For the past several Sundays, the Reformed Witness Hour which is aired over station WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota was followed by an announcement made by the station which is of some interest. I do not have a copy of the announcement; nor do I know whether other stations are following this policy. However, briefly the announcement stated that the station, in an effort to be fair, sometimes airs controversial programs with which listeners might not be in agreement. The announcer invited those who did not agree with views expressed on these programs to write the station and inform it of their objections. If such objectors desired time to answer charges made or to air their own viewpoints, the station would do this.
I am told that this announcement is made periodically over this station, but that only recently has it been made after religious broadcasts, and, more specifically, after the Reformed Witness Hour.
Evidently such an announcement is made in observance of the new ruling recently passed by the Federal Communications Commission in its so-called “Primer of Fairness.” This ruling spells out the steps that radio and television stations are obligated to take in presenting controversial issues including religious programs.
Some of the rulings are bound to have considerable effect upon religious broadcasting. For one thing, the FCC ruled that whenever an individual or an organization is subjected to a “personal attack” over the air, the station must give a copy of the text of the attack to the person or organization attacked along with an offer of free time for a reasonable reply. If no text of the broadcast is available, the station must be prepared to give an “adequate summary.”
Further, a station must maintain an overall broadcast balance. Specifically this means that a station may not carry only evangelical radio programs, but must give opportunity to church liberals to air their views as well. If no liberals request time, the station must use its public service time to accomplish this.
Moreover, if the programs which contain such “attacks” are general without any person or organization specifically named, the station must nevertheless see to it that the “other side” of such controversial issues is also presented to the listening audience.
One station, for example, carried programs attacking the alleged infiltration of our government by communists, the alleged moral weakening, of our homes, schools, and churches which have contributed to, the advance of international communism.” The station owner claimed that he did not offer equal time because he knew of no Communist organizations in his community. The answer of the FCC was interesting. It replied that it did not require him to give equal time to Communists, but that “the matters listed raise controversial issues of public importance on which persons other than communists hold contrasting, views; There are responsible contrasting viewpoints on the most effective methods of combating communism and communist infiltration.” The FCC ordered the station to give equal time to them.
The FCC has the power to revoke or refuse to renew the, license of say station which, in its opinion, does not comply with this ruling.
It is not difficult to see how a ruling of this nature can easily frighten stations into avoiding all controversial programs. No station wants to bother with sending copies of “attacks” around the country to those attacked. No station cares to give its time free of charge to, anyone who wishes to answer such attacks. It could, in time, mean the end of our radio broadcasting; for nothing is quite so controversial as the proclamation of the true gospel of salvation in a world of wickedness.
REGENERATION AND TOTAL DEPRAVITY
An interesting question and answer recently appeared in The Banner concerning the above subject. We quote the question and answer in full.
What effect does regeneration have on the total depravity of man?
Perhaps it would be well to remind ourselves of the meaning of total depravity. It does not mean that man is devilish in his entire being.
It does not imply that all a man is and does is undiluted evil. But it means that every part of his being has the infection of sin. No phase of his being is exempt from it.
In unregenerate man, that depravity is conditioned by the common workings of God’s Spirit. In his common grace, sin is restrained and the common virtues are practiced.
In regenerate man, that depravity is radically modified. Regeneration is positive in its operation. It gives a new direction, a new drive, and new power in a man’s life. It does not cancel out total depravity—vestiges of sin remain to one’s dying day—but it relieves it substantially because now, under the impulse of the Spirit, he embraces the truth as it is revealed in Christ, gives his love to God and fellow man, and voluntarily seeks to walk the God-glorifying way.
Of course, this answer, inasmuch as it deals with the question of common grace, is acceptable Christian Reformed theology, and one could expect no different from a son of that Church. Notice however: 1) that total depravity is defined as being an “infection” of every part of man. This is Arminian terminology, for the Arminians love to use the terms “infection” and “sickness” to define sin. I have before me an avowed Arminian theologian who 1s discussing in his dogmatics the question of total depravity. He insists strenuously that he believes this doctrine, and says concerning it: “When we affirm that man is totally depraved, we do not mean that he is degraded from his rank as a man. He has not, indeed, the uprightness and purity which Adam possessed before the fall. It is true, also, that, by reason of sin, the human powers have been greatly disordered, obscured, enfeebled, vitiated in their exercise. Yet man is still a moral being. If the servant of sin, he is voluntarily so. He is able to obey God, or disobey him. Life and death are still set before him. He can still do whatever God requires him to do. Not that be can atone for his sins, or regenerate himself; nor is he required to; but be can yield to gracious influences, whereby be may be made holy.” (“Natural and Revealed Theology,” John J. Butler, p. 200.)
