ALL
It has been repeatedly argued in the Standard Bearerthat for anyone of our schools to accept federal aid would inevitably result in some form of government control of education. There is sufficient evidence that this is true. But some people, for whatever motives, remain unconvinced. Nevertheless the evidence is growing and leaves the point beyond dispute.
In church-related colleges such as Hope College (related to the Reformed Church in America and located in Holland, Michigan) and Calvin College in Grand Rapids it is required of all students that they attend chapel exercises twice a week. In the March 16, 1968 edition of the Grand Rapids Press an item appeared concerning the problems which Hope College is now facing because they receive federal aid. Ninety-nine students have not fulfilled their chapel requirements in the second semester. They are currently being treated for this, with the possibility of suspension from school.
But the West Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has entered the picture. How they were brought into the matter (whether by direct request by some disobedient student or students) is not related in the Press article. But they have been asked to investigate whether this rule on compulsory chapel attendance does not violate the constitutional separation of church and state. And the issue is precisely that Hope College receives federal and state funds.
In a telling quote from the chairman of the ACLU’s Church and State Committee the Press says:
(Hope’s acceptance of public monies to carry out its programs) raises a serious question as to the propriety of its compulsory religious practices. It would appear that the college cannot have it both ways. It must decide whether it will be a private or a quasi-public institution. It is our hope that a meeting with college officials will assist the college in facing up to its responsibilities under its present changing circumstances.
The point is that the ACLU Board takes the position that because Hope College receives federal and state funds it has become at least partly a publicly-supported institution. If this is so, then the college cannot insist on compulsory chapel exercises in the light of recent Supreme Court rulings which specify that no religious exercises may be performed in public institutions.
This is, of course, not a direct interference of the government itself in an institution to which is given federal aid. But the implications are obvious and identical. Supposing that there would be a court case on the issue—which is not an impossibility. Such a court case would have far-reaching implications. If the courts should decide that any school receiving federal funds is, to that extent, a publicly supported institution, that school would naturally fall under the rulings of the Supreme Court and would have to abandon all semblance of religious education.
The trouble is that it is quite possible that Hope College’s very existence as a college is dependent upon these government funds. It is quite possible that the college cannot continue if these funds are cut off. The only alternative then is to abandon the teaching of any religion.
And this could happen to any school receiving government aid. Any time the ACLU would want to bring a case to court against a school receiving public money but teaching religion, it would seem to have a strong case. And federal funds are like a narcotic: once dependent upon them it is impossible to abandon them.
Cannot those who are so eager to obtain funds for Christian Schools see these dangers? They become increasingly clear. And yet the clamor, far from being muted, continues unabated.
A reader of the Standard Bearer sent me a tract which had been distributed on the campus of Rutgers University which was evidently intended to be a means of carrying on campus evangelism. It was written by Lon Woodrum, entitled “As The Manner Of Some Is” and has a picture of a hippy on the front cover. Its aim, quite obviously, is to bring the gospel to hippies. Since our correspondent asked to have the pamphlet commented on, we quote it here in full.
I was engaged in conversation with my cynical beatnik friend, Harry Angover, when Spinoza Jones, a one-time beatnik, dropped in. Harry was giving me the business about why he didn’t attend church, coming up with the old excuses and tossing in a few new ones.
“Too many hypocrites!” muttered Harry. Cold, like zero. A man in the pulpit less excited about his product than the TV huckster crying that relief is just a gulp away. Men making like bums snoozing on park benches. Money! All they want is the old spondulix! First Church of the Mausoleum! Dead Men’s bones. . .”
“Friend,” said Spin Jones, “I at one time indulged in such nonsensical diatribes. But I latched on to the light. You give with excuses why you. don’t go to church. Attend me while I give with excuses why I do go!”
“Doubtless I have heard them, one and sundry,” said Harry.
