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CAN NATURE BE TRICKED BY SCIENCE? 

An interesting article recently appeared in a local newspaper discussing the subject of control of the weather under the above title. The article speaks of progress that has already been made, and claims that, in another decade or so, weather will be so completely controlled by man that he will be able to make it rain where water is needed; he will be able to prevent rain where it. might do damage; he will be able to take the destructive power of lightning out of storms to prevent forest fires and the destruction of property; he will be able to force clouds to drop their moisture before hail forms; he will be able to stop hurricanes and tornadoes before they form, or at least before they can do any damage. Admitting that scientists still face many grave problems in connection with weather control, this article is nevertheless highly optimistic about the future. The chief obstacles seem to be only the minor matters of getting enough young men to study the science of meteorology and to get more money to further progress in the field. 

The title of the article aptly describes the attitude that scientists take towards these problems. Evidently when they speak about tricking nature, they really mean that they are attempting to trick God. 

There is little doubt about it that, to some measure, men will be successful in accomplishing these goals. They have done many amazing things before in their efforts to subdue creation; and they will do many amazing things in the future. 

But they forget that God gives them all the strength to do this; and all their mighty developments are under His sovereign control. Therefore, although they shall indeed subdue the creation and use its powers to serve themselves, they will never be able to escape the curse. The power of creation that destroys is the power of the curse, of God in the world. Above this curse man can never rise; no matter how hard he tries. There will always be pestilences that stalk the land; there will always be earthquakes to demolish what man proudly builds; and it all is the language of God’s wrath against sin. The creation shall only be lifted up above the curse through Christ and the power of His redemption. That is why these very catastrophes which man tries to overcome are signs of Christ’s coming that shall persist until the end. 

The evidence of all this is evident from the fact that men solve one problem only to open the doors to another. They eliminate one disease by their wonderful medicines only to face two more diseases, more horrible than the one they overcame. They seem to relieve the creation from the curse a little in one place, only to increase its force somewhere else. There is also a hint of this in the article. The suggestion has been made by scientists to blast off the high peaks of the Rockies. Presumably this would change air currents to such an extent that much of the Arizona and Nevada deserts would become arable. The danger is however, that the entire fertile Midwest would probably become another Death Valley. By sprinkling vast quantities of coal dust over the polar ice caps, sufficient heat from the sun would be absorbed to melt the vast quantities of ice there. The result would be huge tundras of prime farmland to feed the hungry of the earth. The trouble is that by melting the ice caps, so much water would be released that New York, London, and other low-lying areas would be flooded. 

This is the vanity of science without God.

PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

Ever since the United States Supreme Court ruled last year that recitations of prayers in classrooms were unconstitutional, the issue has been hotly debated over the country. Some recent news items: 

—Fifteen states have refused to discontinue prayer and Bible reading in their state school systems. With the exception of Indiana, Idaho,, and Kansas, these states are all in the South. 

—Before the House of Representatives there are no less than 147 resolutions proposing 35 different constitutional amendments to permit devotions in the public school system. The resolutions are so far bottled up in committee, but petitions are being circulated to get the bills to the House floor. 218 signatures are required for this; 167 have been obtained. Yet most congressional experts give the bill only very slim chances of ever becoming law. 

—Although people and churches are pretty much split on the issue, the major Protestant denominations have come out against such amendments. Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian denominations, as well as the National Council of Churches, are all opposed. Roman Catholics are divided, Cardinals Spellman and Gushing both favoring some sort of amendment. Jews are also opposed. 

—The Presbyterian Journal cites an example of the foolishness the controversy has started: in Maryland teachers may presently be permitted to lead their pupils in a moment of’ silent meditation. The legislature has passed such a law, but has included in the law a provision allowing teachers and students to hold a Bible during this moment. The Attorney General of the state takes a dim view of this. He is afraid, that the teacher will read the Bible to herself while she is meditating. “The teacher’s reading of the Bible, even though to herself, cannot help but give the exercise . . . an official religious significance,” the Attorney claims. 

In the meantime, Atheist Madalyn Murray, the woman who started all this, is striking out in different directions. She claims to have forsaken Christianity at the age of 13, after she had read the Bible. Now she boasts that reason is her only faith and that no one has ever been able to best her in an argument. 

