END OF AFRICAN MISSIONS?
The missionary work of the church in Africa is in deep trouble. As the African nations emerge from paganism and take their place on the scene of Twentieth Century History, they show an increasing hatred of the white man’s church and of the work of missions. Some evidences of this:
—In Uganda twelve Roman Catholic priests were expelled from the land. The charge against them was smuggling arms, but reliable reports indicated they were only helping refugees from the fighting between Uganda and Sudan.
—Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere informed the churches in his country that he would tolerate no preaching but that which supported his own brand of social revolution. And this is only one instance among many in which African leaders are attempting to force churches to become instruments of their own political aspirations.
—Almost all of today’s African leaders are themselves products of mission schools. But this does not prevent them from taking a hostile position over against the Church now that they are in positions of power. The leader of Uganda has nationalized all missionary schools and assumes the right to appoint teachers in these schools, many of whom have no intention of giving religious instruction. Tanzania has recently forced all missions to give up landholdings not presently in use.
—Even in white-ruled countries (Rhodesia and South Africa), mission work faces rough going. The reason is different: usually these governments are suspicious that white missionaries are too sympathetic towards the movement of black rule. Rhodesia is making plans to turn over control of 2,781 missionary-run private schools (95% of the elementary educational system) to tribal chiefs who are paid by the government and who can expect to teach government policy. South Africa has reduced missionary visas from three years to one and has, in several instances, refused extensions when present visas expired.
—Much more dangerous to the churches in Africa is the growing demand that the churches incorporate in their teaching and worship the indigenous culture of the Africans. By this is not meant that the Scriptures be translated into the natives’ languages or that the churches train black ministers and teachers. Rather, the governments are insisting that pagan religion itself be introduced into the worship and teachings of the church. In Kenya, e.g., suggestions have been made that the Bible be rewritten so that the first man and woman are not Adam and Eve but Gikuyu and Moombi, the primordial spirit-beings of old pagan legend. Others are insisting that the Christian doctrines of sin and salvation be substituted for by something which speaks more directly to African needs in these days of rising nationalism; teachings which stress the place of Africa on the world stage.
All of this surely points to the end of mission work in the days ahead and reminds us of the coming of the Lord when the gospel will have been preached in the whole world.
LUTHERANISM 450 YEARS AFTER LUTHER
This year is the 450th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In this day of ecumenical activity we can expect that the Reformation will be discussed in the next couple of months in its relation to church merger and return to Rome. But we can also expect that there will be studied attempts to deny the significance of the Protestant Reformation in efforts to pave the way back to Roman Catholicism. Already some aspects of this subject are under discussion, especially among Lutherans.
Apparently some Lutherans had hoped that with the softening attitude of Rome towards Protestantism and with the 450th anniversary of the Reformation in the offing, the Romish Church would finally relent in its condemnation of Luther and lift the excommunication which was imposed on him. But it seems as if these hopes are not to be realized. The Vatican has given no indication that it intends to alter its stand on this point. Rather, the word from Rome is that any change in Luther’s status would involve too great a change in Roman Catholic doctrine. But Lutherans find solace in the fact that Luther has already been “indirectly rehabilitated” by the Second Vatican Council. Lutherans point out that Luther’s theology is being carefully studied by Romish theologians and that many of his hymns are now sung at worship services in the Romish Church. They insist too that liturgical reforms in the Romish Church are directly due to the influence of the German Reformer. And, almost with a sigh of disappointment, they opine that if only Luther had not been so sharp in his attacks on the papacy, even now there would be possibility that Rome would restore Luther to good standing within the Church.
If we can imagine that Luther were an observer to these men who are interested in changing his standing in the Romish Church, we can also almost hear Luther’s bellow of disgust. The petty and superficial reforms of Vatican II would be of little interest to the man who stood so firmly on the sole authority of Scripture. And he would, with some choice words, tell those who want his status altered to mind their own business. When he defiantly burned the papal bull of excommunication, he snapped his fingers in the face of the pope and said: “As thou (Pope) hast vexed the Holy One of the Lord, may the eternal fire vex thee!”
But all this does not keep eager Lutherans from trying their best to get back to Rome. The 45 year old Council of the Lutheran Student Association of America has recently passed a resolution urging the three major Lutheran Churches in this country (American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America, and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) to seek organic union with the Roman Catholic Church. The resolution was unanimously adopted and was intended “to inject a note of hope for church unity into the observance of the 450th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. As a basis for this resolution, the Council pointed out that Luther never intended to establish a separate denomination, but wanted only to reform the Romish Church. The separation which did occur, the Council insisted “was not intended but forced by a series of historic and ecclesiastical misfortunes.”
