As you may guess from the above caption, these remarks have to do with politics. Fortunately the election belongs to the past, so that I cannot be accused, when I write these lines, of attempting to influence votes for one candidate or the other. My interest lies elsewhere.
Many of us are acquainted with what are called “right-wingers” or “ultra-conservatives.” We are undoubtedly also acquainted with the fact that they frequently attempt to give their political propaganda a religious and “Christian” coloration, even to the extent that sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether one is listening to some kind of sermon or to a political harangue. Some of these so-called “ultra-conservatives” seem to identify a political awakening or resurgence of their particular brand of conservatism with a spiritual awakening of America.
It is this kind of thing which gives cause for concern, lest people of the Reformed faith be deceived by it, as, I am afraid, some are. It is therefore not my purpose to quarrel with these conservatives’ politics as such, nor even with their political principles as such. But I am very much concerned about the religious and doctrinal principles which underlie and which cannot be separated from their politics and political principles. And I am the more concerned because of the very fact that a definitely religious and allegedly “Christian” coloring is given to their propaganda. Hence, I want to discuss this from the viewpoint of a preacher, not that of a politician.
Lest there be misunderstanding, let me say, first of all, that I am not addicted to the view that religion and politics are two absolutely separate spheres. On the contrary, our politics and political principles must certainly proceed from our faith. That means not only I in general that we must think and act Christianly in the sphere of things political; but it means that we must think and act as Reformed believers,—Calvinists, if you will. It means that we must think and act out of the principle of regeneration. Andy it means that all sound political principles must be “firmly founded on sound, Scriptural, Reformed, doctrinal, or theological, principles. Our world-and-life view, also as far as politics is concerned, dare not be separated from our Reformed beliefs.
Simply put: a genuine political conservatism is inseparable from theological conservatism.
But for that very reason, no Reformed believer should be deceived by the brand of religiously-tinted conservatism that is so widely peddled in some areas today.
Yes, I have a concrete instance in mind.
Recently our fair city of Grand Rapids was propagandized by one of these conservative movements, and a well-known spokesman was featured at a public rally. True to form, this rally, essentially political in nature, was also labeled as a Reformation Rally, due to the circumstances that Reformation Day was soon coming. Support of some local ministers was sought and gained also. Undersigned was requested to appear at a similar rally in another city in behalf of the same movement and to deliver a Reformation Day speech as part of the program which was to feature this same spokesman of ultra-conservatism,—a request which, needless to say, I refused.
However, the day following this Grand Rapids rally I had the opportunity of a face-to-face conversation with this spokesman of ultra-conservatism. (I will not mention names because I am interested in the movement, not in personalities.) In this face-to-face conversation I was interested in discovering what I could about this gentleman’s doctrinal and ecclesiastical position. And, in a comparatively brief conversation I discovered some perturbing facts indeed. Let me mention some of the more significant ones:
1. While making violent propaganda against the so-called social gospel, he himself conceives of the gospel as a kind of social-political gospel. While he admittedly had little interest in the Old Testament, he understood the New Testament as consisting in Christ’s teachings over against Phariseeism. And the present day political conspiracy of world communism (to which the so-called liberals of our day are a party, in his view) is really the embodiment of the principles of Phariseeism as taught in the Babylonian Talmud. Hence, he suggested that in. our seminary we should give thorough instruction in the Babylonian Talmud, so that we could truly understand the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Now this whole notion is, to be sure, outlandishly strange. Also it is an essential denial of the real gospel of Jesus Christ as the gospel of our salvation. But it is also nothing less than a social gospel of a different kind, having no more right to the name Christian than does the social gospel.
2. While much opposed in his teachings to ecumenicalism; which is characterized as a co-conspirator in the gigantic plot to, take over “Christian” America, this gentleman wanted an ecumenicalism of his own brand. Not being satisfied with his present church-home, he wanted a church that would serve as “an umbrella for Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.” He supposed that he wanted something like the Bible Presbyterians, but the latter were not broad enough to include Baptists. Now what is this, but the very principle of ecumenicalism to which he is so violently opposed?
3. While pretending to represent a Christian movement and seeking the support of evangelical ministers, he does not even believe the Bible as God’s infallible Word. He stated flatly that Paul was mistaken when he wrote that Christ was. coming soon, and insisted on it even when I confronted him with the fact that what Paul wrote was the Word of God. For the Old Testament he had little use, and he could not accept that Psalm 137:9 is the Word of God: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
4. Finally, although our conversation was terminated before we directly discussed this subject, I gained the distinct impression that he was, if anything, post-millenially orientated in his political thinking, striving for and considering as very really possible a vast spiritual revival and awakening of “Christian America” over against the “anti-Christian” forces of the world conspiracy, so that a wonderful Christian democracy can take over, a sort of kingdom of Christ on earth.
Now in the light of the above we should face the question heading this editorial: Conservative or Conservative? That is: Is a movement of this kind theologically conservative, or is it even in the true sense of the word politically conservative?
The obvious answer is: Neither . . . . . Nor! Because it is not the one, it cannot possibly be the other.
And Christians, especially Reformed Christians, ought not to he deceived by such religio-political movements with a pseudo-evangelical mask.