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ORANGE CITY OVERTURE 

The October issue of the Torch and Trumpet contains a few remarks about Synod’s treatment of the overture from Classis. Orange City that appeared at the Christian Reformed Synod of 1963. This was the overture that objected to Prof. Harold Dekker’s views of God’s love for all men. 

As our readers undoubtedly know, this overture was sent back to the Classis by Synod because it was technically unsatisfactory inasmuch as it did not “supply adequate grounds for its charges” or “submit sufficient grounds for its suspicion.” 

It seems, both horn the remarks of the committee of pre-advice and from the statement of Prof. Dekker to the Synod that there was supposed to be a contradiction in the overture. 

On the one hand, it was pointed out, the Classis made a formal charge of heresy against Prof. Dekker when it said in the overture: “This we believe is an unscriptural interpretation. Since we believe that if God loves all men redemptively all men must be saved, Prof. Dekker’s position conflicts with the creedal statement of articles 8 and 9 of Chapter II in the Canons of Dordt.” 

On the other hand, Classis contradicted itself in its overture when it nevertheless asked for an examination of Prof. Dekker under the rule of the Formula of Subscription. The Formula of Subscription reads on this point: “And further, if at any time the Consistory, Classis, or Synod, upon sufficient grounds of suspicion and to preserve uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism; or the explanation of the National Synod, we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition . . . .” 

Synod argued (and so did Prof. Dekker) that one cannot make a formal charge of heresy and also ask to have an examination of the individual charged; a charge of heresy makes an examination unnecessary. Prof. Dekker, in his statement, said,

This overture is inconsistent. It has two parts which do not fit together very well. The fist paragraph consists of a charge of heresy, alleging that my position “conflicts with the creedal statement of articles 8 and 9 of the Canons of Dordt.” The second paragraph consists of a petition “that Synod require Professor Dekker to give further explanation of his position.” There is an anomaly here. If Classis is already convinced that my position is in conflict with the Canons, why does it not substantiate its charge rather than call for further explanations of my views? If, on the other hand, Classis is sincerely seeking further explanation, why does it prejudge the question by introducing a charge of heresy? Classis can scarcely be equally in earnest about both parts of the overture.

Rev. Edward Heerema, while agreeing with the fact that this protest may have been deficient, in some respects, nevertheless maintains that the protest should have been treated. 

His reasons are primarily two-fold. First, Rev. Heerema considers the matter of the overture of such great importance that a few technical deficiencies should not have kept it from being treated. He writes,

It must be granted at once that the overture had formal deficiencies. But it is hard to avoid the feeling that there is something highly unsatisfactory in the manner in which the burden of the overture was left untouched just because the overture was formally deficient. The question is properly asked, In what spirit are such matters dealt with in the Church of Christ? If in elders’ meeting an elder raises a question relative to the doctrinal correctness of the pastor’s preaching at some point, does the pastor respond to the query or objection of the elder by saying, “Your objection to my preaching is based on faulty reasoning. I do not have to answer you and I will not answer you until you put your case against me in good order.” It is Safe to say that except in very extraordinary circumstances no pastor would proceed in this manner.

Secondly, Rev. Heerema argues that the Classis did not intend to contradict its own position, It asked for an examination of Prof. Dekker and had to give some reason why such an examination ought to be demanded. This reason was found in the fact that Prof. Dekker had raised suspicion as to his views by his public writings in which he maintained that God loves, all men, a position which conflicts with the creeds. Classis was not making a formal charge, but was grounding its request for examination. 

Rev. Heerema concludes by saying that the result of it all is highly unsatisfactory. The entire doctrinal question is still undecided; and the Professor and the seminary are meanwhile under a cloud of suspicion. 

It is true that Classis Orange City should have substantiated its position more firmly both with quotations from Prof. Dekker’s writings and from passages from Scripture and the Confessions. But I am inclined to agree with Rev. Heerema that Classis intended to ground their request for an examination rather than bring a formal charge. They could not have merely asked for an examination without giving some evidence of the need of one. This does not necessarily prejudge the case for the Synod. 

But it is quite possible that we have heard the last of the storm—except for some distant and faint rumblings here and there. It appears that this history is rather much like the pattern set in recent years in the Christian Reformed Church: a heretical position is set forth; there is a brief flurry of criticism and a brief skirmish on Synod; the position is not condemned; the matter dies down and another step is taken away from Scripture.

PRAYERLESS SCHOOLS 

Although last year the Supreme Court of the United States banned as unconstitutional any compulsory religious exercises in the public schools, the fight over the decision goes on. 