However all this may be, she is determined to do a lot more to further her atheism. Last month she started suit in Maryland courts to prohibit compulsory meditation in the schools. (Cf. above.) Shortly she intends to go to court to strike down laws which make church property tax exempt. Also on her list of targets are government-paid, military chaplains, courtroom oaths that invoke the name of God, and income tax deductions for church contributions. She is also head of the Freethought Society of America, Inc., which finances her court cases; and of Other Americans, Inc., which owns 80 acres of land in Kansas which is to be used for an “Atheist University of the Americas.”

There are a lot of abuses in this matter of tax exemption of church property. Time speaks of tax exempt revenue that the Roman Catholic Knights receive from land on which Yankee Stadium stands, revenue from a Detroit steel warehouse and a Connecticut steel mill. Jesuit-run Loyola University in New Orleans pays no taxes on its revenues from the radio and television stations which it owns. 

The legal arguments will no doubt be settled in time; but it seems that the general trend in this country is surely towards Mrs. Murray’s atheism.

ECUMENICISM

There is progress in the merger talks going on between the Reformed Church of America and the Presbyterian Church US (Southern). A joint committee expressed the opinion “that there are no major impediments between our two denominations” in the basic fields of theology, worship, and polity. However, unity is not going to come this year or even in 1965. Maybe by the end of the decade, The major stumbling block seems to be: Who’s going to join whom? This gets a little involved, but it goes something like this: The Presbyterian Church US, under the influence of its more liberal members, officially is asking the Reformed Church what they think about including the United Presbyterian Church in the USA into their talks. The United Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, is deep in discussions with the Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Evangelical United Brethren, and United Church of Christ denominations. In fact, this latter proposal for merger originated with Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church. However, these talks are going rather badly at present. (See below.) The Reformed Church in America is not so sure it wants to get involved in this big merger discussion. But there are also more conservative elements in the Presbyterian Church US (Southern) that want no part of such mergers. 

Other Presbyterians are also merging. The General Synods of both the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America and of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church both voted unanimously to approve union. Now the question will go to the presbyteries. If the presbyteries also agree, next year’s Synods must approve once more. 

The Reformed Presbyterian Church is descended from the Scottish Covenanters and has been in existence in this country since 1736. It members 4 presbyteries and 27 congregations. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church separated from the Presbyterian Church in the USA in the middle of the 1930’s. It has 12 presbyteries and 80 congregations. 

According to the Presbyterian Journal, the plan for union was approved on these bases: 

1) “A constitution based on the Westminster Confession of Faith in an early American form with only minor changes, the Westminster Shorter Catechism in its original form, the Larger Catechism with minor changes, and Presbyterian forms of government and discipline similar to those now in use by the two denominations.” 

2) A. warning against association with churches that have rejected the absolute authority of Scripture. 

3) A resolution which permits belief in pre-millennialism (a major issue among these Presbyterians,) as long as that belief is not otherwise inconsistent with the system of doctrine of the Bible and the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Church.” 

4) The name to be given the new denomination is The Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod.


Merger talks have been going on for some time now between the United Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical United Brethren Church, and United Church of Christ. (See above) These talks were first proposed by Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church and Bishop James Pike from the Episcopalians. They have become known as the “Blake-Pike Merger Talks, which, if successful, would create a denomination of 20,000,000 members. 

There seemed to have been a fair amount of progress made until the Methodists recently threw the whole thing out of gear. Methodists are suddenly very uncooperative. Although they decided to continue talks, they are looking elsewhere for other merger possibilities—particularly to English Methodism. The main objections Methodists have are: 1) They don’t like the doctrine of apostolic succession, which is strongly maintained by Episcopalians. 2) They insist on open communion, also opposed to Episcopalians. 3) They are at odds with the United Church of Christ and with the Disciples who are pretty much congregational in their church polity. The Methodists emphasize more the authority of higher assemblies. 4) They disagree with the Disciples on baptism only by immersion. 5) They are afraid that by merging with these other churches they will damage their relationships with Methodists in other countries outside the United States, for “the Methodist Church is a world church,” they say. 6) They are afraid that their stand against alcohol and gambling is going to be threatened by the more tolerant attitude of the other denominations towards these social ills. 

This is particularly a bitter pill because it was originally hoped that the Methodists would be a bridge between the “high church” Episcopalians and the “low church” Disciples. 

But notice that there is no dispute over doctrine. Doctrine has evidently been eased out the door as irrelevant to merger talks. The truth means nothing to these churches. And that implies that Christ means nothing to them. 

—H. Hanko