“Its not like you haven’t heard them; it’s like you’ve never heard them from me! Worshipping is for man—the fool has said in his heart there is no God. Where shall he worship? In the beer tavern? Watching TV? Barbecuing hamburgers? Watching the ponies make you a pauper? Sitting at a card table?”
“The vernal wood,” grumbled Harry, “the grassy slope, what’s wrong with them, man?”
“Vernal woods, grassy slopes, bubbling brooks, meadow larks—all are very fine. Friend, have you considered the ineptitude of a bobolink to grapple with theological truths, or even with the social Gospel? That great teacher who talked about ravens and lilies and rainbows called the temple his father’s house, and said it was a house of prayer.”
“Prayers I have heard that were pretty dull, chum,” said Harry.
“Consider also: like what is the finest institution on this wandering island in the sky? Empires waxed and waned, the church moved on. Man, the church would have folded up ages ago, the sloppy way it’s run, if it hadn’t been charged with divinity! Try running a business as the church is run and where are you? And why does the church not fold? Because of the Founder, friend! It’s his church, not yours, not mine. ‘Upon this rock I will build my church.’ And attend me further: the church is the only institution he founded. You are reading me?”
“I am reading you, chum. But I am not close to conversion.”
“It’s not like I’m asking your conversion. It’s like I’m giving with my excuses for attending church. The church is the only institution to which the Master promised the dynamic of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t promise this power to the American Medical Association, the Manufacturers Association, the labor unions, the Democratic or Republican Parties. The church is still the best institution on this gob of stuff called earth. With all its faults and failures, and they are multitudinous.”
“You can say that repeatedly,” growled Harry.
“Indubitably, friend. But when my TV makes like crazy, I call for an electrician. Have you any idea how many phony electricians I’ve met with? But they are not all masquerading! Some of them can fix this TV thing, man! And, observe how many phony politicians rise up. Still, come election time I grab a ballot. I believe in democracy like mad. Behold, how many phony wives men take unto themselves! Yet shall we eschew matrimony? Shall we burn the church because it houses a few phonies, friend?”
Harry wagged his head, “Words, words. . . .”
I make not words, amigo; somebody else made them, I use them. Words express truth – facts. We speak of the church, and my excuses for attending same. I attend an eternal institution! Recall what the Founder said—”The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Consider, only one institution on earth is eternal! Only one shall survive the last crackup. Marriage? Nix! Marriages are not made in heaven, but on earth. They are for this world only; Jesus said so. Consider any other institution you will. All must go. Even the earth must go, and the moon, when the sun makes his supernova. Science says it, man! Only the church shall survive the last big goings on. Believe me. Shall I flee an institution destined for—?”
“A pressing engagement presses me,” said Harry, edging toward the door. Perhaps, at another period…” “Knock on the door of my pad,” said Spin, “or invite me to knock on the door of yours. We have scarcely launched this dialogue regarding excuses for staying away from church or attending same. Nor have we called in the firepower from the old book. Like in Hebrews, where it says like this: ‘Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.'”
Harry, at the door, turned. “It’s not like I’m utterly hardheaded. It’s like I have to be utterly convinced.”
Harry went out and Spinoza Jones turned to me, and said, “It’s not like I like to argue. It’s like I don’t like to hear a man giving with excuses for not attending the Lord’s house!”
Friend, have you been making with some excuses like Harry? Well, let’s knock it off and be a bit honest. Give it a fair try.
I think you’ll find the church has a lot to offer for a guy’s life who really means business with Jesus Christ.
Do you read me?
Presumably this is an attempt to make the gospel relevant—something one hears a great deal about today. The trouble is (and this is almost inevitable) that in making the gospel “relevant” the gospel itself is lost. The pitch in the pamphlet is low-key. No high pressure salesmanship. It is really only intended to persuade one to try attending church. Nothing more than this is asked of the reader. And this, in itself is quite meaningless. There are thousands who attend church with some regularity who are farther from the kingdom than the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Nor are the reasons given for attending church very persuasive: the church is, after all, quite an amazing institution with some remarkable features about it; the church will probably do you some good—there are advantages of a personal kind to be gained from going. After all, the Scripturally sanctioned reason for attending church is the divine injunction to worship Jehovah in the company of His people. But this will include a lot more than a general appeal to attend some church. It will surely mean that our solemn obligation is to seek out the people of God and find that church where the truth of Scripture is preached in all its purity.