There is much opposition to the ruling, and some states and state school boards have deliberately passed new rules to continue devotions consisting of Bible reading and prayer. This has happened in such states as Idaho; Delaware, Arkansas and, Alabama. Some are even wondering whether this decision of the Supreme Court will also be enforced with troops and bayonets as was the decision on racial integration in the schools. 

One state, New Jersey, has decided to substitute for Bible readings the fourth stanza of the “Star-Spangled Banner” which ends with the words, “In God is our trust.” Another state has ordered its school board to search for fitting passages in prose or poetry that can be used for devotions. 

There have been no less than fifty-seven bills introduced in Congress asking for constitutional amendments that would once again permit religious devotions. But all these bills are bottled up in the House Judiciary Committee, and this committee has no intention of permitting the bills to come to the floor for discussion and decision. 

There is a movement among the representatives in the House to force this bill on the floor by petition. But such a petition needs 218 signatures, and only 88 members of the House have signed it as yet. 

There is one interesting footnote to the whole debate. Mrs. Madalyn J. Murray was the chief figure in asking the Supreme Court to rule that religious exercises are unconstitutional. She is an avowed atheist, and has now organized a group called Other Americans Inc. to promote atheism. This group intends, to build and operate an atheistic center near Stockton, Kansas. The center will be built on an eighty-acre plot and will include a university: a radio station, a publishing house, and a home for the aged. She is also starting more litigation to bar Roman Catholic nuns from teaching in public schools in Kansas. 

If this country wishes to maintain the principle of freedom of religion, there is no other solution to the problem but to turn over again to the parents full control over education. Then each parent (in company with other parents of like faith) can instruct his children according to what he believes. 

But how important it is that we maintain, at all costs, our own school system, where we may instruct our children in the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of all wisdom.

AN EPIDEMIC OF ALCOHOLISM 

We are indebted to the Presbyterian Journal for some remarks made recently by a Mr. Scharffenberg, Executive secretary of the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism, about the problem of alcoholism in this country, He pointed out that there are no less than six million known alcoholics in the country of which 350,000 will die before the year is up. The trouble is that the, number of new alcoholics each year outnumbers those who die and those who are cured. There is only one percent of all these that are rehabilitated and helped. 

The trouble is with this country that they treat alcoholism as an organic or mental disease. This will never solve any problems. It is not a matter of some disease, but it is a spiritual problem and the fruit of sin. This is, of course, something which men will not (and cannot) recognize. 

Surely the statement of Jesus is true: “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:38, 39.

UNION DECLINE? 

It is being repeatedly asked whether the labor unions as they exist in this country are perhaps on the way out.

There are several reasons why this is the conclusion of some labor leaders and experts. 

In the first place, our country’s industry has become increasingly automated. An American miner can dig several times as much coal as a miner in, Europe; the railroad companies can run a railway with one third the number of employees they once needed; manufacturing in this country employed a million fewerproduction workers last year than they did six years ago and yet turned out twenty percent more goods; a recent strike in the telephone company in Florida did not prevent the company from continuing its service uninterrupted until the strikers resorted to violence and destruction of equipment proof that the job can be done without most of the workers. The result is that membership is in danger of declining drastically. Several industries are immune to strikes and can be run with tiny crews of non-union men. And strikes have always been a major weapon in the hands of the union.

Secondly, and closely connected with the above, the blue collar workers have been steadily decreasing in numbers, while the white collar workers are becoming more numerous. But unions have always found it very difficult to organize white collar workers, who generally feel a much closer relationship with and greater responsibility for the company which employs them. 

Thirdly, industry has expanded so rapidly in recent years that it can readily overproduce. If a strike threatens, stockpiles can easily be built up to weather the strike so that it does very little harm to the competitive position of any company. 

The result of this is that in the last years, labor has increased its membership only very little. And many look for an increasingly sharp decline in membership until the unions lose then power and cease to exist as an effective force in economics and politics. 

Will there be such a decline in labor? 

It would surely help us who refuse to join these or organizations to find work to support our families, our Churches and our schools.

But it is, nevertheless, very unlikely. 

For one thing, the unions have achieved such a tremendous amount of power in this country that they can just about do as they please. From this position they will surely put all their efforts behind increasing their power and influence; and will; more than likely, be successful. It seems often times as if even the laws of the land cannot touch them. An organization that is above the law is not likely to wither and die. 

For another thing, Scripture speaks of all the power of buying and selling concentrated in the hands of Anti-Christian powers. Whether or not the union badge is the mark of the beast, we may surely expect that it is not going to get easier for the child of God to earn his living. Instead it will become increasingly more difficult until at last it is impossible. The unions work directly towards that end. 

—H. Hanko