UNION OF PRESBYTERIANS
Several years ago the Southern Presbyterian Church rejected merger proposals prepared by a joint committee for union with the Presbyterian Church USA. There were many in the more conservative Southern Presbyterian Church, however, which were never satisfied with this and which continued to press for full organic union with their northern counterpart. A new joint committee was formed, working on new merger proposals which are to be presented to both General Assemblies this year. In a way, this was forced upon the Church because, although the Assembly of the southern Church had rejected merger several years ago, several presbyteries (classes) of the southern Church went ahead with merger with presbyteries of the northern Church in spite of what the Assembly had decided. I do not know what the present status of these merged presbyteries is in relation to the presently existing denominations; but there is, apparently, full participation in meetings, programs, staff services, and various “ministries” of both presbyteries. This situation was allowed to continue without reprimand from the General Assemblies. It is not, therefore, surprising that the question of merger is up once again.
This year the Assemblies will be asked to send the new draft for merger to their members for study and comment. After the joint committee has had an opportunity to study any comments which have been made and to consider any changes, the plan for union will be submitted by the 1972 Assembly to the presbyteries for formal vote. If sufficient presbyteries approve the plan, the union will be consummated at joint 1973 Assemblies.
What is interesting about the present plan is the fact that some changes were incorporated into the plan at the request of conservative elements in the southern Church particularly who do not want to go along with such a merger.
One such element has been called “the election not to enter” section. After the required number of presbyteries have voted for merger sometime in January of 1973, congregations having objections to union will have an opportunity to “elect not to enter” if they do so before the next Assembly meeting in May of 1973. This vote will exclude them from the merger to be effected at the Assembly meeting.
Individual ministers will have the same opportunity if they have their decision recorded during the same period.
There is also a “conscience section” in the draft proposal which advises presbyteries that they can vote for merger even though they disagree with some sections of the union plan.
With such a proposal, it is quite necessary also to have some understanding concerning division of property. On the synodical and presbyterial level the plan proposes that assets be divided in such a way that “a proportional interest in such property not greater than the proportion the membership of such congregations bears to the total membership” be given to those who refrain from merger.
This will, however, only be true of those who record their refusal to merger in the allotted time.
Two new questions are also to be asked of those who are to be ordained. One question concerning the Bible reads: “Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to be, as the Word of God, the unique and authoritative guide to faith and life?” The other, which has to do with doctrine, reads: “Do you accept the confession of the Presbyterian Church (USA) as setting forth the teachings of the Christian faith as they are revealed in the Scriptures and will you be instructed by them in matters of doctrine and be led by them as you lead the people of God?” The reference is to the well-known Confession of 1967 which reflected so sharply the liberal thinking in the northern Church.
It is quite obvious, therefore, that the proposed merger is one which favors the liberals in both Churches and which commits the new Church to a doctrinal path which is far removed from Scripture. The conservatives hope that this will finally bring about a realignment of membership so that the liberals of both denominations form one new church while the conservatives of both denominations form another.
We mentioned above that various presbyteries of both northern and southern Presbyterians have already merged, especially in border states. This is somewhat strange and we do not understand how this is possible and in what relation these newly formed presbyteries stand to the existing denominations. A recent issue ofThe Presbyterian Journal (from which also we gleaned the material found in the above report) told of what happened when this merger of presbyteries was attempted in Missouri. Apparently a presbytery of the northern Church made overtures on two different occasions to the southern Presbytery of Southeast Missouri to enter into a merger with them. Both times the southern Presbytery rejected these overtures. The northern presbytery was unhappy with this refusal and so invited individual congregations within the southern presbytery to join with them in spite of what their presbytery decided to do. The resolution read, in part: “Therefore the Presbytery of Southeast Missouri of the United Presbyterian Church USA extends an invitation to any organization, particular church, or group of particular churches . . . to participate in meetings, programs, staff services or other undertakings of this presbytery where it is mutually desired and appropriate.”
This is a strange situation, and we find it difficult to understand how legally this is possible. But the ways of merger are sometimes strange nowdays.
Recently I have been reading articles and some books on the subject of rock music. This subject is of particular significance because it is the standard type of music which is found in the world today and because there are many of our young people who are rather devoted listeners to this stuff.
There has always been a dividing line between the music of the world and the music of the Church which the saints of God have recognized. Throughout the ages, beginning with the musical contributions of Jubal, the Church has drawn the sharp line of the antithesis between that music which is particularly suitable for the Church to use in praise to God and that music which has become, in the hands of a wicked world, a vehicle of sin. On the Church’s side of the line have stood the Psalms and other songs of Scripture and the music which the Church herself has written for the use of the saints. On the other side of the line has stood such music of modern times as jazz, blues, country, western and folk music. On the side of the Church have stood the great classics in the field of music which have come down through the years. On the other side have stood those hymns even which have contained in them heresy and which the Church has specifically repudiated as being harmful for the saints in their confession in the world.
But there seems to be something exceptionally evil and devilish about rock music. For some reason it seems to stand in a class by itself. Although it belongs to that music which the world has invented, it nevertheless stands, even among types of worldly music, as something exceptionally wicked. There is a smell of wickedness about it which is far greater than anything the world has, up to this point, produced. It stands, I suppose, even in relation to other types of worldly music in the same position as Satan worship stands to liberal and modern apostasy in the Church. It is part of all that is evil, and yet it is evil in an especially terrible way. It comes from the sinful heart of man, and yet it is a particularly horrible manifestation of that sinful heart.