There is a small element of truth in this assertion; although what the Council could conceivably mean by “ecclesiastic and historic misfortunes” is a mystery. At any rate, it is correct that Luther had, in the early years of his work of reformation, no thought of separating from the Roman Catholic Church. But there are two elements which are conveniently forgotten. The one is that Luther himself did not (even when he nailed his theses to the chapel door) understand the full implications of his own position—especially with respect to the doctrines of the sole authority of Scripture and justification by faith alone. Only as he developed in the truth of Scripture did he come to see how deep and fundamental was the cleavage between the Church in which once he had been a priest and the truth of God’s Word. Secondly, even then he might have continued to fight for reform within the Church, for he understood very well that this was his calling. But it was soon apparent that the Romish Church had no thought at all of reform. And the stronger Luther insisted upon it, the more vehement was the opposition. It all resulted in Luther’s excommunication. And there was really no alternative. Luther came to understand this very well. But from this position of adamant opposition to Luther the Romish Church has not moved till this day. Hence the choice is between remaining true to Luther’s teachings (something which American Lutheranism has long ago ceased to do) and staying away from Rome, or denying all Luther ever stood for and rushing back into Rome’s deadly embrace.
THE BATTLE OVER ABORTION
The battle to liberalize abortion laws continues. An interesting development is to be found in the views of Mr. Arthur H. Jones, a state representative in North Carolina, and the one most responsible for recent passage of a liberalized abortion bill in that state. At present, the law reads that abortion may be legal if there is grave danger to the life or health of the mother, if the child to be born might have serious physical or mental defect, or if pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. But Mr. Jones has made clear that he thinks this law is not nearly adequate, but only a first step. He is willing to settle for such a first step for the time being because he is aware of the fact that public opinion, for the moment; will not allow for much more. But he has his plans for the future. And the first step in these plans is to re-educate the populace so that they take a different attitude towards abortion. When this has been done, the next step is to make abortion legal for any mother who desires it. The hope is that, if this is done, there will be no more unwanted children in the world. But even this is not enough to satisfy Mr. Jones and those who are in favor of liberalized laws. These people envision, with obvious relish, the time within the next 100 years when every woman desiring a child will have to secure a permit from the government. She would make application to a government agency which would study her case and decide whether or not to issue a permit. The agency could decide to refuse such a permit on the grounds that there were already too many people of her race; or that her family could not provide financial security for the child; or that she and/or her husband did not have a sufficiently high intelligence to be parents; or that the area in which they lived was already too densely populated; or some such reason as this. If, nevertheless, the couple went ahead and had their child, the state would then insist on an abortion or take away the child under the guise of promoting the general welfare.
This is the ultimate aim of those who favor abortion; and it sounds perilously close to what Pharaoh tried to do in Egypt to the children of Israel.
Protestant religious leader Dr. Paul Ramsey, thinks it foolish even to debate abortion laws since he is convinced that within a few years drugs will be available which make it possible for a woman to bring about an abortion privately in her home. And, perhaps, Dr. Ramsey is right. Already there are so-called “morning after” birth control pills: and drugs to bring about abortions cannot be too far away.
Strikingly, 48 experts in the fields of gynecology, law, sociology, and religion recently came together to discuss the problem. They came from all over the world for three days of discussions sponsored by the Harvard Divinity School and the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. Their aim was to attempt some kind of consensus on the whole question when studied from a religious, medical, legal and sociological point of view: But their efforts were not entirely successful. They agreed that the problem was far too complex for easy solutions. But they also agreed on a couple of important points. They agreed that the unborn child, from the first days of existence, was a human being, and that the death of this human being for the sake of convenience was immoral.
This is a major point. And it certainly agrees with Scripture which teaches that at the moment of conception the God-created person is united with the conceived nature in the womb of the mother. The meaning is, quite clearly, that the unborn child is a personal being. As such, abortion is murder. It makes no difference whether the act is done before birth or after birth; the name of the crime is still murder. Abortion must be condemned. The Church of Christ must maintain the abiding principles of the law of God.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN SPAIN
Protestants have always had a difficult time of it in Spain where the heavy hand of Roman Catholicism comes very close to overt persecution. Recently the prospects of a new religious liberty bill brought a collective sigh of relief from Protestants in Spain who hoped that the worst was over. But they are now having some second thoughts about it since the law has been heavily amended. According to the Presbyterian Journal, the law requires among other things:
—that non-Roman groups must submit annually a complete list of members to the Minister of Justice.
—that the church’s financial records must be available for inspection and the government may intervene if it believes a budget is being improperly administered.
—that anyone who has ever taken priestly vows is forbidden to register as a non-Roman Catholic clergyman. There is fear that the law will be used to force former priests who have become Protestant ministers to resign.
—that places of worship must be approved by the state and permission to hold any religious service elsewhere must be obtained from the state.
—that a register of non-Roman ministers must be kept by the Ministry of Justice.
—that any minister which includes home visitation as a part of evangelism is forbidden to do this.
Some Protestants insist they had more freedom before the new liberty law was passed.