SCHOOL TAX RELIEF
Those who have supported Christian Schools have long felt that they are entitled to some relief from the heavy load of paying school taxes to support the Public Schools while also sending their children to private schools and paying the cost of education through tuition and financial drives. If would seem that the most just means of tax relief would be relief from paying the school taxes to support the Public School System. This however, seems like a “piper’s dream.” More realistic (although only slightly so) has been the hope of some legislation that would permit those who pay tuition to deduct this cost from their income taxes. Bills proposing this have been introduced in Congress on several occasions, but have never proceeded any farther than the pigeon holes of Congressional Committees.
Recently a new bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Gerald Ford, Jr., from Michigan and labeled HR95726 has been placed in the hoppers of the House Ways and Means Committee. This bill would, if passed, make tuition a legal tax deduction. It proposes income tax deductions for educational purposes of up to $300.00 per child. It would apply to students in elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges. It would include expenses for tuition, books, fees and supplies.
It is somewhat different from previous bills that have been introduced, and it is this difference which gives it some hope of passage. The difference is that it would apply to expenses for public schools as well as parochial and private schools. This is supposed to give it broader appeal and a better chance for adoption.
Although the bill is before the House Ways and Means Committee, no action has as yet been taken on it by the committee. If it is reported out of committee with a favorable recommendation, it still faces debate in the House and Senate. It has a long road to go.
While it is, in a way, a compromise which does not meet the standards of justice, it is at least a partial relief. And one could conclude that a little is better than nothing.
A PERSECUTED CHURCH
While here in America the Church of Christ is relatively free from persecution, this is not true of the Church in other parts of the world. Reports often filter out of persecution in countries where Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion as, e.g., in Spain and South America. In a recent issue of Eternity magazine there appeared an article which spoke of persecution of the Church in Russia.
While there is no known and large group of Reformed Churches in Russia, there are Churches of the Russian Orthodox, Pentecostal and Baptist denominations. How far these Churches have drifted from the truth of Scripture is impossible to say. If they have become as evil as their counterparts here in this country is also impossible to determine. There is good reason to believe that at least parts of the Russian Orthodox Church have become little more than tools of the State—means of Russian and Communist propaganda. But that there may very well still be believers in Russia is altogether possible.
One of the tenets of Communist ideology has always been that there is no place for religion in the Communist state. While Stalin was dictator, Russia tried to destroy the Church by means of outright murder and deportation of those who worshipped God. During the tenure of Khrushchev a “softer” line has been followed such as social ostracism, economic pressure, etc. Both have failed rather badly in wiping out the Church.
Recently, while the Church once again gained in membership during the softer times of the present dictator, the Communist regime has adopted a tougher policy. There are still no mass arrests, mass deportations and mass murders. But there are various means which are used to silence the voice of the Church. Ministers are often prosecuted for trivial and ridiculous offenses and sentenced to long prison terms. Churches are often closed by a unique legal maneuver. Communist leaders “solicit” signatures on a petition from the neighbors of a particular Church which petition requests that the Church be closed as being a useless organization and a public nuisance. Seminaries are closed for lack of students because any prospective students are drafted into the services ahead of regular draft dates or prevented from going to cities where seminaries are located. If people persist in attending Church sometimes more drastic means are taken. The younger attendants are sent to distant places to work for the state while older people are put into mental institutions. Rather than killing ministers, oftentimes they are put into monasteries and forbidden to come out, for there they will be harmless. Such types of persecution are evidently on the increase.
While it is true that in Russia persecution originates in an atheistic regime, this does not mean that also in those countries that are called “Christian,” persecution cannot become the lot of the believers. In fact, Scripture teaches throughout that the persecution which the Church is called to endure comes most often and in its severest form from that apostate Church which has a “form of godliness, while denying the power thereof.”
