A VOICE OF PROTEST
The main ecclesiastical news of the day concerns the constant movements towards church merger and ecumenicity.
Once in a while, however, there is a voice raised in protest against all this; and this voice sometimes comes from unexpected places.
One such voice recently came from the Lutheran Church—Wisconsin Synod.
Our readers are aware of the fact that the Lutheran Churches in America have been badly split ever since Lutheranism came to this country. Recently all this has changed. Some Lutheran Churches merged into what is now the American Lutheran Church; other Lutheran denominations banded together to form the Lutheran Church in America.
Two of the more conservative branches of the Lutheran Churches (The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church—Wisconsin Synod) also engaged in a merger of sorts some years ago. It was called a Synodical Conference with the intended purpose “of encouraging and strengthening one another in faith and confession.” They worked together in various welfare and missionary programs.
But recently, in their biennial convention in Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Synod voted to break all ties with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and go their own and separate way. The issue was the desire of the Missouri Synod to work along with the National Lutheran Council. Those who belong to the Wisconsin Synod (at least the overwhelming majority) consider the National Lutheran Council to be a center of downright heresy that only encourages the “false ecumenicism” of the modern Church world.
What is particularly striking is the stand that this Wisconsin Synod takes on some of the major issues of the day. This group of the Lutheran Church still insists that their pastors must teach that the Bible cannot err even in its smallest details; that God created the world in six days of 24 hours and not in long periods of time; that Moses is the sole author of the Pentateuch.
It seems as if, on these critical issues at least, the Lutheran Church—Wisconsin Synod stands more firmly on Scripture than many Reformed Churches.
REPUDIATION OF THE REFORMATION
Every child brought up in a Reformed home knows that the main truth of Scripture that led to the Reformation in the 16th century was the truth of justification by faith.
This was the doctrine that Martin Luther defended over against the evil doctrine of salvation by works which was taught in the Roman Catholic Church. This whole doctrine was recently being re-examined by the Lutherans who still bear the name of the great Reformer. In Helsinki. Finland delegates from all over the world representing all branches of the Lutheran Church met in the fourth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation. This subject was the main subject of discussion.
Although the assembly did not decide anything definite yet, it seems as if this fundamental truth of Scripture is going to be discarded.
Many, many objections were raised against the doctrine of justification by faith. Some of them are very revealing.
In the first place, it was argued that the New Testament itself seems to refute this doctrine—especially in the book of James. Delegates maintained that James taught a different doctrine than Paul taught; and it is an open question who is right.
Secondly, some argued that this doctrine was modified and altered by many branches of the Reformation. They claimed (and this is patently false) that Calvin, for example, really taught something different from Luther on this point. But, it was urged, nobody knows any more what to do with this doctrine. To quote one delegate: “For the church today it is clearly an embarrassment.”
Thirdly, it was claimed that the doctrine just didn’t fit in with our world anymore. Most people didn’t have the slightest idea what it meant. The prominent theology of the day is not justification by faith but justification by works. The emphasis falls today on doing good, on earning salvation, on justifying one’s self, on working for God. It ought therefore to be discarded as old-fashioned and outdated. It can perhaps be profitably filed away in the archives of the church as a historical curiosity; but it ought to be eliminated from the confessions and, at all costs, kept out of the pulpit.
Naturally, all this led to further discussion concerning the way back to the Roman Catholic Church. It was argued that nothing would do more good to heal the breach with Rome than to get rid of this embarrassing doctrine that nobody believes. It was said that perhaps it was all a misunderstanding anyway in the days of Martin Luther; that it is high time that this be cleared up and Luther’s place in the Church be put into a different perspective.
And Roman Catholic theologians are rejoicing.
It all makes one feel sick. God raised up Luther in the history of the Church and used him to release the Church of Christ from the shackles of Rome’s apostasy. Because of that glorious event, the Church of Christ has maintained the truth once more since that day to today. Now all that this courageous man of God stood for is being thrown on the ecclesiastical dump. And, at bottom is the terrible fact that the Word of God is despised and hated.
THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY
August 15 was the date of the feast of the Assumption of Mary in the Roman Catholic Church. A recent article in the Roman Catholic paper, “Our Sunday Visitor,” described this doctrine and explained why the feast was important for all Roman Catholics the world over.
But, more than that, it gives to us some idea of how evil the Roman Catholic Church really is. Luther called the pope an antichrist; and all the Reformers spoke of that Church as being apostate. Some people today say that it has improved and is still improving. This article shows clearly that it has not.