2) I presume Rev. Bratt would be in agreement with this quotation from Butler, and, indeed, there is no detectable difference.
3) There is little difference between common grace and regeneration in this view. Common grace is a power by which “sin is restrained and the common virtues practiced.” Regeneration “gives a new direction, a new drive, and new power in man’s life.” What is supposed to be the difference here between the two?
4) Following from this, regeneration does not even .cancel out total depravity.” Presumably because there never really is any total depravity in man. Nevertheless this is a serious mistake. Scripture speaks of regeneration as creating a “new man.” It speaks of the regenerated man as conformed again to the image of Christ. It speaks of a regenerated man as “being dead to sin” and “alive unto God.” It is true that “vestiges of sin remain until ones dying day”; but total depravity is forever gone nonetheless by the work of regeneration. And this is because regeneration is far more than a new drive and a new power in man which gives him a new direction. It is the implanting of the life of Jesus Christ, the radical, spiritual change of heart that results in a completely new man from a spiritual and moral viewpoint.
How beautifully our Canons express this in III & IV, 11, 12; and how different is this from Rev. Bratt’s explanation.
TROUBLES WITH CHURCH UNION
The Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America was formed 92 years ago and was until recently a large association of conservative Lutherans. It was composed of four different denominations: The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod with 350,000 members; the Evangelical Lutheran Synod with 14,000; the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod with 2,684,000 members; and the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches with 20,500 members. Recently two denominations left the organization—the Lutheran Church, Wisconsin Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. They left because they charged especially the other churches with liberalism. The charge was based upon the fact that especially the Missouri Lutherans were seeking closer relationships with the far more liberal Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church.
The Lutheran Synodical Conference, after being so greatly decimated in numbers discussed the advisability of disbanding as its main order of business. They decided, however, to continue in order to seek closer contacts with overseas Lutheran Churches in the hope of broadening their organization to include them.
The Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, apart from their “died-in the wool” Lutheran views, are generally considered to be very conservative, maintaining the infallible inspiration and literal interpretation of Scripture and the view of 24 hour creation days. The Missouri Synod Lutherans, while once very conservative, have drifted the last years towards greater liberalism.
In our last column we mentioned briefly the first encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI entitled “Ecclesiam Suam” or “His Church.” The significant part of this encyclical, and the section that attracted the most attention, dealt with the subject of papal primacy. The section reads as follows:
. . . It is not in our power to compromise with the integrity of the Faith or the requirements of charity. We foresee that this will cause misgiving and opposition, but now that the Catholic Church has taken the initiative in restoring the unity of Christ’s fold, it will not cease to go forward with all patience and consideration . . . .
In reflecting on this subject, it distresses us to see how we, the promoter of such reconciliation, are regarded by many of the separated brethren as being its stumbling block, because of the primacy of honor and jurisdiction which Christ bestowed upon the Apostle Peter, and which we have inherited from him.
Do not some of them say that if it were not for the primacy of the Pope, the reunion of the separated churches with the Catholic Church would be easy?
We beg the separated brethren to consider the inconsistency of this position, not only in that, without the Pope the Catholic Church would no longer be Catholic, but also because, without the supreme, efficacious and decisive pastoral office of Peter the unity of the Church of Christ would utterly collapse.
It would be vain to look for other principles of unity in place of the one established by Christ Himself. As St. Jerome justly wrote: “There would arise in the Church as many sects as there are priests.” We should also like to observe that this fundamental principle of Holy Church has not as its objective a supremacy of spiritual pride and human domination. It is a primacy of service, of ministration, of love it is not empty rhetoric which confers upon the Vicar of Christ the title of “Servant of the Servants of God.”
From this it is evident that the Pope has no intention of abandoning his claims as Vicar of Christ and Head of all Christendom. This was a bitter blow to many Protestants, for they (especially of the World Council of Churches) bad already indicated somewhat their readiness to unite with Rome if this doctrine of the Church could somehow be toned down.