Special Issue on Missions
I want to thank you for the beautiful special issue of May 1 on missions. I enjoyed the whole very instructive issue, but was struck especially by the articles, “Missionaries Sent Out From Antioch” and “The Macedonian Call,” by the brothers Dykstra and Haak As I read I could not help but reflect on my own call and experiences as missionary to Latin America for 38 years. That certainly followed the pattern so clearly laid out and explained in those articles.
This is only the second time in the more than thirty years that I have been receiving the Standard Bearer that I have written to the editor. The first time was some twenty-five years ago when I requested and received permission to translate and use some articles in my Reformed Doctrine courses at the Juan Calvino Seminary in Mexico City, the seminary of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Mexico.
May the Lord continue to bless you richly as you labor for the advancement of His cause.
More on Government Aid
Reading the Standard Bearer is always enjoyable and edifying, yet sometimes it creates questions. This was true of Mr. James Lanting’s answer in the March 15,1994 issue given, at the request of the editorial committee, to the reader’s question on what our position should be regarding the receiving of government aid by parents in our schools.
Was this answer to Mr. Flikkema’s question regarding our position on receiving government aid to Christian schools saying, in effect, that our position is really one of no position at all? Was Mr. Lanting saying that receiving government aid by our parents and/or schools is a good position to take, as long as we do not see “a realistic threat of corresponding and unwanted government control over the recipient or the use of the funds”?
Obviously, it is all right to receive such aid legally. The government offers it and will probably also continue to do so – as long as it remains solvent at the tax-payers’ expense. But isn’t there a greater threat of government control in our schools today than there ever was before? We know our government’s position towards religion in the schools of our land, don’t we? Is not the increase of godlessness in our land due in part to the removal of prayer, Scripture, and all reference to our Creator God from the schools of our land? If so, should we seek aid from such a government?
It seems to me that the Standard Bearer should have answered Mr. Flikkema’s question from a Reformed, spiritual, and/or biblical point of view. That is, does God’s Holy Word support the position that parents in spiritual Israel should ask and accept aid from earthly governments to help support the education of their children?
Isn’t it recommendable to take the position that government aid should be avoided? I well remember my father saying in this regard, “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Prov. 12:10). This truth was made clear to me during my student days at Calvin College when I took a course on creative Bible teaching. Our entire class, after a few moments of waiting for the instructor, had to get up and go to an older section of the building. The reason given was that religion could be taught there since it had been built without the use of government aid.
The interesting illustration in the editorial of the same issue entitled, “The Nose of the Camel,” with its reference to women voting at congregational meetings, would be good here, also, wouldn’t it? That is, by stopping the “intrusive camel at the point of his nose,” we will prevent the beastly camel from coming entirely into the tent. Reformed Christian schools do not want government control in their school tent!
Thanks for your time, and keep up the good work of publishing the Standard Bearer, as a Reformed magazine.
Readers will recall that the original question posed by Mr. Flikkema was whether it is wrong for Reformed parents to participate in a government pupil transportation reimbursement program offered to parents of non-public school students. My reply was that it is not wrong for Christians to receive this government reimbursement for student transportation costs so long as it does not entail a realistic threat of unwanted governmental control over the use of these funds.
My good friend Mr. DeJong suggests, perhaps unfairly, that this is “really no position at all.” I think he writes this because Mr. DeJong apparently believes that Christians, as a matter of principle, should never receive any aid or assistance from our “evil” government (“The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”). In fact, Mr. DeJong has told me that Christian farmers, for example, should refuse all farm assistance programs offered by “the wicked U.S. government.”
To be consistent, Mr. DeJong would also have to refuse health assistance for elderly parents (Medicare and Medicaid), social security disability payments for handicapped persons, Pell grants and scholarships for needy college students, low interest student loans, flood aid and disaster relief, and many other government aid programs that many Reformed Christian taxpayers participate in.
I respectfully suggest that this view is indefensible. I would insist that Reformed Christian taxpayers in this country may take advantage of Medicare/Medicaid, social security, farm aid, disaster relief, and student transportation reimbursement so long as it does not entail objectionable government control over the recipient or proper use of the funds. And if this objectionable government intrusion is what Mr. DeJong means by “the nose of the camel,” then, of course, we have no disagreement.
A few comments on your answer to Ellen VanDen Top in the Standard Bearer of April 1, 1994 in “The Reader Asks.” Your answer troubles me. I believe in close communion and that we should never play with the Lord’s Supper, as so many are doing today. But it seems to me that in the case Ellen VanDen Top mentions, all the demands for a worthy celebration of the Lord’s Supper are fully met. Here is a woman who, as far as able, is a living member of the congregation and lives along with the congregation as far as she can, that is, joining in with the worship services by way of a “telephone line.” She desires also to take a part with the congregation in proclaiming the Lord’s death, and have her faith strengthened through the use of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. She does this under the jurisdiction of the elders. They evidently know she is a devout Christian woman. I assume that she is delighted to be able to so join in with the congregation. But now she is told: Sorry! We have rules that forbid this.
That answer sounds very cruel and unchristian to me, yes, even sinful. You should have, as I see it, complimented these elders for so caring for this lady who needs just this kind of care. Let me say that we need rules, and that we must observe them. But surely you agree that there are exceptions to all rules. This is such an exception. As officebearers we are called to take heed of the flock, and this involves a care for the spiritual welfare. Rules must never stand in the way of giving such loving care.
(Rev.) Cecil W. Tuininga
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Rev. Tuininga characterizes our answer as a cruel and unchristian application of a “rule.” The “rule,” however, is nothing less than the Church Order of Dordt and the confessions of the Reformed Churches (cf. Belgic Confession, Article 35), both of which clearly teach that the Lord’s Supper must be served in a public gathering of the congregation. True, modem means of communication make it possible for shutins to enjoy some of the benefits of attendance at the house of God on the Lord’s day; but, partaking of the Lord’s Supper at the same time as other members of the congregation is not the same as partaking in the public gathering of the congregation. The former remains private communion – which the fathers of Dordt forbade.
And, as to being “cruel and unchristian,” we should note that it is the Lord Himself who so orders our way that some of us are confined to our beds for extended periods of time. And He does so, knowing full well that during that time we will not be able to go to His house. It behooves us to submit to His will, content with the assurance that, when God for His own purpose deprives us of the dispensation of His grace through the instituted means, We will find that He is faithful to provide in every circumstance, and that His grace is always sufficient.
– Ed. Comm.