PREDICTING THE FUTURE
While Scripture is clear enough concerning the “things which shall be hereafter” before our Lord returns, God’s Word does not explicitly define exactly how all these things shall come to pass. For example, the Bible teaches us very clearly that Antichrist shall reign over a universal empire extending his sovereignty over all the world. But precisely how Antichrist shall arise and what form that kingdom over which he shall rule shall take is not specifically defined in Holy Writ. There is, naturally, a great temptation to speculate about these things. Yet this temptation must be avoided, for it is surely not the calling of the Church to try to predict accurately how all these things shall come to pass, nor is it necessary for the faith of the Church. It is enough to recognize them as they take place. In fact the attempt may be highly dangerous inasmuch as it may lead people to entirely wrong conclusions. The result could very well be that while they are watching one corner of the globe for the appearance of Antichrist, he arises unnoticed in another corner.
Such an attempt at eschatological speculation was recently made in Eternity magazine. The author was demonstrating how the well-known Common Market being formed in Europe was a clear indication of the rise of the Antichristian kingdom. While he admits that “no one knows the answer,” and that “the truth of the matter is that no one can say for sure that such prophetic interpretation is entirely correct,” nevertheless the mere fact that a rather lengthy article is devoted to the subject would surely lead one to believe that the author is more than a little convinced that such is nevertheless the case.
His argument runs briefly as follows. The Common Market now formed in Europe is primarily an economic union between six nations of Europe. Yet this Common Market is almost sure to lead to political union as well, ending in a United States of Europe. From this basic fact, hardly to be denied, the author argues that there is here a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 2 —the prophecy made in connection with the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream The golden head of the image is the kingdom of Babylon itself; the silver chest and arms is the Medo-Persian Empire; the trunk and thighs are of bronze and represent the kingdom of Greece; the legs of iron are the empire of Rome split into two parts at the time of the fall of the Roman empire in 476 A.D. The image ended in ten toes representing ten kingdoms which is confirmed by the vision of Daniel 7 where the beast with ten horns is described.
This all implies four things:
(1) the Roman Empire will revive in a federation of powers, a sort of United States of Europe:
(2) this united Europe will be a ten-kingdom federation with ten kings pooling their resources, and joining forces against a common enemy—”the king of the north”,
(3) in addition to and from the midst of these ten kings, one person shall arise who will seek and obtain allegiance from the others and eventually step into the driver’s seat as dictator or chief-ruler;
(4) this leader will be the personage the Bible calls Antichrist, Man of Sin, Son of Perdition, and he will claim to be God,
Several events in recent history, according to the author point in this direction. There is first of all the rise of Russia from relative obscurity to a position of a major world power. There is the establishment of Israel as a sovereign state. There is the increase in lawlessness and anarchy, continued wars and rumors of wars. And most important of all, there are possibilities of exactly ten nations joining the European Common Market. Six nations at present comprise this organization; but already Great Britain, Norway and Denmark seem on the verge of joining. This would make the total nine with every possibility of a tenth (or eleventh?) somewhere along the line.
The author concludes the evidence by saying:
And so today the prophecy of a revived Roman Empire seems intensely more plausible than ever before. After the ten-kingdom federation is headed by the “Antichrist,” according to the same prophetic interpretation, it will war against Russia and her allies of the Orient in the final battle of time—at Armageddon.
Is the present line-up of nations under the European Community the prelude to Armageddon? That is the big question . . . .
However, from this vantage point of human history, the stage seems to be set with the actors all taking their appointed places. How soon is curtain-time? Only the Lord knows that.
Now it is surely true that the believer is called upon to watch and to pray so that he may look in expectation for the coming of the Lord. This implies that the believer also be a student of the times in which he lives in order that in the signs of the Lord’s coming he may see the approaching end and the longed for deliverance of the Church. He must and can see developments on every hand which point to the fact that soon the Lord shall return in judgment upon the world and for the redemption of the Church. For this reason also the signs are given. But it remains a dangerous pastime to try to project into the future his own ideas of how things will actually be. That the Common Market is another step towards the world consolidation necessary for the coming of Antichrist is quite possibly true. That it is such a literal interpretation of Daniel 2 is a point that is, to say the least, debatable.