And this article is, in a small way, the proof that any Protestants who want to go back to Rome will have an awfully lot of evil to swallow to do it.
The author of this article first describes what the Assumption of Mary was. It was the taking to heaven of Mary in her body. It was different from the Ascension of Christ because Mary was taken to heaven “as a painted autumn leaf is wafted up by the gentle breeze.” Jesus went to heaven by His own power “as a plane soars off by the might of its own engine.”
Besides, the assumption of Mary means that she is the only one (besides the Lord Himself) who was taken bodily to heaven. Jesus and Mary are the only ones who are in heaven in their glorified bodies. (Has this learned writer forgotten about Moses and Elijah and Enoch and the bodies of the saints that were raised at the time of Jesus’ resurrection?
He then proceeds to give his proof which is really of two kinds. The first proof is that it has been declared to be a true doctrine by the infallible Roman Catholic Church, by which he means the pope. He admits that there is no “crystal-clear” text that teaches it. He argues only on the basis of tradition and the pronouncements of the pope.
Secondly he argues that it is a logical doctrine. But since it is very difficult to see how his “logic” is really logical, it is best to quote him at this point.
When you get down to it, the Assumption is as logical as the multiplication table. It is as natural that our Blessed Lord must bring His Holy Mother up to heaven as that the sunbeam should draw up the dew. Figure it out. The decaying of the human body in the grave is one of the penalties of original sin. But by the Immaculate Conception, God exempted Mary, His-Mother-to-be, from original sin, and therefore from its penalties, specifically here from disintegration.
When you consider the relation between Mary and Jesus, that of Mother and Son, was it fitting that the immaculate body from which the Omnipotent took His own flesh, should crumble to bits like a dry leaf? Should the Mother of God become the mold of earth? Should she who was first among creatures, before whom archangels bowed down, be overrun with boring worms? Does not the very thought seem sacrilegious?
Go down to our National Museum in the District of Columbia or to the stately mansion at Mount Vernon and you will find, carefully preserved under glass, the uniform of General Washington. If our grateful country so carefully preserves the mere clothing of its so-called Father, would not Almighty God preserve, not just the clothing but the very body of His own Immaculate Mother? The power of God could do it. The love of God would do it. And a long tradition down the centuries and a universal belief across the Catholic world says that the power of God and the love of God did do it.
Perhaps a pious imagination would see flights of angels whirling down from heaven, wheeling over Mary’s tomb, and then the power of God touching her, and the marble mask of death softening into a smile, and Our Lady floating upwards, trailing clouds of glory, soaring past legions of shimmering angels and archangels, finally reaching her throne as the Mother of God. If astronauts are welcomed by bands and flags and paper blizzards and the cheers of a happy city, would heaven be outdone for the home-coming of its Queen?
And the last paragraph is the clinching argument. “Maybe Our Blessed Lord after His Ascension into heaven was just lonely for His Mother, and brought her up to join Him. This would be no more for Him than for one of us to send our Mother the plane fare. When you look at it through the eyes of love, the Assumption seems simple indeed.”
The conclusion of the matter is that we are taught (by this assumption of Mary) to avoid undue emphasis on bodily beauty as the world does today. (While this is, of course true, it is somewhat difficult to see how precisely this follows.)
These evil doctrines the Roman Catholic Church clings to tenaciously while they teach unity. You may be sure that they will never give them up; and probably will not have to give them up to get most Protestants back to them.
RIGHT TO REVOLT
In “The Banner” a reader asks whether the American Revolution was justifiable from a Christian point of view. The reader admits that the colonies suffered unjustly, but wants to know whether this excused their revolt since the Jews also suffered injustices at the hands of the Romans in the days of Christ Who taught “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s . . . ”
The answer is given that this position is correct. Referring to Calvin and Kuyper the position is taken that revolt is justified only when religious liberties are taken away and the citizen cannot worship God according to the dictates of his conscience. But even then revolt would only be justified if the lower magistrates (on a city and state level, for example) led the revolt.
The American Revolution does not fit these requirements, and is therefore to be condemned. The reasons for revolt then were social and economic.
This is a controversial answer to an important and interesting question—especially in the Christian Reformed Church where throughout grade school and high school undersigned was taught just the opposite.
Nevertheless, I am convinced that the writer is correct and that the American Revolution was a sin.
However, it still remains a question whether revolt is not always wrong—even for religious reasons. I believe that a Christian is always called to submit to the state even when he is persecuted by the authorities. He cannot obey if he is asked to disobey God; but he may not seek the overthrow of his government even then.