Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
God’s Name Is Holy!
So sang the blessed virgin Mary in the course of her conversation with Elisabeth: “For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:49). That God’s name is holy means that He is holy, for His names are a revelation of God. God is the Holy One, as the Old Testament, especially the prophecy of Isaiah, repeatedly emphasizes. God is separated from all sin and totally consecrated to Himself as the One, true, living God. For this reason God commands that we not take His name in vain (Ex. 20:7). We must never lift up the holy name of God into the sphere of vanity, that is, the sphere of falsehood.
Yet, this is precisely what many in the churches are doing these days. Mary Ellen Kilsby, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Long Beach, California, begins the worship service with these words: “May the God who mothers us all bear us on the breath of dawn, and make us to shine like the sun, and hold us in the palm of Her hand.”
Many denominations are in the process of “purging hymnals and liturgies of references to God as male, white as pure, black as evil, and Heaven as up.” The proposed new Book of Worship of the United Methodist Church includes prayers in which the deity is addressed as “Father and Mother,” “Bakerwoman God,” and “Grandfather, Great Spirit.” Many pastors, these days, are choosing to baptize and marry in the name of a gender-neutral Trinity, the “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.” Kilsby says, “If there’s no feminist imagery, then women weren’t made in God’s image.” Kilsby never speaks of a divine king or an almighty lord. “There’s a certain tenderness and vulnerability about God,” she says. The church’s associate minister, Rev. Christopher Wilke, says he links evil with “shadows,” not blackness, out of consideration for African-American friends. Kilsby’s preaching has encouraged her congregation toward eclecticism. After the Sunday service as they gather over coffee, members talk about how they picture God: as a cloud, a formless spirit, or Mother Earth. Schoolteacher Karen Miller claims to follow Jesus’ teachings, but says, “I’m evolving into a sort of neo-pagan. I envision the universe as God and all in the universe as a part of God.” A contemporary hymn writer and poet, Dr. Brian Wren, composed verses which speak of “strong Mother God,” “warm Father God,” “old, aching God,” and “young growing God.” Others speak of God as: “Beautiful Movement,” “Straight-talking Lover, ” “Daredevil Gambler.”
From where does all this blasphemy come? Certainly not from Holy Scripture, which speaks of God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and as the Father of His elect in Christ. It comes from feminism, the civil rights movement, and environmentalism. The roots of the debate over what to call God are often traced to a book by Mary Daly called “Beyond God the Father.” Daly bluntly states in her book, “If God is male, then the male is God.” Others cite James Cone’s book, “Black Theology, Black Power,” which argues that the church must so identify with oppressed minorities that it is “theologically impossible” not to think of Christ as black.
Carl Braaten, professor of systematic theology at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago is right when he says, “Once you deconstruct the Trinity . . . I think you’ve lost the Gospel.”
Let God’s people beware! This is what happens when the church compromises with feminism.*
The Wall Street Journal
* I am indebted to two brothers, one from South Holland Protestant Reformed Church and the other from Faith PRC, who sent me the article from the Wall Street Journal.
Orthodox Presbyterian Church Considers Breaking Ties With CRC
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OK) at its General Assembly adopted an overture from its Ohio Presbytery calling for the OPC Ecumenicity Committee to conduct a one-year review of the Christian Reformed Church’s orthodoxy and recommend action to the 1993 General Assembly. In adopting the overture the OPC turned down another proposal to break ties with the CRC immediately. Those in favor of breaking ties immediately argued that: “The CRC has fallen into sin and there is no obligation on the part of the OPC to remain associated with the CRC. We entered fraternal relations with the CRC on a voluntary basis and we could break fraternal relations on the same basis.”
The CRC’s stand on theistic evolution and women in office are the two issues which most trouble the OPC. The committee on ecumenicity of the OPC is chaired by Dr. John Galbraith and includes many who have already advocated breaking ties with the CRC.
Persecution in Singapore
Government authorities have ordered a large Presbyterian church to cease publishing its newsletter because it is “offensive.” The Rev. Timothy Tow, senior minister of Life Bible Presbyterian Church and founder of Far Eastern Bible College, has published the Life Bible Presbyterian Weekly (circulation 1,200; mostly in Singapore) for the past twenty-eight years. In the March 7 issue Tow wrote about a wealthy Chinese businessman who upon his conversion “executed” the idols he previously worshiped. The government found this article to be offensive.
Tow, who regularly leads idol-burning sessions in his church, said that over the years he has destroyed some 120 sets of idols. Rev. Tow has never before been in trouble with the government. The Life Bible Presbyterian Church is among the fastest growing churches in Singapore. The congregation numbers some 1,300 members.
What implications the government’s action will have for the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore is not known. Certainly this action is an indication that things will not be easy for the church in Singapore in days to come.
Lutheran Reformed Unity
A team of Lutheran and Reformed theologians is proposing full communion among four denominations following more than three years of discussions. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America (RCA), and United Church of Christ are being asked to “recognize each other as churches in which the gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are rightly administered according to the Word of God.” The proposal also encourages sharing of the Lord’s Supper and provision for joint services. It calls for recognition of each other’s ministries and provision for “the orderly exchange of ordained ministers of the Word and sacraments.” It further includes withdrawal of condemnations of one side by the other since the Reformation. A similar concordat was signed between Lutherans and Episcopalians last year.
Among other things, what this obviously means is that such doctrines as consubstantiation (the Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper) and the Law and Gospel are no longer considered important by either the ELCA or the RCA.