But however all this may be, it is the language which I find particularly distasteful. I am fully aware of the fact that the gospel has to be brought in language which is understandable to man. But this is not the point. The language of the pamphlet is racy, slangy and the type of speech used by a segment of our society which lives in constant rebellion against all authority. To adopt this kind of language as a vehicle for conveying the truth of Scripture borders on making basic concessions to the principles of those who have developed it.
But more. It is so often forgotten that the God of the Scriptures revealed in Jesus Christ is transcendently glorious and holy. Before His face even the angels cover their faces. The profane tendencies of our times are to make all that is holy, common; all that is glorious, stained with the evil of our times; all that is transcendent, earthly. It is a profane spirit, a profanity among men which will not go unpunished. Ought not the very language by which the glorious truth of God is conveyed communicate some sense of the greatness of Him Who dwells in the highest heavens? Ought not even the language in which the gospel is preached serve to, inspire awe and reverence in those who hear it? Does the slangy, guttery language of a hippy culture provide a proper medium to convey the transcendence of the glory of God? It seems too degrading. Anyone “converted by such an appeal opens himself to the inevitable question: “Converted to what?” We tell our students in school when they preach that the holiness of the Word of God demands the best possible use of language. Nothing less will do.
The impression left with me by this pamphlet is that when the church attempts to adopt the methodology of the world the church inevitably makes a fool of herself—in her own eyes and in the eyes of those whom she is trying to reach.
SEPARATING PRESBYTERIANS We have reported in the column before of the heresy trials which have recently took place in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand. A recent issue of the R.E.S. Newsletter carried excerpts of the charges which were brought against Principal L.G. Geering and his response. The charges read in part:
It is an offence to teach doctrines contrary to the Bible as interpreted by the subordinate standards and the Declaratory Act of the Church. Principal Geering has . . . been guilty of grave impropriety of conduct and has taught doctrines as mentioned hereafter and which are clearly doctrinal errors. . . .
(a) The denial of the supernatural and therefore of the Christian doctrine of a transcendent Creator God.
(b) The denial of Holy Scripture as the revelation of God, in written form, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
(c) The denial of the deity and of the supernatural power of Christ.
(d) The denial that Christ was raised from the dead, leaving the tomb empty.
(e) The denial of a life to come.
The reply of Principal Geering was:
Underlying the remarks of my accusers is the premise that faith consists of the holding of certain beliefs. I do not hold this premise, and draw a fairly clear distinction between faith, and a set of beliefs.
Faith is not primarily what you find in creeds, confessions and books of theology. Faith is what exists in people. Christian faith is the response of the whole person to the Word of God that comes to him from the Christian heritage.
Together with a great many others in the church I cannot agree with this view (that the subordinate standards constitute an adequate functional rule wherewith to measure a minister’s doctrinal belief, and assess whether he is properly keeping his vows or not) although in constitutional theory it may seem unanswerable.
It is evident from all this double-talk that Geering has not denied the correctness of the charges brought against him. He justifies himself with the utterly contradictory and nonsensical statement that faith is not what one believes but how one responds to Scripture—whatever that may be.
But the charges were dismissed and evidently the position of Geering was approved by the General Assembly of the New Zealand Presbyterian Church.
As a footnote Christianity Today pointed out that some are leaving the church in New Zealand because of these decisions. But other evangelical Presbyterian Churches have not come to the rescue of these people who have left. The result is, much to the chagrin of many, that the I.C.C.C. of Dr. Carl McIntyre has stepped in to fill the vacuum and threatens to pull the separatist movements into its own “radical” orbit.