I have long felt this. From time to time I have heard rock music played. It is plain, it seems to me, that there is the smell of hell about it. Anyone who has any sensitivity to music ought to be able to know this. It does something to a person which is not good. It comes at one with a force and with a power which is frightening because of its evil. Maybe a person, like myself, who knows very little about music cannot precisely define what is the trouble; but it is there, hovering in the air, trembling through the whole soul, an evil that destroys.
In reading material on rock music: some of which was written by men who themselves once composed it or played it or sang it, I became convinced that this was true. These men know. They have lived as close to rock music as it is possible to live: for they themselves have made it and performed it. And they write that it is evil in a way in which no other music is evil. One author writes:
What is actually different about rock music? Wasn’t the popular music our parents and grandparents listened to as teenagers about the same? First of all, rock music is a specific classification of music. It can be distinguished from other types of popular music . . . . Some of the earmarks of rock are its characteristic rhythmic patterns, chord progressions, melodic and harmonic movements, and form in general. Rock had its beginning in the 50’s, combining the styles of other types of pop music before it. The primary original element that it offered was its rhythms. Rock remained relatively mild in its style until the early 60’s when social unrest seemed to find in it an avenue of expression. Since that time, rock music has followed its early direction with greater momentum. Rhythms, harmonies and words considered extreme at one time have become outdated in a few short years. That pattern has repeated itself over and over. Today, very little is considered too wild or too questionable to release to the general public. An age of permissiveness has fostered a style of music quite unlike any before it. Performers of rock music need not be well-trained or even well-groomed. There are no conditions for making it big. A new group with little more than a few guitars and microphones and a repertoire of two songs can be an overnight success. The age of the antihero has caused the affections of the average teenager to be directed not toward the handsome, and the talented, but to the nonconformist. This is what is different about rock music. (“Music? Does It Make A Difference?”, by Bob Parks.)
It seems that it is particularly this matter of rhythm which is important for rock music. Without it, rock music would not amount to much more than most music which comes from the world—and which is certainly bad enough. You understand that this is speaking about the music itself. There are songs which, I suppose, may have good music but of which we say: The words are bad. The words are wicked. They do not tell the truth. We may not sing the song because the words of the song are evil. This, too, is true of rock music; and we shall have something more to say about this presently. But this is not the point now. Now the point is that the music itself is evil. If rock music is played without any words at all, it is still evil. There is, it is assumed here, music which is, in its own right sinful and wicked. Whatever words may be added to the music, no matter how correct even and Scripturally true such words may be, the song is still of hell because the music itself is evil.
And when those who know because they have been intimately associated with rock music at some time in their life are asked why rock music as music is evil, their answer usually comes down to this matter of rhythm.
In the book referred to above the following paragraph is found:
In his book, “Rock and Roll, the Devil’s Diversion,” converted rock band leader Bob Larson says, “Some argue that there is no such thing as an evil rhythm. I must differ with them . . . .” He is saying that there are rhythmic patterns that be the very peculiarity of the arrangement of the accents and pulsations will naturally produce wrong responses in thought and action.
The point is then that music can be, as music, of such a kind that it does evil things to people. It destroys them. It makes instruments of Satan of them. It opens the doors of their souls to every manner of sin. Rock music is of this kind. It does it in a unique way.
We must quit this article at this point. If the Lord wills, we shall return to this subject in the next issue of theStandard Bearer.
DR. ARNTZEN RESIGNS
We learned recently, from an article written by Dr. Praamsma in The Calvinist Contact, that the rather well-known Dr. Arntzen from the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands has laid down his office of the ministry of the Gospel. He was for 19 years minister in the Church of ‘s-Gravendeel and for 26 years minister in the Gereformeerde Kerken. He was recently in this country and in Canada, where he spoke of the troubles in the Netherlands Churches and told of the work of the “verontrusten” or “Concerned Ones.”
His reasons for resigning from office were not trouble in his own congregation; rather he speaks of his congregation as being faithful. Rather his reasons for resigning from office have to do with the latitude in teaching which is now increasingly a reality in his denomination. This has to do with the decisions which the last Synod of Sneek made in the well-known “Kuitert Case.” While Kuitert denies fundamental truths of Scripture, the Synod passed the whole matter over with only a slight reprimand. And Dr. Kuitert was permitted to continue his instruction. In fact, Praamsma, in this article tells us that a minister of the Hervormde Kerk (the State Church) has said that there is more latitude in teaching in the Gereformeerde Kerken than in the Hervormde Kerk. It is this which has saddened Dr. Arntzen and was the determining factor in his decision to resign from the ministry.
We are unhappy with Dr. Arntzen’s decision. He has, by laying down his office, stepped out of the battle and said, in effect, that he will fight no longer for the truth. This is especially difficult to understand when, by his own admission, his congregation was faithful. What will they now do?
And yet it is understandable in a way. A spirit of pessimism and discouragement has seized upon the conservatives in the Church. They have despaired of doing anything constructive in saving the Church from the road of apostasy and have been so overcome by their pessimism that they have concluded that further struggle is useless.
But Dr. Praamsma, correctly, compares Dr. Arntzen with Elijah who sat under the juniper tree in southern Juda and prayed for the release of death. “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” But God told Elijah that there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. It was this that showed Elijah that his work could not possibly be done. From this also Dr. Arntzen ought to take courage.
And there is always the way of church reformation, a way which others have followed even when their following was small and insignificant. It was the way the forefathers of Arntzen himself have walked. It is the only way to walk in faithfulness to the gospel.